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How to Pick A Crab



I can understand while people are daunted by the idea of buying a freshly cooked crab and preparing it themselves, with talk of dead man's fingers and not knowing quite where to begin.


But as scary as it sounds it is in fact quite simple and one of those jobs that takes time but is also rewarding at the end. The sort of thing to sit down with children and get them involved in or a friend or loved one. Where you can just take your time and chat while easing the meat from the shell.

So where to begin ?

I generally begin by removing the legs and claws and this is as simple as just giving them a twist and they will come away and you can set them to one side. The claws are a bit tougher especially if the crab is male as the


Claws often are a bit larger.



The next step is to pop open the shell, you can ask you fishmonger to do this for you or if you decide to do it yourself you just turn the crab over.. At the rear of the crab there is a natural gap where the top meets the underside and this is where you separate the top from the bottom lifting the top of the crab off. If it is difficult to separate you can slip a knife in the gap and twist it to ease it apart.


Once open you can remove the dead man's fingers. They are feather like things are the crabs gills and although years ago were said to be poisonous they are not, but they are unpleasant so need to be discarded.


Set aside the bottom half of the shell and concentrate on the top half first, as this is where the dark meat is. At the front is the mouth area and you can push this out with your fingers quite easily and the stomach sack will come away with it , you need to discard this . Each side if the shell is a thin clear plastic like membrane, simply remove this with your fingers and then with a spoon scrap all of the dark into a bow. Scrape right to the edges as it’s all good meat.


Now setting the top to one side, take the lower body and begin to remove the white meat by scraping and pushing it out with a crab pick , or if you don’t have one the handle of a teaspoon will work equally as well. You will be surprised how much white meat there is and this can be collected in a separate bowl to the dark or if you are going to mix the two can go straight into the bowl containing the dark meat.



Where the legs were removed there is often a small joint left and it’s easier to pick if this joint is removed. Simply put you pick or spoon a little way into the joint and lift and it will come away with ease leaving the main shell more open and easier to remove the white meat. When all the white meat is removed you will be able to see from the leg hole right through and the shell is much lighter. Again set the shell to one side for now.


Now moving onto the legs. Break the legs into sections and crack the shell with a crab tool or the back of a large knife ( never use the blade) or even give a gentle tap with a hammer. Scraping the white meat from each section.

Doing the same with the claws, I tend to use a hammer for the claws and yes the shell will fly! But that’s ok.

The lower claw will have large clumps of white meat and these are stuck to a thin white slither of shell so be sure to remove this before putting the white meat into your bow.


I like to mix the two meats together. The dark has a beautiful sweet rich flavour and when mixed with the lovely texture of the white becomes a perfect combination.




Don’t just throw the shells away! Wait, because these can be boiled up to make a wonderful crab bisque or fish stock that can be used straight away or frozen for a later date.


Season your crab meat to taste and dig in, make the most amazing sandwiches with lettuce and freshly cut bread or a salad or maybe a beautiful buttery crab linguine! The options are endless, it has taken some time and patience but the rewards are good!


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Meet Sue & Katie

Two women. Two generations. Both mothers and lovers of the county where they live. Blogging about Dorset here at Dorset Country Life. Find out more...

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