How to Boil and Clean Crab

Boil, my little pretties! Cooking and cleaning crab may seem daunting at first, but it's really easy. As a matter of fact, this was our first time. However, it does help that I've watched my mom do it a dozen times when I was a kid, so it wasn't freaky or anything. I even went to the market by myself, picked my own live crab, fought to get them in little baggies, and off I went for home to cook them. It was a fun experience.

I'm going to say this often, but try to buy seafood at an Asian market. It's much cheaper. I got these Red Rock Crab at $2.49 per pound.  Be careful of their claws though. Rick's mom didn't believe they were alive, so one of them took her fork away.
See? Grrrrr.... But not to worry. They're quite slow. Just grab them by one of their hind legs or from the back of their bodies, like Rick is doing in this photo. They won't be able to get you there. You can also chill them in the fridge for a bit. It makes them kind of lethargic because they're cold blooded creatures. But please do be nice to them. Handle them gently and make their trip to your pot of boiling water as quick and painless as possible.

Cooking Time: 7-8 minutes per pound
Ingredients: for 2 Dungeness or Red Rock crab @ 2 lbs. each
- water, enough to submerge all your crab
- 1/8 cup of kosher salt
- 1/4 cup Old Bay Seasoning
- 2 bay leaves

1. In a large pot, bring water, salt, Old Bay and bay leaves to a rolling boil. Next, add crab, head first, to kill them quickly. Cover and boil for 7-8 minutes per pound. Since our crab were roughly 2 pounds each, we boiled for about 15 minutes.
Watch for crab poo.
2. Turn off heat. Remove crab from water and run them under cold water to cool off. This will also make them easier to handle.
A dead crab is a good crab. :-)
3. To clean, lay the crab on its back. Lift up its "apron" and break it off. The apron on this crab is pointy, indicating that it's a male. 
4. Next, lift up from between the top and bottom of the crab's shell. You can use a knife to help you. It should lift up fairly easily. The bottom shell (it's back) will be filled with a yellow kind of substance. It's basically the crab's fat and innards. To many, this is a delicacy. We haven't developed a taste for it, so we threw it out. Yeah, i know. For shame. Remove the gills, which are not edible. they look like feathery, spongy whiskers coming from the side.
You can present the body meat and the legs however you want. For our Venison Steaks Stuffed with Crab recipe, we picked out all the meat. Dungeness Crab has a ton of body meat, unlike snow crab. Use the back edge of a large knife to crack the inside membranes open and pick out the meat with your fingers or a tool. Twist the legs and claws off the body meat. Break through shell. You can use the pointy end of the crab's leg to pick out meat. Works just as well as those tools you buy. 

Serve with lemon wedges, and melted butter with a dash of garlic powder in it. 

Now wasn't that easy? Fresh crab meat is 10x better than from a jar. Do yourself a favor and try this. It'll save you tons of money compared going to those crab boil restaurants springing up everywhere.


  1. Thanks for the great instructions. Which asian market did you buy the crab from? I live in OC but have not seen rock crab at the asian markets.


    1. Hi Rena,

      We got ours at Dong Huong Supermarket on Westminster and Brookhurst in Garden Grove. Hope that helps. You also want to check if crab are in season. But, they usually have crab there.


    2. Thanks! I'll definitely go check it out.


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