How to Open a Whole Crab


Crab meat is delectably sweet, and whole crab is widely available when crab is in season. Cleaning and cracking a whole cooked crab may seem intimidating, but it's a simple process once you familiarize yourself with the crab's anatomy. The following technique works on both Atlantic blue crabs and the larger Pacific Dungeness crabs.

Things You'll Need

  • Whole cooked crab
  • Mallet
  • Flip the crab so that its underside is face up. Lift the triangular shell flap there, also known as the apron. Twist off the apron and discard.

  • Turn the crab back over. Pull off the top shell, or carapace, gently. Twist it a little if there is resistance. Save the shell and set it aside.

  • Remove and discard the gills, which are the clear feathery finger-like tissue found just above the legs.

  • Remove and discard the mandibles, or mouth parts, of the crab.

  • Remove the "crab butter," which is the soft yellow substance found around the white crab meat. Rinse the crab quickly if needed.

  • Strike each segment of the legs gently with a mallet to crack its shell.

Tips & Warnings

  • This process also works on raw crab.
  • Be careful not to cut yourself on the sharp shell edges.

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  • "Fish Forever"; Paul Johnson; 2007
  • "West Coast Seafood"; Jay Harlow; 1999
  • Photo Credit dungeness crab image by Mat Hayward from
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