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Crabs are crustaceans often prized for their soft, succulent flesh. Discover how to buy the best, and how to properly prepare and cook fresh crab.
Crabs are crustaceans with a hard, rigid exoskeleton. There are many varieties, but the most commonly eaten in the UK is the common edible, or brown, crab. Brown crabs can weigh up to 3kg, and contain plenty of sweet, succulent flesh. Female crabs have sweeter flesh than males.
Crabs should feel heavy, but you shouldn't hear any liquid sloshing around inside. If you prefer white meat, buy a cock, or male, crab. If you're buying from a fishmonger, it's better to buy live crabs.
Unsurprisingly, crabs can react violently to being placed directly into boiling water, so it's considered most humane to place them in a freezer at least 2 hrs before cooking – they will become comatose and die. However, this method is only considered humane if done quickly in a large freezer at a temperature of at least -18 C.
The most common method used in restaurants is the mechanical destruction method. This involves using a knife to pierce underneath the crab's abdominal flap. However, this should only be practiced by trained professionals. The procedure should take no more than 10 seconds, and must be carried out after the crab has been desensitised by chilling.
To cook, remove the crab from the freezer and plunge into a pan of boiling salted water. Return to the boil and cook for 30 mins/kg. Cool rapidly, then dress.
It's essential that you remove the grey gills from the body. Called 'dead man's fingers', these are very tough and indigestible.
Fresh crabs should be eaten immediately. Alternatively, freeze cooked crabs and use within three months.
Try serving boiled crabs with mayonnaise, or in a Mediterranean-style stew laden with garlic and tomatoes.
Crab also makes a delicious addition to linguine dishes.
For more inspiration, check out our crab recipe collection.
Watch this video to find out how to make our easiest ever seafood pasta: