How to eat a crab {a tutorial}

I think this is my first food related tutorial! I've seen a few before, like "how to eat an artichoke" but mine is way better. Why? Because crabs are better. Crabs are delicious, crabs are my LIFE. My summer could not be complete without a crab feast. Seriously. Anyone who was born and raised in Maryland will absolutely understand, all you other folk might not be quite as cool (but I still like you.)

So let me put out a warning before I start!

WARNING: if you...

  • Get sick really easily
  • Can't pick a drumstick clean
  • Can't stand the sight of guts
  • Don't like seafood

Or anything like that, you might want to skip this tutorial. I will literally be tearing apart an entire crab and picking it clean. If you are strong stomached, willing to try new things, love seafood, or are from Maryland, you'll be in for a treat. You are also in for a treat because this tutorial has GIFS!! Yes, GIFS, more than one. So excited about this!

Before we even get to eating the crabs, you first need crabs right? Now, I am talking about soft shell, blue crabs. None of these king, snow, or dungeness crabs. No way. Those are cop out crabs.

These little guys are the best. No other crab compares. If you can't find live crabs in your local grocery store, you will almost always be able to find them in an Asian grocery store. So, once you've gotten yourself at least a dozen FEMALE live crabs, you need to cook them. A dozen will feed 2-6 people, depending on your love for crabs. This recipe is directly from the {Old Bay website}, do not even THINK about trying to eat crabs without Old Bay seasoning.


  • water
  • vinegar
  • 1 dozen live blue crabs
  • 1/2 cup OLD BAY® Seasoning


  1. In a pot with a raised rack (minimum of 2 inches high), add equal quantities of water and vinegar to just below level of rack. Bring to a boil.
  2. Carefully layer crabs on rack; sprinkle each layer with OLD BAY. Cover and steam 20 to 30 minutes depending on size of crabs or until crabs turn red.

Easy right? So now you have a huge pot of cooked crabs and all the delicious meat is stuck inside. Now what? Before you get started you will need:

  • A table that can get a little dinged up (aka NOT the fancy dining room table)
  • Clothes that you don't mind getting guts on
  • Wooden mallets for everyone (these can be found in places like Willams-Sonoma or in craft stores)
  • Butter knives
  • LOTS of newspaper to cover your table
  • LOTS of Old Bay
  • LOTS of napkins
  • A big group of friends and family
This is God's gift to mankind. In a Maryland grocery store you will find a dozen different varieties in the spice section. But, if you live in any of the other 49 states, check the fresh seafood section right in front of the glass case with the fish. It should be on a little shelf right there. Most grocery stores have it, you just have to look in the right place. It'll set you back about 5 bucks and will last forever. Unless you are me, who puts it on everything. Then it will last a few months. 

Cover your table with newspaper, and keep a lot on hand, because you will soak through it fast. Feel free to double up, triple up, or even stack an entire newspaper under your work space.

Ahhh, delicious. It's like my whole life in one picture.

This is a girl crab. You can tell because the flap thingy looks like the capitol building. A boy crab's flap thing looks like the Washington monument. Girls are bigger, that's why we like to eat girls.

The first thing you need to do is pull the legs off. (I made a GIF!) Just gently squeeze the joint where the leg connects to the body, and wiggle and pull. Meat should come off with it, if not, just keep practicing. Do this for all the legs and the claws.

We'll get back to those later.

Getting rid of the legs will make it easier to tear the rest of it apart. Remember that flap thingy I talked about?

Pull it off. Throw it in the discard pile, there is nothing to eat. Next, we need to open the crab, because THAT'S where the good stuff is.

(Second GIF! Awesome.) Shove both your thumbs into the butt of the crab, and pry it open. Feel free to be totally grossed out by what you see. This is where the butter knife might come in handy, use it like a crow bar if you need it. Throw that top shell into the discard pile.

We're so close to getting to the good stuff! But we have to do a little digging. You want to get rid of the eyes, the gills, the eggs, and the "mustard." Basically everything you see on that initial layer has to go. I know what you might be thinking, but DO NOT run it under water. DO NOT! Just run your fingers through it, pick off and scrape out everything the arrows are pointing to and throw in the discard pile. Get out as much "mustard" as you can, because if you eat too much of that you'll get sick.

MUCH better. Now the only you have to deal with is cartilage!

Break it in half so you can really dig in.

My favorite part! I dream of this moment. Just dig right in and pull out the meat. You are looking for soft, white, flaky meat. Not flaky like fish, it will look more like shredded chicken, but on a much smaller scale. And much softer. If the meat is really mushy, not flaky, and smells rotten, you've got a bad crab. Don't eat it. (I know, some of you seafood haters can't think of anything that smells worse than this crab, but if it honestly smells rancid, don't eat it.)

You will have to do a ton of digging, there are lots of little areas that that delicious meat will be hiding. Throw all the cartilage in the discard pile.

The claws are fun! This is where the tools come in, because you can't really break the claws with your bare hands. The claws are all about smashing, basically you just need to hit it with that wooden mallet with crack the shell, and then dig in. Don't smash too hard, otherwise you'll end up with bits of shell in your meat. Yuck. If you are feeling adventurous, you can dig into those little legs, but there is very little meat there and if you are feeling frustrated just toss them in the discard pile.

This is about how much meat you'll get from a crab, deliciously sprinkled with Old Bay. Usually I just pick right through and eat as I see, it was really difficult for me to not eat as I was picking. I know, not that much for all the work you've put into it. But eating crabs is not about being stuffed with food, it's really the experience! You will have a BLAST eating them, and you will get better with every one. Wanna see the discard pile?

We weren't even done yet!

You are highly encouraged to play with your food. If you've never eaten crabs before, you should really consider trying! It is fun, delicious, and a great family activity. Especially when crab-hater mom is out of town. :D

Linking up here.


Rachel @ My Happily Ever After said...

so crazy...i've never tried that before! i always just get the canned meat...maybe next time i'll go for it!

Katie said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I am actually going to a CrabFest this weekend. I've never had to dig into a whole crab, and it might have been embarrassing had I not known. I never even gave a thought about the work that goes into it. Thanks, again!

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