Louisiana, especially the New Orleans area
tend to boil them in water and heavy Cajun seasoning
which is similar to boiling crawfish. Stores carry
this as Crab Boil or Shrimp Boil spice and seasoning
which is added to the boiling water. The crabs are
then immersed in the boiling water for about 10
minutes. The 10 minutes starts when the water starts
to boil again. After the 10 minutes has gone by you
turn off the fire and let the crabs soak in the red
seasoned water. Soaking time is anywhere from 10 to
20 minutes. The longer they soak the hotter they
get. I mean spicy hot. Don't over soak as the white
crab meat may get a little mushy. The crabs will be
red after this boiling process.
Eating the Crab
The cooked crabs are
cracked by hand, and the meat pulled out and eaten
directly. Crab shells are very sharp, so the eater
of crabs is going to work for the eating pleasure.
Because the interior of the crab is also a series of
compartments separated by a somewhat pliable but
still sharp shell, getting the meat out is also a
lot of work for small amount of edible crab. Crabs
are often referred as having a tab, like beer cans
have for opening. This tab is pried up and pulled
off, which gives you a place to pry the upper and
lower shells apart. On the bottom of the crab, you
then remove the gills or that spongy material. There
is also the crab's equivalent of a liver and
pancreas, which is considered a high delicacy by
some crab eaters, but usually removed. This is
yellow in collar and is a sign of a fat crab.
Usually the more yellow fat the heavier and fuller
the crab is.
The picked meat,
especially the large chunks from the back fin area,
can also be used to make
crab cakes, crab
soup, or other dishes. Picked crab meat is also
sold commercially, and the canning operations have
huge crab picking 'houses' usually manned by local
women armed with sharp knives and who manage to
completely remove the meat, sorted into lump, claw,
back fin, and the other smaller bits, in less time
than the usual crab eater takes just to get into one
crab, remove the gills, and pry out the lumps.
Larger pieces of meat are preferred by customers,
but since they fall apart easily, a cook has to
carefully fold in crab meat, rather than stir it.
Traditionally crab cakes were fried.
Crabs caught just
after molting (before the new shell has had time to
harden) are called soft shell crabs. Soft shell
crabs are prepared by first cutting out the gills,
face, and guts. The crab is then battered in flour,
egg, and seasoning, then fried in oil until crispy.
The result can be served as an entrée, or in a
sandwich. When served between bread slices, the legs
stick out on either side, and the entire crab is
consumed, legs and all. Some people prefer the po-boy
bread. That's a type of bread made famous here in
If you do
not catch any crabs then you will just have to buy
some. Usually crabs are sold by the dozen. You
usually buy them by size medium, large, jumbo or #1,
#2's, #3's. The most important thing when buying
crabs is "ARE THEY FULL". One full jumbo crab may be
equal in meat to 6 medium empty crabs. Then again, 6
medium full crabs is better than 6 jumbo empty
crabs. When I say empty I'm referring to the weight
of the crab and the amount of fat which is the
yellow in the crab. Below are pictures of a full
crab and a empty crab.
The darker area on the
bottom of the above crab is a sure sign of a full or
heavy crab. This is what you really want, although
you may not be able to get them depending on the
catch of the day.