Monica Galetti holding up a crab

How to prepare crab

Preparing a whole crab is easier than you think - simply follow Monica Galetti's step-by-step masterclass and enjoy the sweet meat at its freshest..

Preparing a whole crab will take you 40 minutes or so, but it’s well worth the effort to enjoy the sweet meat at its freshest. Monica Galetti, chef and BBC Masterchef judge, says ‘Preparing a crab yourself works out much cheaper than buying ready-picked meat, plus the flesh is tastier and you know just how fresh it is. I love crab – my earliest memory of eating it is being a child in Samoa, devouring my mum’s crab curry.’

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Buying a crab

Whether it’s cooked or live, choose a crab that feels heavy for its size and smells fresh. If it’s alive, make sure it looks fairly active. Crabs are best cooked immediately after killing, so ask your fishmonger to kill the crab, then take it home and cook it as soon as you can. Never buy a dead uncooked crab, as you don’t know when it was killed and it may no longer be safe to eat.

How to cook a crab

Bring a large pan of well-salted water to the boil. Lower in the crab, simmer for 12 mins per kg, then leave to cool a little in the liquid. Transfer to a tray, place in the fridge and leave to cool completely.

How to prepare a crab

You will need…

  • 1 large cooked crab or 1 large live crab (see Buying a crab, above)
  • 2 bowls
  • A large knife
  • A lobster pick or skewer
  • A hammer, kitchen mallet, knife sharpening steel or heavy rolling pin

Step 1

Step 1: Twisting off crab claws

Lay the crab on its back, twist off the claws and legs, and set aside.

Step 2

Step 2: Pulling up crab meat with fingers

Use the palm of your hand to push down on the crab. Get your fingers between the gap where the body meets the shell and pull upwards.

Step 3

Step 3: separating crab body from the shell

Pulling quite hard, completely separate the crab body from the shell – it will come off in one piece.

Step 4

Step 4: discarding feathery gills into a bowl from crabmeat

Pull away and discard the feathery gills (also known as dead man’s fingers) – these are found around the main body and inside the shell.

Step 5

Step 5: Scooping out brown meat from crab into a bowl

Use a spoon to scoop out the brown meat from the shell and transfer it to a bowl.

Step 6

Step 6: Cutting crab body in half with a knife

Use a large knife to cut the main body in half.

Step 7

Step 7: Picking white meat out of crab cavities into a bowl

Using a lobster pick or skewer, pick the white meat out of the cavities in the body and put in a separate bowl. It’s worth taking your time to do this, as there is a surprising amount of meat in all the small crevices.

Step 8

Step 8: Cracking the crab claws and legs using a hammer

Crack the claws and legs using a heavy object like a hammer, kitchen mallet, knife sharpening steel or rolling pin. Try to break them with one sharp tap – you don’t want the shell to shatter into very small pieces as they will be difficult to find.

Step 9

Step 9: Removing white crab meat from body

Carefully remove the meat using a lobster pick or teaspoon. Discard the cartilage in the middle of the claws and legs. Add the meat to the bowl of white meat, then check the bowl for stray shell by shaking it from time to time – shell fragments ‘ping’ against the side of the bowl and can be removed.

Put your crab meat to good use in one of our recipes…

Crab & melon salad
Crab linguine with chilli & parsley
Crab cakes with dill mayonnaise
Crab & leek pasties
Spiced potted crab

Get more inspiration in our crab recipe collection.

Do you have any tips for buying, cooking or preparing crab? Let us know in the comments below…

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