Picking Crabs, Maryland Style
Since I moved to Maryland in 2004 I have not eaten a whole crab. I’ve eaten plenty of crab cakes, more crab dip than I’d like to admit, a few crab pretzels, and a fair amount of crab laden sushi. But no whole crabs. In fact, the only time I’ve ever had a whole crab was at my stepgrandfather’s house in high school. We were there for Pop-Pop’s birthday, and in tribute to his Baltimore roots we ate crabs. Or, rather, my family ate crabs. I got as far as a lung (nobody told it was the lung!) and decided I preferred hot dogs.
Enter my friend Jamie. Jamie comes from a long line of proud Marylanders, people who spend as much time picking apart crabs as us Carolinians do picking apart pigs. They’ve refined the process to a science, an art, and Jamie was willing to teach it to us. I had this post scheduled for later this month, but last night Pop Pop passed away. Pop Pop, or Al Hlavin, Sr, was my stepmom Jan’s father. He was a smart, kind, and much loved man. So, in honor of Pop-Pop and thanks to Jamie, I would like to present a step-by-step guide to picking crabs, the Maryland way.
Step 1: Start with a whole, steamed crab. Preferably one that has been steamed in copious amounts of Old Bay.
Step 2: Rip the claws off. Eat any meat that comes off with them.
Step 3: Use a knife, mallet, or your fingers to crack open the claws. Eat the meat inside.
Step 4: Locate the apron. This is the monument-shaped area on the underside of the crab.
Step 5: Pull the apron off by the tip. Discard.
Step 6: Pull the top of the shell off, from the top.
Step 7: Remove the organs. This is everything offcolored, squishy, etc in the middle of the crab. Next, remove the lungs (see where Jamie is pointing). Growing up, Jamie was told the lungs were called the devil. Number 1 rule of crab picking? DON’T EAT THE DEVIL.
Step 8: Break the crab in half.
Step 9: Use a knife to cut the half again.
Step 10: Enjoy! Eat the white meat, drink lots of beer!
update: the jamie keffer method of steaming blue crabs.
Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon05.07.2011 at 04:35
Elena, that’s an excellent primer on how to pick crabs. But it makes me wonder, does NC have it’s own way of doing it?
elena05.07.2011 at 04:48
That’s a really good question. Crabs are certainly caught/eaten in NC, but (don’t scream) they’re mostly boiled and put in other things. I’ve never been to a crab picking like Maryland does it at home.
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April Dixon22.10.2018 at 07:42
We catch and boil blue crab in Savannah, GA too. We season the water with lots and lots of salt, pepper, pickled jalapenos and some of the vinegar off them and maybe some Old Bay (that I did learn about in MD). Then enjoy hot and straight out the pot with good friends a few brews! I lived in Maryland a few years and we clean them the same way; however I prefer them boil. They are juicer and better seasoned that way, IMHO.