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How to Select and Cook Crab

Updated on July 28, 2009

A Dungeness crab is not your ordinary crab. In order to better understand this statement, therefore, you must give this crab a try. A great place to appreciate this delicacy is in San Francisco by the famous Fisherman's Wharf.  Dungeness crab season here, opens on November 15th, a greatly anticipated event for both locals and foreigners. While words cannot describe flavors as well as taste buds may, it may be an understatement to describe Dungeness crabs to be simply sweet and succulent.

Dungeness crabs are native to the Pacific Coast. They may be found from the Pribilof Islands in Alaska to Santa Barbara, California. Their name derives from the former town of Dungeness once found in the Washington State peninsula where these delicacies where first commercially harvested. Typically, a Dungeness crab will weigh between one and four pounds. Only male crabs are harvested; females are returned to the sea to allow them to reproduce. 

The best season to purchase Dungess crabs in the United States is during their peak harvesting season which is in the winter. However, in Alaska the peak harvesting months are in the summer, therefore making Dungeness crabs an almost year long delicacy. Dungeness craba may be found sold raw, cooked, cracked, portioned and frozen.

In order to choose a good Dungess crab one must head towards a fresh fish market. The best way to choose wisely is to check for liveliness. A well known saying in the crab world is ''If it ain't kicking, it ain't worth cooking'' Listless crabs should be discarded because their meat tends to be mushy and with a bitter after taste. Look for a healthy violet-purplish tint on the back and a creamy colored abdomen. Discard crabs with black spots or with the presence of barnacles on the shells, this is sign that the crab is perishing. A good tasting Dungeness crab must also have a hard shell that weighs more than expected.

Upon selecting a cooked crab, one must avoid the ones with a black discoloration at the leg joints because this often means that the crab has not been cooked enuogh. A well cooked crab will have the legs tightly curled against the body indicating it was cooked alive.  Avoid any cooked crab with loosened legs.

When brought fresh from a fish market often the fishmonger will take care of cleaning the crab for you and portioning it. A fresh crab should ideally be cooked the same day. The crab should be boiled for approximately 10 minutes in salted water or steamed for approximately 15-18 minutes. Spices may be added to the water. If the crab is bought already cooked, it just needs reheated. A five minute dip in boiling water will usually suffix.

Once cooked, Dungeness crabs may be enjoyed simply with some melted butter or with a cocktail sauce. So at this point, get your taste buds ready to celebrate, grab a crab cracker and a fork, and enjoy this great delicacy of the Pacific coast.

Prepworks by Progressive Butter Warmer - Set of 2
Prepworks by Progressive Butter Warmer - Set of 2

Ceramic is the material of choice for over-the-candle warming because it holds in the heat without letting the flame burn your butter or damage the delicate texture of your sauce. These petite, white his-and-her pots hold about 3/4 cup of your favorite dip. Dainty wire stands suspend the pots at an appropriate distance from the tea light. Serves dinner or dessert fondue with panache. --Carol Gnojewski

OXO Good Grips Slim Nut and Seafood Cracker
OXO Good Grips Slim Nut and Seafood Cracker

Crab legs and walnuts don’t stand a chance when this solid zinc cracker puts on the squeeze. While a nice weighty feel and sleek, polished design make this cracker a pleasure to use, the best feature is the soft rubber grip on each side that absorbs pressure during squeezing. The nutcracker measures 6-1/4 inches long and is dishwasher-safe. --Ann Bieri

Granite Ware 6323-1 33-Quart Crab and Crawfish Cooker with Steamer/Drainer Insert, 3-Piece
Granite Ware 6323-1 33-Quart Crab and Crawfish Cooker with Steamer/Drainer Insert, 3-Piece

This Granite Ware 3 pc 33 quart crab and crawfish cooker stock pot is constructed of porcelain fired at 1500 degrees to the low carbon steel core. The result is a pot that heats rapidly, is easy to clean and has an inert glass surface so there are no PFOA's or other chemicals to alter food's taste, color or healthfulness. The convenient steamer/drainer insert is perfect for lifting out seafood when cooked. Granite Ware provides the magic ingredients to make a crab or crawfish broil a festive memorable occasion. The large capacity 33 quart pot is designed to accommodate big gatherings and produce outstanding results.

I Love Crab Cakes! 50 Recipes for an American Classic
I Love Crab Cakes! 50 Recipes for an American Classic

Where do you get the best crab cakes? Ask one hundred different people and you'll likely get one hundred different answers. Some swear by classic Chesapeake Bay crab cakes, and some by spicy Creole crab cakes, while others maintain that Pacific Northwest crab cakes can't be beat. In I Love Crab Cakes!, award-winning chef and cookbook author Tom Douglas brings the best of East, West, and Gulf coasts to the table and proves that the most delicious crab cakes of all come straight from your home kitchen.


How to Crack crab


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    • Treasured Pasts profile image

      Treasured Pasts 8 years ago from Commerce, Texas

      This will be one of the major reasons that we will retire on the coast of Oregon! That and clams! Do you know how to cook a goeduck!