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How to Clean a Crab

Simple Instructions on How to Clean a Crab

Do you love eating crabs but are unsure how to clean a crab before cooking it? In this article we are going to guide you on cleaning crabs before cooking it.
Rimlee Bhuyan
Last Updated: Mar 7, 2018
If you are a sea food lover then you must certainly love the taste of juicy and slightly sweet crabs. Crab meat is very delicious to eat but the main problem is extracting it and preparing the crab for cooking. There are thousands of varieties of crabs, but only some of them are used for culinary purposes. Some of the most popular varieties of crabs that are used for cooking are King crab, blue crab, soft shell crab, Dungeness crab, rock crab, stone crab and spider crab.
All these crab varieties with the exception of soft shell crabs have a hard outer shell which requires some skill and effort to break open. Once you buy live crabs from the market, you need to prepare it for cooking. For extracting the juicy and succulent crab meat, you need to first break open the shell and clean the crab.
Instructions on Cleaning a Crab 
No matter what variety of crab you buy, you need to clean the crab thoroughly before using its meat for preparing tasty recipes. There is no need to clean a crab before cooking as a live crab is pretty hard to handle. When you purchase live crab, the first thing that you need to do is "put the crab to sleep". This is done by putting the crab in a bowl and popping it in the freezer for about half an hour or so. When you are ready to cook it, just bring a pan of water to boil and place the crab in it.
This is the most humane method of killing a live crab. Once the crab turns a rich orange color, you will know that the meat inside is cooked. Now comes the part where you start cleaning the crab and preparing it for the cooking process. It is a good idea to first cool the steamed crab as you might scald your fingers by handling the steamed crab. You can wear rubber gloves if you are a bit squeamish and hate the smell of raw crab meat that tends to linger on the hands. Given below are step by step instructions on cleaning a crab after you have steamed it.
  • First lay the crab on your cutting board with its belly side up, facing towards you. You will notice a triangular piece of shell at the rear of the crab. This is called the apron flap. Place a kitchen knife just under the apron flap and pry the flap out.
  • Discard the apron flap and gently lift off the entire upper shell of the crab. Once you have done this, discard the outer shell and remove the soft crab flesh from the crab body and place it in a bowl.
  • Make sure that you pull out the inedible connective membrane from the body. Wash out the yellow colored viscera as well as any foam or entrails under running water.
  • You will notice gray colored gills on either side of the crab body. This needs to be removed and discarded. Make sure that you remove all the meat from the crab body.
  • Once this is done, gently twist the legs of the crab to remove it from its body.
  • Crab legs contains a surprising amount of meat. To extract this meat, you need to crack it open by gently tapping it with a small hammer.
  • Make sure that you do this with minimum pressure as smashing it with the hammer might shatter the shell into small fragments. This will make it difficult for you to separate the shell pieces from the crab meat.
  • Extract all the meat from the interior of the legs and place them in the bowl. To make the extraction process easier, you can even use a lobster pick or a small fork.
This is how you clean a crab. As you can see, cleaning a crab is a bit of a messy job. Nevertheless it is essential that you clean crabs properly before enjoying its delicious meat. For presentation purposes, you can use the discarded hard crab shell for placing crab dip or crab salad. However clean a crab shell thoroughly under running water before using it for presentation. If you want to know about soft shell crab cleaning, then the process is similar to that of hard shell crab. The only exception is that you do not have to discard the legs or the shell of the crab. Now that you know how to clean a crab, you can make delicious crab recipes using fresh crabs.
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