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How to pick / picking a crab in five minutes

Updated on April 22, 2011

Here in the beautiful Channel Island of Guernsey where I am lucky enough to live, there is an abundance of fresh locally caught seafood available in the local restaurants and hotels. Many of the local bars hold fish and meat draws at the weekends, where customers can buy raffle tickets and win freshly cooked local crabs and lobsters, or joints of meat. The odds are always very high that you will walk out with a prize or two, and I frequently go home with large joints of beef or gammon, and take any fresh crabs or lobsters I have won over to my parent's house.

Now to watch my Mother pick a crab is hilarious, and usually involves a shower of crab shell flying all over the kitchen in various directions, as she apparently does her best to kill it a second time by walloping it repeatedly with a steak tenderiser or a rolling pin. The next half an hour to an hour are spent removing all the tiny pieces of broken crab shell from within the crabmeat that isn't splattered all over the walls.

In recent weeks she had adapted this technique to try to reduce the mess, and now she places a large proportion of the crab in a sandwich bag and wallops it within the bag instead, later spending the half an hour plus removing the bits of shell from the mullered meat. This is still very time consuming and results in a fair few crunchy bits remaining in the meat, which is definitely not nice.

Guernsey Coins Featuring Chancre Crabs.
Guernsey Coins Featuring Chancre Crabs.
The Atlantique Hotel in Guernsey
The Atlantique Hotel in Guernsey
A Guernsey Sunset
A Guernsey Sunset
Crab Picking Tools
Crab Picking Tools
Crab being Picked
Crab being Picked

With this in mind you can imagine my delight when having a conversation with Joao Freitas, the landlord / chef of our local bar restaurant "The Victoriana Bar" within the Atlantique Hotel here in Guernsey, he announced that he can pick a crab in about four to five minutes. I was stunned as I had been told by other locals that this simply couldn't be done in anything less than eight to fifteen minutes, (and in my Mum's case, considerably longer). In fact Joao's statement caused some quite heated debate in the bar, as various people claimed this was impossible, and virtually accused Joao of lying.

I had no reason to doubt Joao's word as he had always been honest with us in the past, but wanted to provide proof to the doubters that he was capable of achieving this, and what better way to do this than to film him in action from start to finish, knowing that there is a timer on a camcorder and that there could be no further room for debate.

The following week I bought our usual raffle tickets for the fish and meat draw, and true to form I managed to have at least one winning ticket, and of course I chose a crab so that Joao would have something to "pick" on camera. Joao kept the crab in his fridge overnight, and on the Sunday afternoon my Sister and I went down to the Victoriana Bar armed with my camcorder and duly filmed Joao picking the crab stage by stage, ultimately the crab was picked in virtually five minutes to the second.

I then uploaded the footage to You Tube so that I could share this technique with anyone else looking for the most efficient and speedy method of picking a crab, (and with little or no mess).

Before you begin you will need:

1 Cooked Crab

1 large kitchen knife

1 crab picking tool with a spoon shaped end and a fork shaped end

1 bowl (for the empty shells)

1 dish (for the picked crabmeat)

1 Chopping Board

Joao Freitas Picks a Chancre Crab in Five Minutes.

The Atlantique Hotel in Guernsey Where Joao Freitas Both Chefs and Runs the Victoriana Bar Restaurant.


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    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Dave, in fairness only a tiny amount was wasted from the very claw tips, the majority of even the small legs was picked, yet in many places they throw away the entire small legs and don't bother to pick them at all!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      He wasted a lot of crab meat in that he didn't even pick the lower legs!!!! Not that good quick but I hate to see how much is wasted!!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Good advice Q&T, I shall get my Step Dad to try this, and I might even ask Joao to give it a go as well.

      Thanks for the compliment on my voice too :)

    • quietnessandtrust profile image


      9 years ago

      Actually it can be done "faster"...just to be analytical about it.

      Each time you pick up the knife and put it down it takes time.

      Each time you pick up the picking tool and put it down, more time.

      Best to pick up the knife once and crack / cut everything, put the knife down and pick up the tool once and do all the picking once.

      And yes, the man was very fast at that.

      And yes you do have a sweet voice !!!


