Glossary

Crab

Crab

A crustacean that has its skeleton on the outside protecting a soft, flavoursome flesh. There are many varieties of crabs. The most commonly eaten crab in the UK is the common edible or brown crab that weighs up to 3kg and contains plenty of sweet, succulent flesh. Female crabs have sweeter flesh than males.

Availability

Crabs are generally in season from April until November.

Choose the best

Choose crabs that feel heavy and don't have liquid sloshing around inside them. If you like white meat buy a cock or male crab. When buying from a fishmonger it is better to buy the crab while it is still alive.

Prepare it

Crabs can react violently to being placed directly into boiling water by shooting their claws. As a result it is considered most humane to place them in a freezer before cooking for at least 2 hours so they become comatose and die. However, the method is only humane if done quickly in a large freezer at a temperature of -18 C.

The most common method used in restaurants is the mechanical destruction method, and this involves using a knife to pierce underneath the crab's abdominal flap. This should only be practiced by trained professionals; the procedure should not take more than 10 seconds and must be carried out once the crab has been desensitised by chilling.

Remove the crab from the freezer and plunge into a pan of salted boiling water, bring it back to the boil and cook it for 30 minutes per kilo, cool rapidly, then dress.

It is vital you remove the grey gills from the body, called 'dead man's fingers' as these are very tough and indigestible.

Store it

Fresh crabs should be eaten immediately. Alternatively, freeze cooked crabs and use within three months.

Cook it

Boiled and served with mayonnaise or in a Mediterranean-style stew laden with garlic and tomatoes.

Alternatives

Try langoustine, lobster or Dublin Bay Prawn.