How to/ Basics,  Recipes

How To Cook and Clean A Dungeness Crab

How to Clean Dungeness Crab

This is part 3 in an ongoing series about crab which includes Crab 101 (all you ever wanted to know about Crabs) and Stone Crab with Traditional Mustard Sauce. More to come…

How to Cook:
It’s Dungeness Crab season right now, September to June, on the Pacific Coast of North America. Much of the time you will find whole crabs already cooked and chilled. If not, and you’re buying live crabs, then the rule of thumb is to steam or boil them for 7-8 minutes per pound.  If boiling in multiple crabs, start timing when the water comes back to a boil. Base the number of minutes needed for cooking on the average crab weight, not the total weight.

Once your crab is cooked, rinse under cool water until just cool enough to handle. The crab in the photo below is a cooked crab. You can tell because the shell has turned from a blue/gray when alive to a bright orange when cooked.

How to Clean Dungeness Crab

How to clean the crab:

Turn the crab on its back and remove the triangular shaped flap called the “apron” and discard.

How to Clean Dungeness Crab
Hold the crab vertically and pull the top shell (called the carapace) away from the body and set aside. Rinse and clean the top shell and reserve if you want to use in your presentation.

How to Clean Dungeness Crab

How to Clean Dungeness Crab
Remove the gills/lungs and discard. Remove the mandible (mouth) and discard.

How to Clean Dungeness Crab
Rinse the body and and then cut or break in half down the center.

How to Clean Dungeness Crab

How to Clean Dungeness Crab
Cut the legs into sections through the body.How to Clean Dungeness Crab
Gently crack the legs with a mallet or the back side of a heavy knife or cleaver.

To serve, place the cracked legs on a platter or individual plates with your choice of sauce and fresh lemon wedges. If presenting a whole crab, arrange the legs as they would be on a live crab with the body pieces toward the center and place a cleaned carapace (top shell) on top.

  • If serving cold, chill in the refrigerator until ready.
  • If serving hot, serve immediately or rewarm in steamer basket for 30 seconds.
  • Serve cold with cocktail sauce, fresh wedges of lemon, garlic aioli, or for a classic 1950’s throwback, Russian dressing.
  • Serve hot with melted butter, fresh wedges of lemon, garlic butter or stir-fry Singapore style with chilies and tomato.

How to Clean Dungeness Crab

To eat, remove the crab meat with your fingers or pick it out with a small oyster fork, lobster pick, or the tip of a crab claw.

Provide discard bowls for your guests to place the empty shells, and plenty of napkins or even hot damp towels for cleaning hands at the end of the meal.

If you like these types of “how to” posts, let me know. I’d love to hear from you!



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