Crabs are crustaceans that are most commonly available from summer through the winter. Almost all parts of the crab are edible, from the claws to the legs to the body.

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As with all food, fresh is best when preparing crab. They should have a fresh, mild, sea-breeze odor. Crabs should be purchased live and as close to the time of cooking as possible. They should actively move their claws; however, if the crabs have been refrigerated, they will not be very active. Do not purchase any crabs that do not show these signs of life.

Some of the most common ways to prepare crab are poaching, stewing, or steaming. We'll start
by taking a look at the best way to steam crab
on the next page.

Want more information? Try these:

  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.
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  • Shellfish: From shrimp and lobster to clams, mussels, and more, you'll find valuable information on shellfish at HowStuffWorks.
  • Shellfish Recipes: Dive into the many amazing shellfish recipes featured in this article. 
  • How to Cook Clams: Clams are a mollusk that are only available in the summertime and are delicious when steamed or eaten raw. Learn all about cooking clams here.

Steaming Crabs

Steaming is a method of cooking in the steam given off by boiling water. The food is held above the water, not in the water, as you'd find in poaching. The steam surrounds the food and and cooks it with an intense, moist heat. Steaming is probably the most popular way to prepare crabs. To steam live crabs:
  1. Place 1 pint water and 1 pint vinegar in 10-gallon stockpot. Position a wire rack in bottom of pot. Place 1 layer of crabs on rack. Season with seafood seasoning and salt.

    Place only a single layer of crabs at the bottom of your steaming pot.
    Place only a single layer of crabs at the bottom of your steaming pot.

  2. Repeat with remaining crabs, layering with additional seasoning and salt.

  3. Cover pot. Heat on high until liquid begins to steam. Steam about 25 minutes or until crabs turn red and meat is white. Remove crabs to large serving platter using tongs.
Want more information? Try these:

  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.
  • Cooking Seafood: Get your feet wet by exploring the best ways to prepare seafood.
  • Shellfish: From shrimp and lobster to clams, mussels, and more, you'll find valuable information on shellfish at HowStuffWorks.
  • Shellfish Recipes: Dive into the many amazing shellfish recipes featured in this article. 
  • How to Cook Clams: Clams are a mollusk that are only available in the summertime and are delicious when steamed or eaten raw. Learn all about cooking clams here.

Cracking Crabs

While it is possible to eat a crab straight out of the shell, many recipes require you to remove the meat. For example, crab cakes or various salads feature loose, cooked crabmeat.
  1. Place crab on its back. With thumb or pointed tip of a knife, pry off "apron" flap (the "pull tab" looking shell in the center) and discard.

    Using a knife, pry off the
    Using a knife, pry off the "apron" flap in the center.

  2. Lift off top shell and discard.

    Discard the shell once it has been removed.
    Discard the shell once it has been removed.

  3. Break off toothed claws and set aside. With edge of knife, scrape off 3 areas of lungs and debris over hard semi-transparent membrane covering edible crabmeat.

    The claws will require some cleaning and preparation.
    The claws will require some cleaning and preparation.

  4. Hold crab at each a side; break apart at center. Discard legs. Remove membrane cover with knife, exposing large chunks of meat; remove with fingers or knife.

    Hold the crab on either side and break apart.
    Hold the crab on either side and break apart.

  5. Crack claws with a mallet or knife handle to expose meat.
TIP: To remove cartilage and shell from picked crabmeat, gently squeeze a teaspoonful at a time between fingers. Feel carefully for small bits. The shells may be white or orange and cartilage milky white and thin.

Carefully separate the meat from the cartilage using your fingers.
Carefully separate the meat from the cartilage using your fingers.

Although not as common, stir-frying is another way to prepare crab. Find out more on the next page.

Want more information? Try these:
  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.
  • Cooking Seafood: Get your feet wet by exploring the best ways to prepare seafood.
  • Shellfish: From shrimp and lobster to clams, mussels, and more, you'll find valuable information on shellfish at HowStuffWorks.
  • Shellfish Recipes: Dive into the many amazing shellfish recipes featured in this article. 
  • How to Cook Clams: Clams are a mollusk that are only available in the summertime and are delicious when steamed or eaten raw. Learn all about cooking clams here.

Stir-Frying Crabs

Stir-frying is the method of quickly cooking bite-sized pieces of meat and vegetables over high heat in a small amount of oil. Ingredients are stirred constantly to ensure even cooking. This cooking method can work great for preparing frozen crab legs.
  1. Thaw and drain crab legs.

  2. Soak crab legs in water for 30 minutes to leach out some of salt brine used for packaging.

  3. Cut crab legs into 2-inch-long pieces with poultry scissors or cleaver. Cook as directed.

    Using poultry shears or a cleaver, cut the crab legs into 2-inch pieces.
    Using poultry shears or a cleaver, cut the crab legs into 2-inch pieces.

  4. Heat wok over high heat about 1 minute or until hot. Drizzle oil into wok and heat 15 seconds. Add crab pieces; stir-fry 5 minutes or until done.

    Make sure your wok is thoroughly heated before you add your crabmeat.
    Make sure your wok is thoroughly heated before you add your crabmeat.

  5. To extract meat from crab legs, snip along each side of shell with scissors and lift out cooked meat with skewer. Reheat for a few seconds in wok, if needed. Or to save time, serve in the shell. Have guests crack the shells and remove meat with small seafood forks.
As you can see, there are a variety of different ways to enjoy crab, from steaming to stir-frying. Follow the tips outlined here for a seafood meal everyone will enjoy.

Want more information? Try these:
  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.
  • Cooking Seafood: Get your feet wet by exploring the best ways to prepare seafood.
  • Shellfish: From shrimp and lobster to clams, mussels, and more, you'll find valuable information on shellfish at HowStuffWorks.
  • Shellfish Recipes: Dive into the many amazing shellfish recipes featured in this article. 
  • How to Cook Clams: Clams are a mollusk that are only available in the summertime and are delicious when steamed or eaten raw. Learn all about cooking clams here.