Friday, November 16, 2012

How to clean crabs..

I know it is scary thinking about dealing with live crabs, let alone dress them for cooking. Honestly speaking,  I was not very confident about it either. I searched the web to learn how to dress and clean the crabs and I found many. The live crabs with their claws might look scary but if you are careful while handling them it is not a very tough job and thought of a tastier treat awaiting at the end will make you feel strong surely. Like all other things in life, once you make up your mind, it is easy.

I have tried to explain the steps of dressing and cleaning the crab. If you have any further questions, feel free to ask.

When you buy live crabs, they will provide you  with a fairly strong paper bag to carry them back home , so don't worry.  The first step is to render them immobile. There are various ways suggested by people:

  • place the crabs in a paper bag in freezer for 15-20 min
  • give a big bang on their heads(just between the eyes) with the back of a knife to make them immobile.
  • boil a pot full of water and dip the crabs in them. 
  • put them in  your kitchen sink and pour boiling water on them.

I opted for what I felt was the easiest one for me. I picked them up with  a tong( fairly long one) and dipped them in a pot of boiling water for 20-30 sec and the job was done. 

 Now to dressing them up and cleaning.:

Take out the crab and wash well with cold water.

Turn the crab, you can see the tail. If the tail is thin and pointed then it is a male crab. Where as the female crab has a broad tail.
A male crab, thin pointed tail

Female crab, broad tail

With the help of a knife, flip the tail. Hold the crab tightly with your left hand (non-working hand) and grab the tail with right hand (working hand) and tear it apart.

Tear apart the tail
You can see a small hole after removing the tail. Hold the crab's body with your left hand. Put your right hand thumb on that hole and grab the top shell of the crab with your right hand and pull it. It will come off easily.

Pull apart the top shell

Discard the shell or you can wash and keep it to serve your crab meat.

Now next will not be a very pretty scene. After discarding the top shell, you need to clean the gills.

Discard the top shell

Take out the gills from both sides and discard. I also removed the yellow thing inside. Some keep it to make crab butter.

On the edge of head, there are some hard small flaps, remove them.

Wash well under running water
Wash under running water, and remove any remaining yellow stuff with your fingers.

After this separate the legs. Twist the legs to separate from the body. Do it gently so no meat is lost.

Clean the crab's body and legs with a clean hard bristle tooth brush under running water. Unfortunately, this needs lot of time and patience.

Now the crabs are ready to be cooked. Cook as you like. I made some Kerala crab curry.


  1. you have explained everything biologically.very nice. however I can not eat crab as i've allergy. :(..

  2. Chitrangada, this is a post to treasure! A big Thanks to you!

  3. Very scientifically explained. A very big thanks to you..

    1. Somtapa it's great to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I hv read a lot abt crab cleaning but the way u hv described it wit apt visuals is superb and commendable. A huge thanx to u for this guide.

  5. Liked the way u clean it. Seems easier. I will try. A big thanks Chitrangada.