Cooking Louisiana  -  Peeling Crabs
This is Crab Picking 101. First off... no knives are allowed, except a butter knife to crack claws (an old fashioned pecan cracker works good for this too). If you haven't read the introduction to this page click here. I don't find peeling crabs that hard, and, I know some folks who don't eat boiled crabs because they don't want to go through the trouble of peeling them.

Peeling CrabsWe'll start with two nice boiled blue claw crabs taken from the bayous of South Louisiana. Be careful when handling crabs, there are many barbed points to work with.

These were from a bushel of crabs I just boiled.

Both are male and were not real fat. Why?, They were caught around the "New Moon".

Peeling CrabsFirst let's get the claws off. Grab the claw and pull down, then out. A crab is mechanically hinged, remember that!

Break both claws, and, if you happen to pull meat you know what to do... slurp!

Do not remove the other legs and don't be tempted to grab and jerk the flippers out hoping to get the lump meat out.

Peeling CrabsNext is the top shell...

Grab the legs as a cluster and grab the end of the top shell and pull apart, it's real easy.

Next part is getting the "innards" out.

Peeling CrabsUsing your thumb, grab the entire mouth section and pull it down and away.

This is the "top" of the crab, remember that.

Peeling CrabsThe gills go next. Again using your thumb, drag your thumb along the lung part nearest the legs (where they are attached) to scrape away the gills on both sides.

Peeling CrabsNow you want to remove the "apron". That's the part of the crab that determines if it's male or female. Here I take the point of a leg and slip it under the apron tip to lift it. Once lifted just break it away. This is the "bottom" of the crab, remember that.

If there are remaining "guts" in the middle simply swoop them out. In the females (naturally) there may be a small amount of eggs (orange) in and around the gut and under the front of the shell. There may also be fat (deep yellow) accumulated in the same areas. If you don't eat either one of these delicacies please save them and email them to me at your earliest convenience.

Peeling CrabsOnce the center is cleaned, hold the crab as shown (top up and mouth facing away from you) and break it in two using your thumbs to first push it inward (like you're going to fold it) then go the other direction to break it in two; like flexing a door hinge.

Peeling CrabsSo now I have one half of the crab in my hands. At the bottom is the flipper section. The top is where the claw knuckle was and I broke that away. I must orient you further here. To the left is the bottom of the crab and to the right is the top. In your mind split the piece of crab you see here vertically (up and down). To the left (lump meat), to the right (pieces). With your index finger (as shown) pull away the shell around the flipper meat. This will be the bottom part in the picture.

Peeling CrabsThis picture shows the shell broken away and I'm grabbing the flipper itself and pulling up and away. Notice beforehand I never said anything about removing the legs, they give you a mechanical advantage! You need them as handles through almost every step.

Peeling CrabsHere's the result. A fine cluster of lump meat with a handle that you can use to dunk that "crab popsicle" in your favorite dip.

Many folks try to just yank the flipper meat out and they wind up with the flipper in one hand and meat still in the crab. Then it's a fight to get the knuckle loose.

Peeling CrabsWe're now going to break this piece in two by holding it as shown and pinching it together. Pinch it inward, then in an imaginary line top to bottom, pull it apart (like opening a zip lock bag). What you'll have is the half on the left separated from the half on the right. We'll work next with the left side.

Peeling CrabsHold the legs in one hand (left) and push down as shown with your fingers (left). It will act like a hinge. Continue the motion until you get to about a 90 degree angle.

Peeling CrabsGrab the points near the legs (as shown) and gently pull them away.

Peeling CrabsPresto change-o more lump crab meat. Neat huh! Now you may have to pull a small shell or two away but hey, it beats the alternative!

Peeling CrabsThis is the last part which is the other side of the split (top of the crab where the gills were attached). This part has a little meat surrounded by a lot of shell. Solution! Don't peel... squeeze! From the bottom (near the leg section) just pinch it to get the remaining meat out.

What meat your say?

Peeling CrabsThis meat! Shell to the left, meat to the right.

Peeling CrabsLastly the claws. Here I'm using a butter knife. You can do the same thing with old fashioned pecan crackers. Strike the claw near the pincer hinge, be sure it has cracked.

Peeling CrabsFlip it 90 degrees and do the same thing. Continue cracking all the way around. Note: if the crab is stuffed full of meat you want to continue to crack it towards the first joint to loosen the meat. And believe me this won't always work.

Grab the larger part of the claw with one hand and the pincer end with the other and using a back and forth motion work the pincer away from the main claw.

Peeling CrabsNow break the claw hinge by opening the claw then pushing down. I'm pulling up with my left hand and down with my right in this picture. If you just continue to open the claw you crush the finger meat.

Peeling CrabsThis is (if you're lucky), the result. If the crab is packed with meat you may have to dig the remaining meat out with the butter knife. In the center of that fine looking piece of meat is a feather-bone so be careful when you go to devour it!

Peeling CrabsThe back side of the claw is struck right behind the first joint on both sides. Again, if the crab is super stuffed with meat this will become a challenge that can be managed with the knife.

Peeling CrabsThis is the result. Again there is a feather bone inside so be careful.

Well, that's the last of "Crab Pickin' 101).

Oh, here's the link to the Blue Crab information site! (click here). Lots of knowledge about the poor ole' crab here!

Let's go crabbin'!