Crabs are prized for their delicately flavored, sweet white meat, and along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, blue crabs are the catch. From selection to storage, here's how to properly enjoy this seaside favorite.
Selection: Purchase crab alive or already cooked. If alive, look for the friskiest ones. If cooked, check for a fresh, sweet aroma. The best grades are lump or backfin, while flaked contains small pieces of meat.
Test Kitchen Tip: Crab is expensive, and determining how much to buy can be confusing. We suggest 1 pound of blue crabs or 3-4 ounces per person if buying flaked or lump crabmeat.
Blue crabs are hard-shelled crabs that turn bright red when cooked. They're the source for much of the cooked and canned crabmeat. They're frequently freshly steamed, coaxed from the shell, drenched in clarified butter, and heartily devoured with little more than the aid of a crab cracker, cocktail fork, and plastic bib to protect the connoisseur's clothing.
Test Kitchen Tip: Keep crabs cool and moist until you're ready to cook them. They travel well in an ice chest, but should be used the day they're caught. Don't add water or they'll drown. Never cook a dead crab.
Lump Blue Crab Salad Wraps Recipe Yield: Makes 8 servings
- 2/3 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pound fresh lump crabmeat, picked and drained
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon drained capers
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
- Bibb lettuce leaves
Preparation: Whisk together first 5 ingredients. Add crabmeat and next 4 ingredients to dressing, tossing gently to coat. Cover and chill 8 hours. Drain crabmeat mixture, reserving 1/4 cup dressing. Spoon mixture into lettuce leaves, and serve with reserved dressing.
Removing the meat: (see video below) 1. To get to cooked meat, first twist off crab legs and claws intact. Crack claws, and remove meat with a small cocktail fork. 2. Invert the crab, and pry off the apron (or tail flap), and discard it. Turn crab right side up again. 3. Insert thumb under shell by apron hinge; pry off the top shell, and discard it. 4. Pull away the inedible gray gills; discard them along with internal organs. Break the body; remove meat from pockets.
- Freshen the Taste of Canned Crabmeat: To make canned crabmeat taste fresher, soak it in ice water 10 minutes, then drain, and pat dry. This helps remove some of the metallic taste.
Storage: Use live crabs on the day they're purchased or caught; refrigerate until just before cooking. Leftover cooked crabmeat stores well: Put it in a heavy duty zip-top plastic bag, add milk (to prevent freezer burn), carefully squeeze out the air, close, and freeze. It keeps in a refrigerator freezer 2 months or in a deep freezer for 6 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and drain off milk before using.
See the simple way our Test Kitchen removes meat from blue crab: