Pick Like a Pro

A primer to crab cleaning.

For those who have not been fortunate enough to enjoy a freshly steamed blue crab, we offer the basics on pickin’:


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1. Remove the claws.
Place your thumb at the knuckle between the claw and the carapace, grab the appendage in your fist, then bend it backward until it breaks free. Some people set the claws aside for later. Others go at them right away. Either way, you’ll need a mallet or lobster cracker to open the shell and free the meat. (There are those who say crackers are for wimps. Using a mallet, however, can leave you with shells mashed into the meat or sprayed upon your neighbors. Use a light hand.)

2. Remove the legs.
Like stumbling on a $5 bill in the parking lot, it’s possible to find meat in the skinny legs. It’s just not always probable. If you have the time, crack them at the knuckles and check it out. Some experts recommend slicing the legs in half with a sharp knife rather than cracking them.If you leave the legs intact here, you’ll remove them in step 8.

3. With a knife or your finger, pull open the tab, or apron, on the crab’s belly, much the way you’d pop open a soda can. Slide a knife into the crab, then…

4. Pry off the shell.
Turning it onto its back makes a nifty bowl for debris. There might be some brown stuff clinging to the inside. Some people treat it as a delicacy. Others simply throw it away. Don’t spend too much time looking inside the crab. It’s not a pretty sight.

5. Clean the crab.
Pull off the lungs—also known as devil’s fingers—then discard. With a knife, scrape out the innards and the yellow goo known as “mustard.” If you drop the guts into your empty shell, you can toss it into a handy trash bag, which saves you from staring at a growing mound of glop all night.

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6. Once you’ve removed the stuff you don’t want, snap the crab right down the center.

7. Gently pry away the backfin to reveal the meat. This is the prize.

8. Peer into each side of the crab.
You’ll see cavities filled with meat. Gently palpitate each side to loosen up the meat. Don’t squeeze so hard that you crush the shell and cavities. Pick the meat using a knife, your fingers or a fork tine.
A variation: Some pickers slice horizontally through the halves toward the leg joints. If you did not remove the legs before, pull on them gently. They may break free with meat attached.

9. Take a swig of beer, then reach for another fat, hot crab.


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