How to Cook and Eat In-the-Shell Crab

Updated on February 24, 2020
LeonJane profile image

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. | Source

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.

Learn how to catch crabs!

If you are interested to know some of the tricks and tips on how to catch these crabs than please click on this link to my hub page, "Let's go Crabbing!"

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!

Have you ever eaten crab?

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Questions & Answers


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      • profile image


        5 years ago

        cook mudcrabs with long bombs together the taste is very sweet no other flavours need to be added for that natural taste

      • LeonJane profile imageAUTHOR


        7 years ago from Australia

        You are right Peter, 15 minutes per crab if cooking them individually. I cooked 5 in the one pot just recently and did it in about 25 minutes. This also includes the time for the water to return to the boil after you have put the crabs in the hot water.

        I am not sure why Jennies would have one claw, I be more incline to say that they have lost them due to fighting with other crabs. To take one claw off the Jennie would be pretty much a lame waste of time (I think).

        Thanks for your info!

      • profile image 

        7 years ago

        You say 15 mins per crab, would you then cook 3 crabs for 45 mins?

        I simply wait for the water to return to the boil and then time for 15 mins, not per crab, but per batch. We cook 4 at a time as that's all our largest pot will hold.

        Could you please email me your reply.

        Thanks heaps from Proserpine river where the crabs are running at the moment.

        We got 8 bucks last Sunday, put 36 Jennie's back, and 14 just under sized bucks were also returned to the river.

        Why are there so many Jennie's with only one claw or none?

        Are people ripping the claws off the Jennie's?

        I read that is illegal.

      • profile image


        8 years ago

        thank for your great facts about it

      • LeonJane profile imageAUTHOR


        8 years ago from Australia

        Thanks for your great advice steve, i'll have to give your chilli crab mix a try!

      • profile image


        9 years ago

        I have found minimum cooking time is 11 minutes, and up to 15 for a large one.

        I too use this method of cooking however I think it's important to add one tip.

        When you have finished cooking the crab and put in an ice slurry to cool, make sure you put some additional salt in your sink or bucket at this point otherwise you will wash out all the salt and they will lose flavour!

        Once you lift the shell off and all the 'finger' abducters are exposed and you pull these off and clean up the innards, you can apply a bit of pressure if you're careful to crack the shell in hald straight down the centre, makes it easy to pick it apart.

        If you really want to get hooked on these, cook the crab just under and then toss through in a wok with chili crab mix.

        Google chili crab singapore style and you cant go wrong!!! It's my favourite :)

        Happy eating!!

      • LeonJane profile imageAUTHOR


        9 years ago from Australia

        Thanks for your advice and comment Rainbow6!

      • Rainbow6 profile image


        9 years ago

        I love seafood especially crabs. To avoid the juice from spraying out and hurting your palm, use paper napkins or paper towels to sandwich the claws/nippers when you crack them with your tool.

      • LeonJane profile imageAUTHOR


        9 years ago from Australia

        Thanks again for your comment dinkan53, these Mud Crab run a lot slower than your beach sand crabs but good luck in catching them!

      • dinkan53 profile image


        9 years ago from India

        Eating crab is fun and you will get more fun by catching them. You have to run fast like an athlete to catch those sprinters from sea shores. Try it 'a total entertainment'.

      • LeonJane profile imageAUTHOR


        10 years ago from Australia

        Sounds like a feast, thanks Chloe for your comment.

      • profile image


        10 years ago

        Making 3 1.5 kilogram mud crabs tonight! can't wait!

      • LeonJane profile imageAUTHOR


        10 years ago from Australia

        Hi cupid51, your mix sounds tasty. Every time we see a cooking show where they use crab as the main ingredient we think to ourselves, "that recipe would be nice to try." But after we catch the crabs we just love the natural taste of crab meat, and have them cooked as I have described. Thanks for your kind comment.

      • cupid51 profile image


        10 years ago from INDIA

        I love crab very much. We normally cook it with onion, garlic and other spices. But this one is more healthy.

        A very nice hub and nice pictures also. Thanks for sharing.

      • LeonJane profile imageAUTHOR


        10 years ago from Australia

        Thanks Lorraine Arams, I never thought of using scissors. Sometimes I find that the shell is quite thin and brittle. It must be something to do with timing of when the crab is caught and when the crab has shed its shell for a new one.

      • Lorraine Arams profile image

        Lorraine Arams 

        10 years ago

        One trick I learned too quite by accident is to use normal every day scissors (washed of course) to cut open the shell especially the legs. It makes it so much easier to get all the meat out. The claws too but sometimes the claws are a little harder and you need the crackers.

      • Place Kick profile image

        Place Kick 

        10 years ago from North Carolina

        Now I have to go out and buy a crab, they're high price here. Thanks! :)

      • Ms Chievous profile image


        10 years ago from Wv

        I uusally leave my crab cooking to red lobster! Neat hub!

      • Beth100 profile image


        10 years ago from Canada

        Another succulent hub! I grew up steaming the crabs and dipping the meat into a mixture of hot butter, garlic and ginger. Oh, which should I have first? Prawns or crab? mmm

      • dohn121 profile image


        10 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

        My mouth was watering the entire time I was reading this. In Laos, we have this succulent recipe involving coconut milk and curry as a method of cooking these delicious crustaceans. This is such useful information! I really like how you are so thorough with your walk-through. Thanks!


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