How to Clean Dungeness Crab

Whether you participate in recreational fishing and have caught your own fresh Dungeness crab, or you have ordered some tasty, live Dungeness crab, such as those from Fathom Seafood, you’re going to need to handle and clean them properly. 

Cracking and cleaning crab is definitely work, but the work is worth it! In the end you’ll be able to taste the sweet, tender meat and can get creative with a delectable Dungeness crab dish. 

The first step that comes before cleaning a Dungeness crab is ensuring that it is handled properly either straight from the ocean to the home or while being shipped directly to your home by a company. Hey, that’s what Fathom Seafood does! 

Crab meat spoils quickly, which is why they are only sold live or already frozen. 

If catching Dungeness crab and transporting them home, keep them cool, damp and well aerated until their time has come to meet the Big Crab in the sky. Filling a cooler with cool saltwater and covering it with a towel is best. Make sure to stir the water every once in a while, as this aerates the crab’s environment. It is best to steam or boil your Dungeness crab within that same day. 

“When live crabs are to be transported and stored, they should always be packed belly down and back up. An upside down crab will not live as long as a right-side up crab will live. Unless crabs are sluggish from being thoroughly chilled, they are most safely handled with metal or wooden crab tongs,” (Crab-o-Licious). You’ll want to look for lively crabs that respond to touch when you open up their packaging. 

The next step is quite simple—either boil or steam your live Dungeness crab! 

To Boil: Take a large pot and bring it to a boil. Add salt to the water so that it actually tastes salty...just like the ocean. You can add whatever spices you would like; a lot of people choose the brand Old Bay. Add your live Dungeness crab to the pot and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes until cooked through. 

To Steam: Take a large pot and add only about an inch of water (with salt added). Place a steamer basket into the pot and add the live Dungeness crabs. You can pile them in. Cover up the pot and steam the crabs for about 10 minutes (for small crabs) or 20 minutes (for large crabs) until they are cooked through.

Once out of the pot and cooled down enough to touch, you will want to crack and clean out your Dungeness crab. 

Next are the specific steps in order to clean your Dungeness crab:

1. Remove the Dungeness Crab apron.

Identify the apron of the crab--this is the triangle-shaped part of the shell that is toward the bottom of the crab. Note that with female crabs, the apron will be larger and more rounded than the males, which is more pointed. To remove the apron, grab the point and simply pull it off. 

2. Remove the Dungeness Crab carapace.

The next step is to remove to the carapace, which is the hard, upper shell. Hold the body with one hand. Locate the small hole that is between the body and top of the shell at the back of the crab. You can pull off the carapace by grabbing the shell where the hole is and pulling. 

Do not worry if liquid spills out while this step is in progress---this is the fat from the back of the crab and is often called “crab butter.” You can actually use it to make soups or sauces! You can even save the carapace and use it as a salad “bowl” for crab salad. 

3. Remove the Dungeness Crab gills and mandibles.

If you are squeamish, you may want someone else to do the next part. As you remove the carapace, you will see the inside of the crab. You definitely want to remove the gills and mandibles, as they are not yummy. You will see two rows of gills--simply pull them off and throw away. The mandibles are at the front of the crab; you don’t want any pointy bits in your meal. Snap the two pointy parts to break them from the crab and throw them away as well.

4. Rinse the Dungeness crab clean.

Everything else that you aren’t going to include in your dish (which is pretty much everything left over...AKA the guts), you can wash out of the shell.

You’re almost done! 

Time to CRACK the crab and serve up your meal. 

Cleaning a Dungeness crab is not for everyone—but hopefully there is someone around who will do it so that you can enjoy a delicious crab meal. 

If you are planning a meal with crab, surely you are in need of a few live Dungeness crabs. Head over to Fathom Seafood’s site and check out what they have to offer in regards to their fresh, sustainability caught Dungeness selection. 

Images Sourced From: CleanEating

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