How to cook crab (live and frozen) including defrosting, boiling, steaming and storing.
Welcome to our guide to cooking crab. In this section we take you through how to defrost, boil, steam and store crab.
Defrosting a whole crab
If you have decided to purchase pre-cooked frozen crab, simply place it in the refrigerator overnight in order to defrost.
If you need to defrost the crab quickly, wrap it in cling film and place it in a sink full of cold water. Do not use hot water. A two pound crab will defrost in one hour.
Boiling live crab
- Pour 5 litres of water into a large saucepan and add around 5 tablespoons of sea salt. Bring to a rapid boil.
- Grasp the live crab by the back legs and drop it into the water headfirst. For a more humane method, as you grasp the crab by the legs, stroke the top of its head until it falls asleep and then slowly drop it into the boiling water.
- Bring the water back to the boil and only then start timing.
- You should cook large crabs (about 2lb) for around 15 - 20 minutes, whilst smaller crabs will only need around 8 - 10 minutes.
- Once the water has started to boil again, reduce the heat and simmer for the required time. The crab's shell should turn a bright orange when done.
- When the crabs are done, immerse them for a few seconds in cold water so that cooking stops and they do not overcook.
- Serve immediately with hot melted butter or let the crabs cool down in their shell until they are cool enough for you to remove the meat and refrigerate it until further use.
- Crabs are also delicious cold.
Steaming live crab
- In a large pot or steamer pour 1 cup of vinegar, 2 cups of beer or water and 2 tablespoons of salt, so that you have 3 - 4 inches of liquid.
- Bring the liquid to a rapid boil.
- As the liquid is heating up, place the live crabs into the freezer or into a large bowl of ice water for about 3 minutes. This is done to stun the crabs before cooking, and it keeps their legs and claws intact through the steaming process.
- Once the liquid is boiling fiercely, place the live crabs onto a steaming rack situated well above the liquid, sprinkle them with seasoning and cover the pot with the lid.
- Steam over a medium - hot heat for at least 20 minutes depending on the size and numbers of crab. Start timing once the water is boiling again. The crabs should turn a bright red or orange colour when done.
- Remove the crabs and rinse under cold water, which will also stop the cooking process.
- Serve hot.
Storing cooked crab meat
Freshly cooked crab meat is tastiest when eaten on the same day, however it can be stored in the fridge for up to two days. The cooked meat should be removed from the shell beforehand (see below).
Cooked crab meat can be frozen and will keep for four months. Make sure that it is tightly wrapped in cling film or placed in an airtight container before freezing. If you choose you can add a layer of salted water (brine) to ensure freshness on defrosting.
Removing crab meat from the shell
First of all, twist the legs and claws until they come away and leave them to one side. Then separate the body from the shell by pushing the body upwards until it pops out of the shell. Throw away the stomach sac, mouth, intestines and the gills and then scoop and scrape out the brown meat.
You may want to crack open and split the body into two or four parts to access the meat more easily. Then go back to the legs and claws. Crack the claws and split the legs and remove the succulent white meat. Any juices from the shells can be saved and used to make a fish stock, sauce or soup.
Enjoy your crab!