As with Maine lobsters, cooking Dungeness crab intimidates many folks. Think Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, with crustaceans all over the kitchen floor. Really, it’s not so tough if you follow these simple steps. And don’t forget your mantra…
Step 1: Plunge live crab in a pot of salted boiling water. Listen for screams. Kidding! That’s just air whistling out of the shell.
Step 2: After 10-15 minutes or so, depending on the quality of the boil, remove crab to newspapers. Let cool.
Step 3: Lift the carapace off by leveraging from hindquarters. This is most easily accomplished by finding the narrow triangular flap on the crab’s abdomen (see image at right) and pulling it back. Now you can get a finger under the back of the carapace and wedge it off. Pull away as much goop (that’s a technical term) with the shell as possible and dispose. Clean gills and any other additional goop still clinging to remainder of crab.
Step 4: Break crab down middle into two mirror sections, as shown in image at top. The crab is now ready for eating or freezing. In my next post I’ll outline the steps for peeling the rest of the crab and making crab cakes.
A note about access: I nearly learned a hard lesson about waterfront access while diving for these crabs. I’d already bagged my limit of five and was swimming back to the beach when I heard a vehicle honking repeatedly. Now try to picture a sole swimmer, decked out in wetsuit, mask, and snorkel popping up like a seal, going, “Who, me?”
The guy got out of his official looking pickup and asked me if that was my van in the parking lot. Yup. “Your lucky day,” he said. “I was about to lock the gate behind you.” Turns out this spot I’ve been diving off for a decade or more is currently embroiled in some sort of dispute with an adjacent property owned by the military, and the upshot is that there’s no public access right now—this despite the park benches and other improvements. I just happened to slip in while the gate was open.
Well, I swam my skinny ass back to the beach as fast as I could and offered the guy a crab for his trouble. Bottom line: know your access points.