Birthday Blues–How To Clean Blue Crabs

Young 1
Birthday crabs age 5 and 3
Birthday crabs age 6 and 4



“Hey Oliver, think we ought to catch a few crabs for your birthday again?”

“Are you kidding me?  Of course!”

“OK, Keegan you in?”


And just like that, we found ourselves in the bright sun, slathered in suntan lotion and OFF.  It wasn’t long and we had a cooler full of crab.

Crabs on ice


With all due respect to my Cajun friends and Andrew Zimmern, I don’t like crab guts.  My first experience with blue crabs disappointed me greatly.   The whole crabs were boiled, and when the shell was removed yellow grey internal matter coated the crabs sweet white meat.  The flavor tasted overwhelmingly like cut bait, and I don’t have a delicate pallet. So if you aren’t familiar with crabs, and want the authentic Louisiana crab taste, just wash and cook them.   But here’s an alternative leaving you with just yummy white crab meat.

1.  First, ice your crabs in the field and then wash them at home; returning them to ice lest they warm up and pinch you silly.  Once they are cold, they are easily handled. I’ve kept crabs on ice for two days and they’ve been fresh and tasty.

crabs 2

crabs 1

2. Have a cutting board, heavy back-boned knife, and a butter knife handy along with an extra bowl of clean ice.


3.  Flip your crab. Notice the “apron” of the crab is shaped like Washington Monument.  This is a dude.  These are what you should keep to conserve the resource and in many states, stay legal.  A female crabs apron is wide, and shaped like a triangle or dome.  Pitch all females back.


4.  Pull the apron back.  It helps to use something to pry it up.  Then rip it off, going against the grain.


Notice the groove left after you removed the apron.

5.  Using your big knife, cut the crab in half along the groove, breaking the shell with pressure, not sawing.


DSC_0035 DSC_0034

6.  A clean break will occur leaving you with two halves.  You do not have to put your foot on the sink like Oliver, but if it helps you, go for it.


7.  You can see the gooey, inner matter sitting on top of the white flesh.  Now sling the crab body a few times hard at the ground or in your sink, holding on tight.  Most of the entrails will go flying.  Rinse under cold water.  Best done when Mom is not in sight.




8.  Now remove the gills by hand.  The half on the left has the gills attached, the one on the right is done.



9.  Repeat for both sides, then toss into the clean bowl of ice.  They are now ready to be cooked in any number of manners. If you just have to, you can now freeze them in ziplocks full of water.  But I highly suggest munching them fresh.











I’ll post various crab recipes going forward, but I want to hear from you.  What is your favorite crab dish?


  1. Crab, grilled in shell with lemon butter. But really, crab anything. I can’t do much crab pasta, as it tends to be heavy on the dairy, and I turned lactose intolerant about five years ago. But we don’t see too many blue crabs here, typically dungeness and snow or king crab, and sweet mother are they expensive. Plus, Matt’s allergic to shellfish. Very much a treat when I can get it. The idea of catching my own whenever I want is so foreign to me. Very interesting.

  2. Steamed with plenty of Old Bay seasoning. Then, dip the mean in melted butter, ummmm so good!!!

    I clean them before cooking, too. Or, I should say “use to” when I lived on Chesapeake Bay. Pretty hard to go crabbing in White Oak!!

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