Life at the end of the road

May 25, 2008

How to dress a crab (and a lobster)

Filed under: food, How I — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 6:19 am

Really the title should read how I dress a crab because I don’t actually remember anyone actually showing me how to do it back in 1976 or 77 when I picked up my first crab off the sea bed whilst diving at Flamborough Head on the east Yorkshire coast. I just remember everyone saying don’t eat the ‘dead mans fingers’ as they’re poisonous. These being the gills and being pretty obvious once you get the thing apart. To be honest I very much doubt they are poisonous probably just disgusting. Of course once you’ve caught/bought or acquired your crab the first thing you’ve got to do is cook it and the best way is to drop it in a pan of boiling water and bring it back to the boil for 5 mins.

I actually do mine in that ancient oval shaped pressure cooker in the background, it’s shape means you can get a monster sized crustacean in it without boiling too much water. Doing them in their I only cook them for a couple of minuets. The lobster on the left is cooked and the one on the right very much alive. Once cooked take it out of the pot and let it stand until cold. I prop them up behind the sink taps in such a way that any water inside can drain out, even making a hole in the lowest point to assist this.

When your crab has cooled get your tools, all I’ve ever used is a heavy desert spoon and a teaspoon with a narrow handle and a pair of short stout scissors if your doing a lobster. A good heavy spoon will break the toughest claw and I’ve never needed a hammer even on an 11lb lobster! ( though I did need a bigger pan for that one and it tasted disgusting having lived on a German destroyer it was very rusty! )

First thing I do is pull all the claws and legs off by just forcing them backwards at the sockets, then taking the large claws and placing them flat on the bread board or other firm surface in such a way that you break the joints when you lift the claw with one hand whilst holding it’s arm down on the board with the palm of the other hand. If you can’t make any sense of that or it’s a big strong crab just whack it with the spoon.  With the arm in 3 sections tease the meat out of the first two sections with the thin end of the teaspoon or some other pokey thing. Then hit the claw with your heavy spoon, crack it open then scrape the meat off the cartlidge inside. The small legs can be a bit of a pain and I quite often just end up crushing them with my teeth and eating them. However if it’s a large crab like this one just treat them similar to the big claw, crack them and carefully pull them apart. Sometimes if your really lucky you can carefully break the joints by moving them sideways then pull them apart drawing the meat out whole but this only seems to work in about 25% of crabs ( I think it depends on how old the shell is or how it’s cooked ). With the meat out of the claws and legs get your teaspoon handle and have a good poke inside the holes where the sockets were.

Once you’ve got all the white meat out of there pull the body bit ( I forget it’s name ) off the carapace ( I remembered that bit )

by firmly grabbing the body bit with your thumb and forefinger in the claw sockets. Hold the carapace in the other hand then pull them apart.

I know it looks disgusting but all that gunk that’s left inside the carapace is the next shell forming and is the best bit in fact apart from the ‘dead mans fingers’ it’s all pretty good and I just mix it all together with the white meat. Most people however seem to mix it with just some of the white claw meat, breadcrumbs and a twist of lemon as some folk find it a bit strong. I mainly use it as is on a salad sandwich though you can make fish cakes, soup, curry or any number of things with it. I once mixed it with ‘Baileys’ and it was delicious and I’ve also had some Orkney recipe with whisky! Whatever you do please don’t just pull the claws off a live crab then throw it back in the sea which seemed to be common practice here at one time. Though I suppose I’d rather be alive with no arms than dead!


Well that’s pretty much the same except you need some short stout scissors (not great long ones like these) to cut the tail in half.

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