Blue crab is a popular seafood; its sweet meat is prized by chefs and diners in spite of the blue crab's reputation for aggression and its fearsome appearance. The quality of the meat is at its highest when the crab is cooked alive or euthanized within seconds of going into a steamer. Transporting live blue crab is simple. Fill a cooler with ice, create a shelf so the live crabs don’t sit in the melted ice water and place the crabs on the shelf in the cooler.
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The claws on a crab often fall off due to the crab’s defense mechanism. When put into a steamer the crab fights for its life by self-amputating its claws. The crab does this to escape predators in the wild. Eating claws is enjoyable and less work than eating other parts of the crab. Once cracked open the claws give an abundance of crab meat that is sweet and juicy.
The mustard, the tomalley or green gland of the crab refer to the same thing. Some people eat it and feel it is a delicacy while others wash it off the crab before eating the meat. The mustard is a gland in the digestive system of the crab filled with tubes. The mustard acts as the liver and the pancreas in the crab’s digestive system. As part of the digestive system the mustard helps filter the impurities in the crab’s blood. The taste of the mustard is strong and sometimes bitter, but very edible.
The blue crab backfin contains lots of flavor. Expose the backfin by breaking the crab in half lengthwise. Reach in with fingers and pull out the backfin meat. The meat squeezes out of the crab shell when you apply pressure to the shell area around the backfin. Remove any bits of shell in and around the backfin meat.
The legs on a blue crab attach to the shell. Rip them off the shell to eat after you have cracked it in half, removed the mustard and the blackfin. As you pull the legs out of the shell look at the ends; the end of the leg will have a clump of meat stuck on it. If there is no meat on the end of the crab leg break open the crab shell and retrieve it that way. The leg meat requires work, but the flavor and abundance of meat make the effort worth it.