Are you feeling crabby today? Okay, I know, terrible pun. I get it from my father I always laugh at his jokes! But seriously, have you tried cooking Dungeness Crab before? I never had, even though I love crab and know that Dungeness Crab is totally sustainable seafood. Only the males are harvested and the females are left to reproduce. I’ve ordered Dungeness Crab at restaurants, but somehow never made it myself, until now. I was at Sam’s Club and saw several Dungeness Crabs for a great deal. The one I got only cost $6 and yielded about 1 cup of meat. I’ve cleaned and cooked crabs I caught in Hawaii, but I realize most people don’t know how to clean and cook a crab, so I thought I’d make a nice photo tutorial for you. Then I have the recipe that I made with it, an absolutely amazing Asian Sauce the crab is fried in. As a bonus, tomorrow I’ll give you a sushi recipe using fresh crab meat. Let’s get crabby!
When buying a crab, live ones should be alert and responsive. Fresh (but not alive) ones should have an orange shell. Crabs should smell salty like the ocean but not a fishy or unpleasant smell. They should be firm and tight not droopy. Whether your crabs are alive or not, start by cooking them. Some people boil them, I prefer steaming but I don’t actually have a steam basket. Instead, I put an inch of water in a large pot, and set the crab on top of an inverted bowl. This keeps the crab from filling with water. Turn it on high, cover with a vented lid, or the lid slightly off center to let some steam escape. Steam it for 7 minutes per pound.
Transfer the crab to colander (I used tongs to do this) and run under cold water to stop the cooking process and cool the shell enough for you to touch it.
Next you need to remove the apron. Flip the crab so it’s belly side up. You’ll notice there’s a piece that runs down the center of the belly that you can flip up. That’s the apron so go ahead and carefully tear it off the back end of the shell.
See the hole that opened up when you removed the apron? Stick your thumb in there.
Now CAREFULLY pry the large shell (or carapace) off the crab. Go ahead and rinse it out really well, maybe even use a scrub brush inside to get any guts off of it so it’s sanitary to use later.
See those weird, grey, spongy things? Those are the gills. Pull them off along with the mandibles or mouth parts of the crab. Finally split the crab in half right down the middle. You could stop here and simply serve the half crabs with a little lemon or melted butter. Or you could go the extra mile and make one of the recipes below.
A while back I won a cookbook on my friend Nurit’s blog. It’s called Ray’s Boathouse and has tons of great seafood recipes. I decided to adapt one of the recipes for my crab (who I named Herman by the way). The recipe uses a method of boiling pepper several times to reduce the spiciness while maintaining the aroma. I want to try this but simply didn’t have the time for this recipe. So I reduced the amount of pepper and made a few other subtle changes. It’s no longer the Ray’s Boathouse recipe, but it sure is good!
Dungeness Crab in Black Pepper Asian Sauceserves 3 with sides
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 TBS mirin
4 TBS shoyu (soy sauce)
2 TBS oyster sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
Dungeness crab steamed and cleaned
2 TBS vegetable oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1 TBS cornstarch
2 TBS water
4 scallions chopped
In a bowl, whisk pepper, mirin, shoyu, oyster sauce and chicken stock.
Heat oil in a large frying pan then, using tongs, carefully add crab pieces to the pan (including the carapace or top shell). Sprinkle the garlic into the pan and fry for about a minute until garlic is golden.
Pour the sauce into the pan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Mix cornstartch and water, pour into the sauce in the pan and mix well by stirring the crab pieces around. Cook 2-3 minutes and add scallions.
Remove pan from the heat and use tongs to reassemble the crab on a plate. Pour the sauce over the plated crab. Serve with steamed rice.
Approximate cost/serving: The crab was the most expensive part of the dish at $6. I buy all my Asian ingredients in large sizes at an Asian grocer so they’re very affordable. The entire dish came out to just under $7. We ate 2/3 of the meat between the two of us so it’s about $2.33 a serving.
Gluten Free: It is possible to make this gluten free, just check your ingredients’ labels to make sure because some of them (like soy sauce) can contain gluten.
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Nutritional and cost information is for estimating purposes only, and subject to variations due to region, seasonality, and product availability.