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How to Cook and Eat In-the-Shell Crab

Jane is an Australian who loves cooking, fishing, camping, and gardening.

Crab is one of my favorite foods. Read on to learn the basics of how to cook it correctly.

Crab is one of my favorite foods. Read on to learn the basics of how to cook it correctly.

The photos in this article show a couple of mud crabs that I cooked. They are cooked the only way I like to eat them, which is in a broth so that I can enjoy their natural flavor.

When you eat crab this way, it can be very messy. This can add to the dining experience, as you and your partner try to avoid the juice spraying out from cracking the shell. This mainly occurs when you crack the nippers. Usually, I crack the nippers by laying them in the palm of my hand and striking the top side with a metal meat tenderizer. So, you can imagine the noise and commotion when I finally crack the shell and juice from inside sprays out.


First You Have to Cook the Crab

  1. In a large pot of boiling water, add a handful of rock salt, a splash of vinegar, and a couple of drops of Tabasco sauce (optional). You can add other ingredients here, but that’s about all I add. These ingredients will enhance the natural flavors of the crab meat.
  2. Add your uncooked crab to this boiling broth and cook for about 15 minutes per crab.
  3. When the time is up, take the crab out of the broth with tongs and put it straight into your sink or a container with icy water. This will prevent the crab cooking in its shell. Remember: if the crab cooks longer than 15 minutes, it will usually overcook and the meat will become tough. Mud crabs in Australia have to be 15cm (6 inches) across the back; so for smaller crabs, you’ll have to reduce the cooking time. But if you cook them in batches, you might have to adjust your time to suit. My basic rule of thumb is 15 minutes per mud crab.
  4. Also, if your crab is live, please do the humane thing and put him on ice before cooking him. This slows his metabolism down, and he goes into hibernation before you put him into the boiling broth. (I say him all the time because in Australia we can only keep male crabs, called "bucks.") Being thrown into boiling water with his legs and nippers flailing everywhere can be quite cruel.

Now You Can Eat the Crustacean

  1. Once the crab is cooled down, it’s quite easy to break apart. Take the top shell off first by pulling from the sides.
  2. This will expose its innards which are termed “dead man's fingers,” as they appear as grey finger-like organs that wrap over the internal frame. These can be pulled off, and I discard these.
  3. I clean out this part of the crab under a tap and loosen off all the soft offal.
  4. Turn the crab over and break away the reproductive cover plate. This forms at the back of the crab and extends to the centre. You will notice two furry probes to the outer of this cover plate, near the legs. These can be removed; these are the two penises that the male crab has! From here, you can split the crab in half serve.
  5. With whatever method you use, whether it’s with your fingers or a little fork to dig into the body frame and scoop the meat out, break the nippers with your tools, and suck the meat off the centre skeleton blade within the nipper. You’ll notice quite a different flavor from the body meat than the nipper meat. Most people think the nipper meat can be quite sweet.
  6. It all sounds quite gross and messy, but once you have one crab, you’ll be hooked on the decadent flavor and won't want to stop at one!