How To Cook Live Dungeness Crab!

We’re selling live Dungeness crab for a limited time. You can check out the sales page here

But in the mean time, do you know how to prepare and cook live crab?

Our friends over at Epicurious had a great guide already, so we’ve included the text below:

PREPARATION

Dungeness crab is a true Pacific Coast food: It’s found only in the Pacific Ocean, and it gets its name from the town of Dungeness, Washington. The local crab season is summer, and that’s when my boys and I go crabbing almost every day, filling the round metal crab pots with raw chicken and dropping them in the cold water, returning the next day to see what we’ve caught. We never know just how many crabs will take the bait, and it’s a family tradition to guess how many will be in each pot. Bringing our catch back to the kitchen and preparing for our feast is the best part. Because we never know how much crab we’ll get, we plan the meal after the catch. You just have to go with what you have. If you wanted to make crab cakes but find that you don’t have enough meat, make something else: crab cocktail, crab soup, or Dungeness crab mac and cheese. If you adapt your dishes to the ingredients, cooking becomes a lot more relaxing and a lot more fun.

Dungeness crabs have been part of the Northwest’s seafood heritage for the millennium. The dark brown crabs that are brought to market usually weigh 1 to 2 pounds and up and measure at least 6 1/4 inches across. By law, only the male crabs can be caught, and thanks to careful fishery management and high reproductive rates, Dungeness are among the most sustainable shellfish in the world.

If you’ve ever cooked a live crab and tasted the sweet meat, you’ll know that steaming crabs yourself makes a big difference in the flavor. I realize I am very lucky—not everyone has the Pacific Ocean as their backyard. If you don’t have access to live crabs, look for high-quality cooked lump crab meat from Dungeness, blue, peekytoe, or snow crabs. Lump crabmeat refers to whole pieces of white meat from the body of the crab, while flake refers to white and dark meat from the body and claws of the crab. The crab should be in large pieces, not shredded, and should be refrigerated. Most specialty markets and grocery stores sell untreated crab, which is what you want.

Live Crabs

Much of the cooked crab meat sold in stores is now treated with calcium disodium EDTA, a preservative that helps retard crystal formation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has placed this preservative on its priority list of additives to study, and Australia has already outlawed it. Canned crab usually has added preservatives, so check the label carefully. When using pre-cooked crab meat, taste it first to make sure it is not excessively salty. If it is, rinse the meat to get rid of some of the salt.

If you’re using live crab, don’t be shy in asking the fishmonger for crabs with all the legs and claws intact; that’s where the meat is. It’s important to keep them cool and moist until cooking by keeping the wrapped crabs in the refrigerator or covering them with wet newspaper.

Live crabs are rambunctious, but preparing them isn’t as hard as it seems. You have a couple of options. First, you can bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, drop in the crab, cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes. But just as chefs have found alternate ways of quickly killing and cooking lobsters to get the sweetest-tasting meat, I prefer to deliver a quick, fatal blow with a rolling pin to the breastplate on the underside of the crab. Then I prepare, steam, and shell the crab as follows. I find that cleaning the crab before you cook it results in the sweetest meat.

Reach among the legs to place your hands on either side of the body with your thumbs on the breastplate. Holding on to the crab, push your thumbs forward and pull the legs of the crab together, bending the crab in half. Then grip the crab firmly and open your arms to pull the halves apart, leaving the main outer shell intact. Hold the broken edge of both halves under running water or salt water to rinse the guts and pith away. Reserve the crab shells for crab stock. The crab is now ready to cook. Because this is a messy process, it’s best to prepare the crabs over the sink if you can’t clean them right on the beach or off the side of a boat.

When you steam instead of boil the meat, the crab is white, tender, and succulent, without any fishy aroma or slimy texture. Cook the crab by heating about 1 cup water in a large pot with a vegetable or pasta steamer insert. Over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Add the crab halves and steam them for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how many you’re cooking, until the meat is opaque and the shells turn dark orange. Remove the steamed crab from the pot and set them aside to cool.

Once the crab has cooled, pick out the meat from the body, legs, and claws. Place the crabmeat in a bowl and pick through it by hand to ensure no shell is left in the meat. Try to keep the pieces as intact as possible. The crabmeat will keep, covered, in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days after you cook it. Three whole Dungeness crabs yield about 1 1/2 pounds crabmeat.