    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Christoph, lovely to see you here. Yes, Joao could have made some money, but I guess he is just too nice to take money off people this way. Actually he is the only Landlord I know who often gives his regulars lifts home at the end of the night, plus during the evenings he frequently brings out hot food snacks to put on the bar free of charge, e.g. Chilli and rice, chips and curry sauce, Asparagus Soup Oysters, shreds of roast chicken and chips etc etc. He also buys the locals drinks frequently. A truly lovely guy.

      Thanks for the lovely compliment about my voice, very sweet of you,(and comforting to know I didn't sound like a complete dweeb!) :)

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 

      9 years ago from St. Louis

      Very nice! I don't cook whole crabs, but I do cook crab legs and I learned some new skills. It seems to me that Joe could have made some money here by taking wagers from the naysayers. Might have picked up a pretty penny.

      Great video and I LOVED YOUR VOICE! Charming!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Cheers Paradise, and hope it comes in useful to you sometime :)

    • Paradise7 profile image


      9 years ago from Upstate New York

      Well, now we know!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Ralwus, thanks for the sweet compliment (blushes). :)

      Hi Wanderlust, you would love Guernsey too I am sure, especially as it is somewhat less commercialised than Jersey and the town is definitely nicer in my opinion. Jersey is lovely too mind, and the scenery is also as nice as Guernsey's. The seafood in both islands is as good as each others.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Martin, great to see you here and thanks for commenting. Well I was at Mum and James house when they ate the picked crab, and they cleared the tub completely, yet didn't pick out so much as a single fragment of shell. I guess this shows the technique works, but try it for yourself.

      No problem with the link by the way, I am sure they will sell loads of crabs now :)

      See you in the pub soon :)

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Febriedethan, pleased to know this helps you and thanks for commenting.

      Thanks Dave, hope you do get back into writing soon.

      Hi Diogenes, actually I don't eat much at all and am definitely not keen on seafood, (hence why any crabs or lobsters I win end up at my Mum and Step Dads house). I am fascinated by the crab picking process though, but my preferred foods are home grown veg and good quality meats.

    • Wanderlust profile image


      9 years ago from New York City

      Fresh and finest seafood is definitely one of the biggest attraction of Channel Islands, at least for me! I've never been to Guernsey, but I've been to Jersey and still remember the delicious taste of local oysters, crabs and langoustines....

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      The best part of this whole hub is hearing your voice for the first time.

    • profile image

      Martin Loader 

      9 years ago

      Hey mistyhorizon2003.

      How's it going. I enjoyed that. Joao is a pretty dab hand at picking crabs thats's for sure. Shame about the camera work and the commentary :) Only joking.

      I'm not so sure that I would take him on at that competition now. There was a couple of techniques that I might try next time I go in to pick some crabs. The only thing that worries me is that he cut the crab's body in half with a knife and that would leave fragments of the inner body in the meat. I may be wrong. Will give it a go and see.

      Great niche article though. Keep up the good work.

      PS. I have included a link to my brother's and his partner's seafood stall "Seafresh Guernsey" by the castle emplacement in case anybody wants to buy some crabs (or any seafood for that matter), to try to pick a crab in five minutes challenge out on.

      See you shortly.


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Arrrr, them's pungers, missie! We used to catch them in the rocks in Broadstairs where I was born. I did a hub on 'em, tasty little blighters, Bob Good hub and great pics. Do you do anything else except eat, Misty? Bob x

    • Dave82689 profile image


      9 years ago from Valdosta, GA

      Nicely done Hub, looks pretty good, I have got to get back into the swing of things around here, and start writing some more hubs

    • febriedethan profile image


      9 years ago from Indonesia

      For a Seafood lover like me this is very useful tips, thank you for sharing!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      PS Funnebone, for what it is worth, I don't actually like Seafood either, (with very very few exceptions). Actually I only eat cold cooked shelled small prawns, Tuna, smoked haddock, mackerel or salmon, and that is it, I hate all other Seafoods and won't touch them.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Lawson 

      9 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Funnily enough funnebone, I have suggested to Joao that they should organise a "crab picking competition" in the bar as a bit of an event, and get the local papers to publicise it. Both of us agree it could be a real crowd puller, plus would shut up all those who doubt Joao can do this in under five minutes, especially as he will no doubt have a very good chance of winning the competition.

    • funnebone profile image


      9 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

      If I ate seafood ( ) I would find this useful, but since I don't I find it very entertaining. I could see it leading to many "My mom can pick a crab faster than your mom" competitions. Nice work


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