Cooking & Cleaning Blue Crabs
Blue crabs in South Carolina are not only abundant and easy to catch, but their preparation for the table is a simple process. Crabs should be kept alive prior to cooking by keeping them cool and dry. Crabs may be maintained live in a refrigerator or in a cooler with a small amount of ice.
Crabs should never be put into a container of water as they will die quickly from lack of oxygen. Crabs that have been dead for a while spoil very rapidly, and its best to discard crabs that are dead. Crabs that have been chilled may appear dead, but will begin showing movement as they warm. If no movement is detected after warming, discard the crab.
A large double boiler is ideal for cooking blue crabs because it allows crabs to be steamed and not boiled. When using a double boiler, wait until the water boils in the lower pot, then place the crabs in the upper pot. If cooking with a single large pot, crabs may be stacked to the top and a few inches of water added to the bottom. Or, the crabs may be completely covered with water. In either case, seasonings may be sprinkled on the crabs or into the water. Some cooks prefer to mix seasonings with cool water in another pot. After cooking, the crabs are moved to the cool, seasoned water and allowed to soak up the seasonings. This prevents over cooking and allows the crabs to become spicier. Cooking generally takes 20 to 30 minutes producing a well-cooked crab with an orange color and meat that has a firm white texture. Another common practice is to clean live crabs prior to cooking by removing the top shell, abdomen, gills and internal organs. Crabs can be chilled to reduce the handling danger, but with experience, a crabber can learn to hold the claws with one hand while removing the back with the other. This method of cooking allows the seasoned water better access to the meat and reduces the mess associated with eating whole, cooked crabs.
Occasionally small black spots can be found in crab meat. This condition, called buckshot or pepper, is the result of tiny parasites that are relatively common in blue crabs. These parasites are not harmful if eaten by humans, but heavy infestations can impair the quality of the meat.