How To Cook Crab
Featured Pinch Tips Video
- fresh or frozen precooked crab
1Choosing and buying live crabs:
If you are planning on cooking the crab at home and eating it straight from the shell, it is best to buy live crabs, for a better taste. Frozen crabs can also be bought, although frozen fish or seafood never quite tastes the same.
Buy your crabs from a well-known and reputable fishmonger or as a second choice from a supermarket.
If you are buying from the latter, make sure to find out how long the crabs have been in the tank. If it is longer than a week, they should really be avoided.
Choose crabs that are lively and move about. They should smell fresh and salty, without any smell of fish and especially not ammonia.
Never buy crabs that are dead, as the meat goes off really quickly and will most definitely be bad when you cook it. Do not buy any crabs if the meat looks off colour or dried out.
If you are planning on preparing a crab dish following a recipe, check to see whether it specifies a male or female crab, as some recipes do. It is quite simple to differentiate between a male and female crab. The female crab has a triangle shaped area on the underneath part of the shell.
2Defrosting a whole crab:
If you have decided to purchase pre-cooked frozen crab, simply place it in the refrigerator overnight in order to defrost.
If you need to defrost the crab quickly, wrap it in cling film and place it in a sink full of cold water. Do not use hot water. A two pound crab will defrost in one hour.
3Boiling live crab:
1.) Pour 5 liters of water into a large saucepan and add around 5 tablespoons of sea salt. Bring to a rapid boil.
2.) Grasp the live crab by the back legs and drop it into the water headfirst. For a more humane method, as you grasp the crab by the legs, stroke the top of its head until it falls asleep and then slowly drop it into the boiling water.
3.) Bring the water back to the boil and only then start timing.
4.) You should cook large crabs (about 2lb) for around 15 - 20 minutes, whilst smaller crabs will only need around 8 - 10 minutes.
5.) Once the water has started to boil again, reduce the heat and simmer for the required time. The crab's shell should turn a bright orange when done.
6.) When the crabs are done, immerse them for a few seconds in cold water so that cooking stops and they do not overcook.
7.) Serve immediately with hot melted butter or let the crabs cool down in their shell until they are cool enough for you to remove the meat and refrigerate it until further use.
Crabs are also delicious cold.
4Steaming live crab:
1.) In a large pot or steamer pour 1 cup of vinegar, 2 cups of beer or water and 2 tablespoons of salt, so that you have 3 - 4 inches of liquid.
2.) Bring the liquid to a rapid boil.
3.) As the liquid is heating up, place the live crabs into the freezer or into a large bowl of ice water for about 3 minutes. This is done to stun the crabs before cooking, and it keeps their legs and claws intact through the steaming process.
4.) Once the liquid is boiling fiercely, place the live crabs onto a steaming rack situated well above the liquid, sprinkle them with seasoning and cover the pot with the lid.
5.) Steam over a medium - hot heat for at least 20 minutes depending on the size and numbers of crab. 6.) Start timing once the water is boiling again. The crabs should turn a bright red or orange colour when done.
7.) Remove the crabs and rinse under cold water, which will also stop the cooking process.
5Storing live crab:
If you are buying live crabs, it is best to consume them when they are as fresh as possible, preferably on the same day, although they will keep safe in the fridge for up to two days.
Put the live crabs in a bowl or a container where they can still breathe and cover them with damp paper towels or a damp cloth. Place them in a cold area of your refrigerator until you are ready to use them.
Check on your crabs from time to time whilst they are in the fridge, as if they die, they should really be cooked immediately.
6Storing cooked crab meat:
Freshly cooked crab meat is tastiest when eaten on the same day, however it can be stored in the fridge for up to two days. The cooked meat should be removed from the shell beforehand (see below).
Cooked crab meat can be frozen and will keep for four months. Make sure that it is tightly wrapped in cling film or placed in an airtight container before freezing. If you choose you can add a layer of salted water (brine) to ensure freshness on defrosting.
7Removing crab meat from the shell:
First of all, twist the legs and claws until they come away and leave them to one side. Then separate the body from the shell by pushing the body upwards until it pops out of the shell. Throw away the stomach sac, mouth, intestines and the gills and then scoop and scrape out the brown meat.
You may want to crack open and split the body into two or four parts to access the meat more easily. Then go back to the legs and claws. Crack the claws and split the legs and remove the succulent white meat. Any juices from the shells can be saved and used to make a fish stock, sauce or soup.
Enjoy your crab!
8To steam crab legs:
1.) Pour 2 cups of water in a steamer or a large pot, add 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to the boil.
2.) Add the crab legs, placing them onto a rack in the bottom of the pan or into the steaming basket.
3.) As the water starts to boil again, begin timing.
4.) Steam the crab legs for between 5 - 7 minutes, until you can begin to smell their aroma and until they are warm. Take care not to overcook the legs as they have already been cooked once.
5.) Remove from the heat and serve hot with melted butter and lemon wedges.
9To boil crab legs:
1.) Half fill a large saucepan with cold water and add a tablespoon of sea salt and seasoning if you wish.
2.) Bring the water to the boil and then drop the crab legs in.
3.) Reduce the heat slightly and allow the crab legs to simmer and heat up for 5 - 7 minutes.
4.) Remove from the water and rinse the crab legs. Serve hot.
10To bake crab legs:
1.) Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
2.) Crack the whole crab legs and place them on a baking tray.
3.) Brush the crab legs with butter or oil, seasoning and lemon juice and bake in the oven for 8 - 9 minutes.
11To microwave crab legs:
1.) Wrap the crab legs in a damp paper towel and cook on high for 2 - 3 minutes.
Serve hot with butter, cocktail sauce or lemon wedges.