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Step 1

Get crabs from a reputable seafood stand, market or restaurant. The crabs should be 5-6 inches long. Protect your eating area by covering with several layers of old newspaper. You should have a knife, crab mallet, and drinks for all! Pull off all of the claws and legs (eat exposed meat from the ends), and set them aside. Now the fun begins!

Step 2

Turn the crab to the underside, inserting your thumb under the apron (the apron looks like a little pull-tab on his underbelly), lift up and peel off the shell.

Step 3

Hold the crab in both hands and stick your thumbs between the top and bottom shells, at the bottom where the apron used to be, and pull them apart. Clean out the gooey, yellow gunk (fat), also called "mustard" (it can be eaten, if desired).

Step 4

Use a knife to scrape off the "devil", "deadman's fingers" (the cellulose-like gills), spongy lungs. DO NOT EAT!!!! Yuk!!!! Just dump it on the table and move on.

Step 5

Grab the cleaned crab and snap in half and then in half again. He'll pop easily right down the middle. The picture to the left shows some 'new kid on the block' using kitchen shears for this, but just use both hands. You'll see crab meat peeking out of the sides of what looks like little tubes of membrane. Pick out all of the lump crab meat and eat as you go, leaving only the shell.

Step 6

Keep on a 'Pickin' and a grinnin' it doesn't get any better than this! Don't give up now, this is the best part of the entire process. Be determined and get all the meat!! Now you can start on the claws you set aside earlier. Hold the upper half of the claw flat, place the knife-edge in the middle and strike with the mallet. Break open the claw, using the knife to scoop the meat out! Take the legs and bend them in half until they pop, then suck the meat out. The legs and claws are excellent for making soup!!!!


  • Melted butter (in case you don't care for vinegar)
  • Vinegar (put in small individual bowls for ease of use)
  • Old Bay Seasoning (it's a must)


  • If eating the crabs outside make sure you have a cooler full of ice cold beverages on hand.
  • The crabs may be well seasoned, so you want to have plenty of chilled drinks available.
  • Make sure you have a good supply of paper towels. Tear them off before you start and stack them. A bucket of water for hand rinsing or a garden hose will come in very handy if you eating outside.
  • For ease of clean-up: Place buckets or trash cans in strategic locations around the table.
  • After you've finished eating, roll up the newspaper you placed on the tables before you started and toss away.
  • If you don't want to 'stink up' the neighborhood, place your newspaper bundles filled with crab debris in a plastic garbage bag and close with ties.
  • Maryland crabs are available from May until October.

This article was from the Chesapeake Bay Cooking web site which specialised in shellfish and seafood recipes as well as the famous Maryland Stuffed Ham recipes. (The web site no longer exists)