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How to Clean a Crab & Other Crabby Adventures

There’s a man in my hometown here in the Hudson Valley who defines the word “local.” He’s been a local forever. He is this place. He has a commercial crab operation that he runs from the pier and he brings in all sorts of blue crabs every day. He drives his truck around and it says “Crabman” on it. And he has a little hand written sign on the telephone pole outside of his house that says “Crabs for Sale.”

My dad has known him for quite a long time and we were driving by the other day during my visit here, and I asked him about the crabs being advertised on the telephone pole. “Oh that’s Ray,” he said. “I’ve known him forever, he’s such a character.”

I gave Ray a ring.

I inquired about his crabs.

“I’m having a party for my brother and I want crabs!” I exclaimed.

He told me to come by on Sunday at 10am when his boat will have come in from the Hudson. And so I did, and there was Ray wearing his t-shirt with the sleeves cut off and looking very jolly. I think it was a successful crab day for him.

I brought them home and it turns out Ray’s crabs are characters too.

They were… how shall we say… mean little bastards!

First off, they exploded out of their paper bag and scurried around on the floor.

Then when we gave them a rinse they formed a crab chain.

So we put them in a basket and they tried to jump ship.

It was a battle.

The claws came out.

Oh how I crack myself up.

But once we got a pot of boiling water going… it was time.

And the crab chains were dropped in one by one.

Some of the chains were very long. I thought they were going to dance the mambo along the floor.

When they were cooked, they weren’t so blue anymore, they were a beautiful bright orange.

This was fun. Newspaper and 24 crabs to be cleaned and picked among friends. That’s my idea of a fun summer birthday party.

I made some clams too… since I had called the party a clam bake.

And we threw in lobster for good measure.

I love lobster. It is so darn rich.

I like the claws the best, how about you?

And there was some super rockin grilled corn with cheese, and bacon and cilantro. (Recipe soon!)

But without further ado, I’d love to show you how to clean a crab body. Since my brother’s friends asked for a tutorial, I thought perhaps some of you out there would like to know too… in case you have an eccentric crab man in your home town from which to procure crabs.

How to Clean a Crab:

This is the top of the crab body.

This is the underbelly.

The strange little pointy thing is what I call a “lever.”

1. Pull the lever back. It is attached to the top orange shell.

2. Pull it back more. Until you begin to bend it in the opposite direction from which Mother Nature intended.

3. As you do, stick your thumb under the orange top shell and pull the whole thing off.

4. There is a mustard colored gook in there. There are also lungs on either side, which you can see as those pointy white triangles. The lungs should be pulled off.

5. Then you rinse the gook in a bowl of clean water.

6. Once it is rinsed, it will look beautiful like this.

7. Break the body in half right down the middle.

8. Then tap each half with a nut cracker, a hammer, a rock or whatever hard heavy object you please.

9. Inside there is the most luscious chunks of sweet crab meat.

10. Please, please, please, immediately dip it in garlicy, spicy, melted butter and consume.

11. You can also crack the claws and smaller legs and suck out the meat. Or you can use it as a nose ornament.

This is my favorite kind of summer party. Full of hammers and nut crackers and food pulled apart across newspaper! What’s your favorite kind of party?


  • Angie
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    I haven’t eaten whole crabs in a very long time. I use to help my Dad boil them over a fire in the backyard. I helped chase down the strays. Good memories!

  • Big Steve
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Here in North Carolina…we’d call that “eatin’ high on the hog” what with lobster and all that. Looks like fun and good eating though. Be Blessed!!!

  • Deliciously Organic
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 6:01 pm

    What a great tutorial. I never knew the proper technique so this is very helpful. I love how the crabs were joined together at the claws. Too cute!

  • Amy | She Wears Many Hats
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    I have fond memories of crabbing with my Nana at Folly Beach, with chicken neck and basket in tow. We would catch dozens upon dozens to cook up during season. If only I had realized then what a treat that was.

    (And that “lever” ain’t a lever. It’s an anus I believe. But maybe it’s best to keep calling it a lever…)

  • Sommer@ASpicyPerspective
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    I was already smiling at the very dexterous, yet hairy, man-hands doing all the dirty work. Then I saw Amy’s comment and had a long hard chuckle. Don’t ya just love crabs?

  • Denise @ Creative Kitchen
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story, and was only 2 paragraphs in when hubby’s Netflix instant stream started retrieving so I asked him if he wanted to hear of an adventure and read it out loud to him. Such fun!!

    We LOVE crab and haven’t had it in such a long time. Part of my growing up years were in Maryland, and they sure are known for crab. Thanks for sharing!! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Ian Nance
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Excellent read! Catch them in the Homosassa River in FL all the time. Lots of work but what a great eat!

  • Laurie @SimplyScratch
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    I love fresh crab… love it dipped in loads of melted butter. YUM! Great post Georgia!! Ps… will you let us know when the episode of you judging on Iron Chef is airing {if you find out}? Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Post Author
      Posted July 25, 2011 at 7:18 pm

      I’ll definitely let you know! It will be this fall sometime but I’m waiting to hear the date.

  • Amanda
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Oh my gosh, I loved this Georgia! I can just imagine them trying to escape. Looks like you guys had a fabulous, delicious party! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • HeatherChristo
    Posted July 25, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    Georgia- this is wonderful. My family has had what we call a “crab feed” every year since I was a kid. We get glorious Dungeness crab in the NW, but I am kind of a wimp about cooking and cleaning them myself. I drop them in the pot and run screaming from the room and then make my brothers or husband cut them up. These were great instructions about the cleaning though. I can’t believe I never knew about the lever! Thanks!

  • Esi
    Posted July 26, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    When I was a kid living in Maryland, I was a crab-a-holic. It just hasn’t been the same since.

  • Ilke
    Posted July 26, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Holy Crab!! That is such a big work!! You guys pulled it off well and thank for showing how to clean the gungky insides! Yucks !

  • Brooke @ Food Woolf
    Posted July 26, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    This is definitely my idea of a great party. Gotta have an event like this out doors or you’ll be scraping up crab bits off the walls for months. (*Believe me, it happened to me.!) Thanks for the story and the tutorial. It’s definitely necessary for those people who have never done the hard labor on cleaning a crab!

    Posted July 26, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    no, you are not a wuss . . . I, however AM a wuss . . . and TOTALLY OWN IT!! about the time those suckers exploded out of the bag and onto the floor – i’m done. soooo over. it. my favorite kind of party? the kind where you invite me over to eat those beautiful crabs AFTER they’re all cooked!!

  • Nancy@acommunaltable
    Posted July 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    This definitely sounds like the perfect party – and I know just who to invite!! I loved the tutorial !!!!

  • Heather
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 6:09 am

    I loved this! I went crabing on Amelia Island Fla. with my young daughters many years ago. I had no idea what I was doing! We were camping our way back up the coast to NC and I asked somebody how to do it… so like Amy said, net + chicken necks on a string thing = tons of crab! We cooked those babies in a pot and about starved (lots of work & not much meet) but what a messy, tasty, fun memory. Now I can do it right. Kevin made me laugh when he called you a wuss… you can only call someone a wuss that really isn’t… you’re definetly not! You’re my food hero!

    • Post Author
      Posted September 25, 2011 at 7:18 am

      Hehe, thanks Heather ๐Ÿ™‚

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