You might be asking yourself, how do I cook a crab? Being a commercial Dungeness crab fisherman in Canada for the last 7 years that is a question I get asked a lot. Over the years I have cooked literally thousands of crabs. There is more than 1 way to cook a crab but not all methods are created equal. Here I will go over the number one method I have used on our commercial crab boat to get the perfect end result. I will also give my recommendations of where to source your crab.
Best Quality Crabs
The best place to start in explaining the cooking process is sourcing your crabs. I was lucky because on the crab fishing boat we always had the freshest crab possible. This isn’t always the case for the average person.
1) Live Crabs
Crabs always taste best when you can get them live. I suggest if you live anywhere near the ocean to just go down to the dock and ask around. We always had people come down to buy crabs and they were always interested in what we did. We were always happy to talk about what we do and supply them with the best crab available.
Another option is going to visit a local fish market. most of the ones I have been to usually had live crab available. This is the next best option to getting it right from the fisherman because that is exactly where they get the crab. It might cost a little more but you can’t beat the quality.
2) Cooked Frozen Crab
If you don’t have the luxury of living by the coast and can’t just walk down to the docks then you may have to settle for pre-cooked frozen crab. I have heard of places further inland that do have live crab for sale. It is usually very expensive because of the transportation. Cooked frozen crab usually tastes best if eaten within 3-4 months of being frozen. You can eat them after that but the taste and quality start to drop quickly. Make sure to look at the packaging before you buy.
The best-frozen crab you can buy is when it is frozen whole with the backs on. This stops the meat inside from drying out and potentially getting freezer burnt. You can also get just the crab meat but make sure it is vacuum packed otherwise the meat can be ruined very quickly.
Best Crab Cooking Methods
I have cooked crab so many different ways and there is only 1 way that I would recommend cooking them. Not to say other methods are wrong but this is the best way to do it. Sometimes when I watch people cook these crabs It makes me want to cry because I know they won’t be getting the best possible result for their delicious crabs. I will talk about the number 1 way I would cook crabs to perfection.
Ok so for the first one, I’m sure everyone knows about it. this would be boiling the crab. Seems simple enough but you would be surprised at how often people get this wrong. On the boat, we get access to lots of crabs so our process is a little different.
We use a customized beer keg as our cooking pot to hold our boiling water and crab. We then use a tiger torch to heat it up to the boiling point. Depending on the size of the crab, we can usually get between 18-23 crabs in each cook. We also use saltwater from the ocean so we don’t need to add as much salt. Having already salted water does make a difference so don’t be shy on the salt if you are using freshwater.
I just mentioned this so you can get a picture of the scale to which we cook the crab. This isn’t relevant for most people so now I will dive into the step-by-step procedure in cooking a small batch of 2-5 crab at a time.
1) First you need to gather everything you will need for your cook.
- Large pot (big enough to fit your carb in the water without it spilling over)
- Bag of coarse salt
- 1/4 cup of minced garlic
- Long tongs or large slotted spoon(To remove the hot crab from the water)
2) Fill the pot up enough to submerge your crab but no so much as to have the water spillover.
3) Turn your stove element on high and place to pot on the element.
4) Add your salt to the water. If you aren’t using salt water from the ocean I recommend 1 double handful + 1 more for each crab you are adding.
5) Add 1/4 of a cup of minced garlic.
6) Bring the water to a boil.
7) Once the water is boiling place crab live into the pot.
8) Once the water comes back to a boil set a timer for 15 minutes.
9) After 15 minutes remove the crabs from the pot right away.
2 ways you can go after this
10a) Dig in and enjoy your hot crab
10b) Submerge the hot crab in cold water.
11) Once cooled down pick out of the shell and enjoy.
Helpful tips for after you cook the crab
A few things to take note of here.
- When I say “take out of the pot right away” make sure that you do. I have had a few times where the crab was overcooked and come out all rubbery.
- Also, when it comes time to decide if you would want to eat the crab while it is hot, make sure you cool the stuff you won’t be eating right away. I say this because the crab continues to cook in the shell. You might not ruin it if you don’t but on the other hand, there is a chance that you will.
- You can just pick the meat out and eat it as you go or you can take the meat out of the shell and have a pile of meat to enjoy. I usually take all the crab meat out of the shell if I want to make things like crab cakes (that will be another post), crab omelets or just to add to my salad.
- Another way to serve crab meat is out of the shell with a side of melted butter and a small fork. Serve with garlic butter which is my favorite method.
- The garlic isn’t necessary but I have found it actually does bring a lot of flavor to the crab.
Storing your cooked crab meat
The good news is you can save some crab for later in the fridge or freezer. There is nothing like fresh seafood and the quicker you eat it the better. But if you are going to want it to last a couple days in the fridge it is pretty easy to do.
Make sure the cooked crab you are saving has the top shell intact (the back). Then you will place the crab into a large bowl with ice and get either a damp cloth or paper towel and put it over the backs. this should get you 2-3 days before quality starts to decline and I wouldn’t eat it after the 4th day.
There is another 2 ways that I have found to work to store them in the freezer that keeps them fresh for up to 3 months before the quality starts to slip.
1) When you cook crab and you know you will want to save some for later make sure you you leave the shell intact. You want to do this after the crabs have cooled down. Place the crab in a large zip-lock freezer bag, 1 per bag. Then toss it in the freezer and you are good to go. when you want to eat it take it out and let it thaw in the fridge than clean it and enjoy.
2) For this method of saving your crab you will need to pick all the meat out of the shell. You will also need a vacuum packer. I usually packaged them in half-pound packs but the amount doesn’t really matter. Make packs that will work for you. put in the freezer and you have crab ready for any recipes you may think of. Take it out and let it thaw in your fridge.
So now you know how to find the best crabs for your crab cook, the number one crab cooking method recommended by a professional crab fisherman, and how to properly store your delicious crab. Now you can look like a pro when you serve your crab feast! If you want to learn more about seafood go check out my website WCG Seafoods. Also, make sure to comment below on how you cook your crab.