Seafood lovers throughout the world enjoy Maryland Blue Crabs, not just for their delectable taste but for the fun social atmosphere that surrounds picking and eating crabs. In Maryland, however, steamed hardshell crabs are a tradition that no summer is complete without.
A Maryland crab feast means a long, leisurely afternoon or evening spent with friends and family around a large picnic table, picking crabs with conversation and cool drinks flowing freely. “”Picking,” is the art of eating a steamed hardshell crab.
For those unfamiliar with Maryland Blue Crabs, the work required to pick out the meat may seem to produce a small amount of food in relation to the time spent. The first bite of sweet, lump crabmeat will make it all seem worthwhile. Lump crabmeat is the largest piece of meat found in the body of the crab, adjacent to the backfins.
This is the most expensive type of crabmeat. Backfin crabmeat is the white body meat including the lump and large flakes often used for crab cakes and crab imperial. The flakes of white body meat other than lump are called “special” crabmeat. Special crab meat is good for crab cakes, soup, casseroles, and dips. The claw meat is the brownish meat found in the claws of the crab. It is best used in soups and dips and is the least expensive type of crabmeat.
While the company of at least one veteran crab picker is recommended to learn this treasured art, the easy-to-follow steps below will provide you with a good guide on how to pick and eat Maryland Blue Crabs. Let’s get started!
To pick and eat Maryland Blue Crabs you will need the following essential items:
- Steamed Maryland Blue Crabs, which can be bought by the dozen or by the bushel. There are about 7 to 8 dozen in a bushel. Once you have joined the ranks of experienced crab pickers, you will get the most crabmeat for your money by keeping an eye out for the all-you-can-eat steamed crab specials popular at seafood restaurants.
- A wooden or metal mallet comes in handy when cracking crab claws.
- A knife is useful for opening the crab and separating the crab meat from the shell.
- A tall drink to quench your thirst. Maryland Blue Crabs steamed with Old Bay Seasoning can be spicy!
Step One: Select a Crab
Pick a nice heavy crab with large claws. Turn the crab upside down to determine if it is a male or female. Some people prefer the taste of male crabs (also known as “Jimmies”) to female crabs (or “Sooks”). Jimmies and Sooks are easy to tell apart by the shape of the apron in the center of the crab’s underside. Jimmies have a long and narrow apron that looks like an upside down “T”. Sooks have a semi-circular, bell shaped apron that comes to a point at the top.
Step Two: Remove the Crab’s Claws and Legs
Snap off the two large claws at the body of the crab and set them aside for later. Remove the crab’s smaller legs next. If you pull carefully, some meat may be found at the end of each joint to give you just a teaser of what you will find inside.
Step Three: Open the Crab
With your thumb or knife, pull back the tip of the apron on the underside of the crab. Snap the apron off at the joint where it meets the top shell. This will separate the body of the crab from the shell. With both hands, pull the body and the shell apart. With the body of the crab exposed, remove the face area, scrape off the gills and the yellowish, mustard like substance in the center. The mustard can be eaten, but the gills, also known as Devil Fingers, should not.
Step Four: Picking the Crabmeat
Break the remaining part of the body in half and then break each half again, exposing the chambers containing solid white crabmeat. Use the knife or your fingers to pick the crabmeat away from the cavities of the crab’s body.
Step Five: Don’t Forget the Claws
Pick up one of the claws set aside back in Step Two. Pull the claw apart at the joint. If you separate the joint carefully, you may be able to pull the crabmeat out of the claw shell. If not, crack the claw shell with a mallet or knife and pull the meat out from the cavity.
Step Six: Enjoy, Repeat
Picking crabs may seem like daunting work at first, but when you taste the rewards of your labor you will come to understand the popularity of Maryland Blue Crabs