How to Properly Clean and Cook Live Crab

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someone holding a live crab
Photo by Oregon Sea Grant licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Crabs are a delectable seafood choice that can be enjoyed in various culinary creations. To savor their fresh and succulent flavor, it’s essential to know how to properly clean and cook live crab at home. 

Selecting Live Crabs:

  • Choose live crabs that are lively and energetic.
  • Look for crabs with a hard shell and a good weight, indicating they are full of meat.

Prepare a Large Pot:

  • Fill a large pot with enough water to fully submerge the crab.
  • Add salt to the water to enhance the crab’s natural flavor

Cleaning the Crab:

  • Hold the crab firmly and lift the abdominal flap.
  • Remove the top shell by inserting a knife or your fingers under the shell and detaching it.
  • Discard the grayish gills, also known as “devil’s fingers,” as they can impart a bitter taste.

Rinsing and Segmenting:

  • Rinse the crab under cold running water to remove any remaining impurities.
  • Break the crab into segments by removing the claws and separating the legs.

Cooking the Crab

  • Place the crab segments into the pot of boiling, salted water.
  • Cook for about 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of the crab.
  • The crab is done when the shell turns bright orange, and the meat is opaque.

Top 3 Crab Recipes 

1. Classic Garlic Butter Crab


  • 2 live crabs
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Cleaning and Cooking:

Follow steps 1-5 from the main guide to clean and partially cook the crabs.

Garlic Butter Sauce:

  1. In a pan, melt butter over medium heat.
  2. Add minced garlic and sauté until fragrant but not browned.
  3. Stir in chopped parsley, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Finishing Touch:

  1. Toss the partially cooked crab segments into the pan, coating them evenly with the garlic butter mixture.
  2. Continue cooking until the crab is fully cooked and absorbs the flavors of the sauce.
  3. Serve hot, garnished with additional parsley and lemon wedges.

2. Spicy Crab Curry


  • 3 live crabs, cleaned and segmented
  • 1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder (coriander, cumin, turmeric blend)
  • 2 red chili peppers, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish


Curry Base:

  1. In a pot, combine coconut milk, chopped tomatoes, curry powder, chopped chili peppers, and salt.
  2. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Adding Crab:

  1. Carefully place the cleaned crab segments into the simmering curry base.
  2. Cover and let it simmer until the crab is fully cooked and the curry has thickened.


  1. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve the spicy crab curry over steamed rice or with crusty bread.

3. Grilled Crab Legs with Herb Marinade


  • 2 lbs crab legs, thawed if frozen
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, parsley), finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges for serving


Herb Marinade:

  1. In a bowl, mix olive oil, chopped herbs, minced garlic, salt, and pepper to create the marinade.

Preparing Crab Legs:

  1. Brush the crab legs generously with the herb marinade, ensuring they are well-coated.


  1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.
  2. Grill the crab legs for 5-7 minutes, turning occasionally until they develop a nice char.


  1. Transfer the grilled crab legs to a platter, squeeze fresh lemon juice over them, and serve with additional marinade on the side.

Final Words

Whether you opt for a classic buttery delight or a spicy curry adventure, these recipes promise a burst of flavor with every bite. Experiment with these methods and recipes to create a crab dish that suits your taste buds. Enjoy the rich, sweet meat of live crab prepared right in your kitchen, elevating your seafood culinary skills to new heights.