How to Clean Crab


Like all shellfish that come straight out of the sea, crabs are covered with dirt and other residues on them that should be cleaned off before they are eaten. With their many contours and uneven surfaces, crabs look much harder to clean than they actually are; with practice, you will be able to clean crabs in a couple of minutes. Crabs may be cleaned while still raw or after they have been cooked.

Things You'll Need

  • Fresh, running water
  • Wastebasket
  • Rinse the crab under fresh, running water to wash away all the exterior matter.

  • Hold the crab upside down in your hand. Using your thumbs, remove the large, roundish top shell by prying it apart from the main body at the backside, the side opposite the large claws.

  • Pull off the smaller plate in the middle of the crab's belly, again prying it apart from the main body at the backside. The plates of male and female crabs are differently shaped; female crabs have circular abdominal flaps, while the flaps of males are pointed.

  • Pull or scrape off the gills and other extraneous bits, including the crab's entrails.

  • Grip the left and right sides of the crab firmly with your left and right hands, still holding the crab upside down. Break the crab into two even pieces in a swift, powerful motion. Break it toward, you rather than away from you, so that the crab's underside is folding in on itself.

  • Rinse each half of the crab separately, removing any remaining sediment and bits of shell. You may notice a yellowish, gooey substance inside the crab's body cavity. Most people choose to wash this away, though some prefer to keep it for use in recipes.

  • Discard all the bits and parts you have removed. Use a wastebasket rather than the garbage disposal. If you're cleaning a smaller crab with no meat in its walking legs, you can also discard the legs at this time.

Tips & Warnings

  • This method applies to hard-shell crabs, such as dungeness and snow.
  • Research suggests that consuming the yellow substance, or "mustard," inside crabs can have serious negative health effects. Children and women who are or could be pregnant are especially urged to avoid consuming this substance.
  • If you're cleaning a crab that is still alive, be careful to keep your hands clear of its pincer claws.

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  • Photo Credit crab detail image by Radu Razvan from
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