Tuesday 10 April 2012

How To Dress A Crab

fresh crab
In Half An Hour I'll Be Eating You!
Ah, shellfish. Something that I'll be writing a post about sometime this week. It's a huge foodie love of mine. Thing is, it seems to me that most people don't have shellfish at home, at least not here in the UK, I want to play a part, no matter how very small in trying to change that.

As with all shellfish, crab is naturally gluten free. Have it pre-bought dressed though and that might not still be the case (I speak from experience). Do it yourself and you're guaranteed a slap up gluten free meal that is simply delicious!

To some it might seem daunting. What do I do with it?! I've been dressing crabs and getting down and dirty with all manner of shellfish since I was a child, you should see me peel a pint of prawns or shrimps, I can do it really fast, blindfolded!

But that's because I've been brought up on this goodness, dressing a crab was never taught to me, I just watched my lovely mum do it time and time again and then it became instinctive. It's really not that hard and I hope that I can demonstrate that with this post.

First off, buy a ready cooked crab. If you have a good fishmonger - and I know they're often hard to find - they'll open it up for you and check that it isn't full of liquid. If you don't have a pre-existing relationship with a fishmonger this isn't necessarily going to be the case. The reason for checking is because you're going to be paying by weight and if most of that weight is liquid, you aren't getting the best deal. If a fishmonger isn't willing to open the crab up and show you, it's your choice, find another - again, not so easy - or drop hints that you plan on being a regular customer and good quality means spending money with them on a regular basis.

If you have a really good fishmonger, when they open it up and check for liquid they will also remove the mouth parts, the stomach sack and the dead man's fingers. Mine always does this for me without thinking so I don't have the photos to document this process but I'll walk you through it, it's not hard, nor scary or disgusting as it may sound!

So say your fishmonger isn't that great, you buy a cooked crab and take it home without it being opened. (Skip this step if your fishmonger rocks!)

  • First thing you'll want to do is remove the head shell from the body
  • Easiest way of doing this is to hold the legs and claws with your fingers and palms in front of you and and push the head shell up at the back with both your thumbs
  • It's a bit tricky if you haven't done it before but with pressure from your thumbs you will hear a click eventually
  • Once the head shell is loosened remove it completely
  • Where the mouth is, remove the white shell, just pull it out and also the grey sack behind it
  • You'll know if you are doing this right because all you will see left is brown crab meat, no smaller bits of shell or anything grey
  • Get the body of the crab and remove the long, thin grey bits that are referred to as dead man's fingers. They look all wilted and you just pull them off and discard. All you should be left with is a roundish shell with lots of white crab meat and a bit of brown on top
Now, whether you have a good fishmonger or not, hopefully we're all on the same page and you have a crab to dress! Let's pretty up the post with some photos:
  • So you've taken the head shell off
how to dress a crab
Mmmmmm Crab
  • Get a teaspoon and scrape all the meat from the inside of the head shell into a bowl
dressing a crab
Really Rich and Full Of Flavour
  • Either keep the shell to put all the crab meat back into for presentation at the end or discard
dressed crab
That's The Brown Meat Sorted
  • Now it's time to get really stuck in!
how to prepare a crab
You Might Notice There Is A Missing Leg!
  • Next you want to hold the body with one hand, grab each claw and leg separately with the other, twist and pull, they come away really easily
how to remove crab claws
Here's Where The Hard Work Starts
  • Move everything else away from your chopping board except for one claw
crab claw
Full Of Succulent White Crab Meat
  • Either use a crab cracker or if you're like me and can't find yours wrap the claw in kitchen paper and whack it with a hammer. Carefully!
  • There's three places to concentrate on here to make picking the crab easier
  • You want to focus on the main claw shell, the knuckle and the smaller piece that was attached to the body
how to get the meat from a crab claw
Main Shell, Knuckle, Smaller Section
  • If you break each of these sections, getting the crab meat out will be much easier
smashed crab claw
Well And Truly Whacked
  •  Now, remove all the loose shell and discard
broken crab claw
Gorgeous Fresh Crab Meat
  •  Do the same with the other claw and pick the meat from the shell into your bowl containing the brown crab meat (I'll show you how to pick the meat in a moment)
  • Get one of the legs
crab leg
Careful Of Those Prickly Hairs
  •  Break each section of the leg into pieces at the joints
how to get the meat out of a crab leg
Just Snap
  •  Taking your crab picker, dig into each section and pull the crab meat out
picking crab
getting the crab meat out of a leg
  •  Repeat with each leg (in this case 7!) and put the meat into the bowl with the rest you have picked
  • The next bit is by far the most time consuming, but oh so worth it!
  • Put the crab body onto your chopping board upside down
crab body
See That Pointy Bit In The Middle?
  •  In order to make it easier to cut through you want to remove the long bit of shell with the pointy bit at the top. Just get your finger underneath it and pull it back and off
how to get the meat from a crab body
Pointy Bit Gone!
  •  Now turn the body back upright, get a good sharp knife and place top middle
preparing crab
Leg Cavities Should Be Either Side
  •  Very carefully slice down the middle
cutting crab body
A Rocking Motion Usually Helps
  •  Take one half of the shell and pick the meat out and into your bowl
picking crab from shell
Time Consuming But Worth It!
  •  Pick until there is no more meat to see
how to get all the meat from a crab
Still Some Hidden!
  • There's actually a lot more meat in this than you can see, next you want to cut this piece into halves to access it
getting the meat out of a crab
So Nothing Gets Wasted
  •  Make the cut above the leg cavities, this is where you will find lots more hidden crab meat

white crab meat in shell
Found It!
  • Pick at the new halves until all the meat is in your bowl
picking white crab meat
  •  Repeat with the other original half, pick, cut, then pick again
  • You should have lots of empty shell
crab shell
You're Nearly Done!
dressed crab
Out Of The Shell, Into The Bowl!
 That last photo doesn't represent how much meat actually came out of the crab, I kind of ate it as I went along!
  • To finish, mix the brown and white crab meat together with a spoon.
  • I personally leave it completely natural as the flavours speak for themselves but if you want to add something, a dash of non brewed condiment and a flick of white pepper works perfectly (unless you have a pepper allergy like me)
  • If you want to do something presentation-wise you can always put the meat back into the head shell and add a touch of fresh parsley for decoration
I intended to get two posts out of this crab, one how to dress it, one a recipe. You've got one but not the other because I couldn't help it. I ate the crab before I could do anything else with it!

So there you have a gorgeous, naturally gluten free dressed crab to do with as you please! It's not that hard to do, you do need a bit of patience and definitely the right tools though. I'm ok using the hammer when I can't find my crab cracker but it isn't the safest way of doing it. A crab pick is essential, trust me, I've tried teaspoon handles and all sorts, if you want to get the job done quickly and with the most reward in the form of meat yield, a crab pick is your faithful friend.

See crab picks here UK / US

Hope A Great Easter Was Had By All.

I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Cooking Blogs.

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