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How To Pick A Crab Like A Pro

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The arrival of summer means many things, but most importantly it means fresh seafood -- lots of it. Between buttery lobster rolls, clambakes in the fresh air and crab boils with newspaper-lined tables, we have so many reasons to embrace summer foods. But you won't get very far in summer feasting without a few basic skills, and one of those is breaking down a crab.

If you hail from Maryland, you've probably known how to pick a crab since you cut your first tooth. But if you're from anywhere else in the country, chances are you're at a loss when a beautiful crab is placed in front of you. We're here to help. There are a few different ways to free the meat from a crab, but we think Honestly Yum has a great method. And, they've broken it down for us in the most beautiful step-by-step photos. It's the best way to learn.

This is how it's done:

  • 1
    First, face your crab.
    Honestly Yum
    And pray that he's packing lots of meat. (This is an important step.)
  • 2
    Turn the crab over and take a look at his belly.
    Honestly Yum
    When breaking down a crab you start with its underside. That's how you get in. Wedge a knife, or your fingers, under the triangle shaped flap -- make sure you have a good grip if you're doing it with your hands -- and pull it back.
  • 3
    Pull the underside away from the top shell.
    Honestly Yum
    You can either discard the top shell (which is where the liver and [all its other innards] live) or you can eat it. People do. But be warned, it's not for everyone.
  • 4
    Slice that sucker in half.
    Honestly Yum
    You can do so with a kitchen knife or your hands -- you'll get more respect if you use your hands for sure. And be sure to get all the meat from the backfin, that's the best part.
  • 5
    Yank off the legs at the joint.
    Honestly Yum
    Don't discard these, they hold some good meat too. You can gently shimmy the meat out with your teeth.
  • 6
    Then crack into the claws.
    Honestly Yum
    There's a lot of meat in there. And this is your reward for breaking down a crab. To get the meat out of the claws you can use a nut cracker, or your hands -- but you'll need a fierce determination.
  • 7
    Congratulations, you just broke down your first crab.
    Honestly Yum
    Now go attack another!


Once you practice on a couple of crabs you'll be putting down more than you can count at your next boil. (If you don't know how to crab boil, Honestly Yum has shown us how to do that too.) Happy feasting!

CORRECTION: The language has been amended from "shelling crab" to "picking crab" at the request of a Marylander who has eaten (and picked) their fare share of crabs.

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