How to select and buy a crab
When it comes to choosing the right crab, there are three main species to go for in Australia: blue swimmer crabs, mud crabs and spanner crabs. All three belong to the 'swimmer' family and have flat paddles on the end of their back legs.
Another good thing to look out for when selecting a crab is weight and size. Choose crabs that feel heavy and have their legs and claws intact. If opting for a dead crab, give them a gentle shake to ensure there's no sound of sloshing water before taking it home to cook. Otherwise choose a live crab that is full of energy.
How to prepare a crab
Step 1 If you have a live crab, the most humane thing to do is chill them in the freezer for about 45 minutes as it makes them insensible without freezing.
Step 2 Place chilled whole crabs in a large pot of rapidly boiling water, that has been well salted (½ cup table salt to 2.5 litres water), for 8 minutes per 500g up to 1kg, or 5 minutes per 500g for larger specimens (timed from when the water returns to the boil).
Step 3 Refresh them in iced water.
Step 4 Remove both crab claws with your hands, using a firm twisting action.
Step 5 Remove the 3 legs on each side of the crab, one by one.
Step 6 Remove both rear swimming legs.
Step 7 Turn crab body over, so it’s upside-down, resting on its top shell.
Step 8 Peel back the triangle-shaped piece on the crab belly (this is called the apron) and discard.
Step 9 Stand crab on front edge, where the mouth is, and use your thumb to carefully separate top shell from body. Discard top shell.
Step 10 Remove innards using a butter knife, teaspoon or small fork. Discard.
Step 11 Remove the gills. Discard.
Step 12 Break body in half by folding it back and forth until it separates.
Step 13 Serve crab meat, legs, and claws with lots of napkins, and small forks. Plus, prepare a bowl of lukewarm water with fresh lemon slices to wash your hands.
How to crack the legs
Once you’ve prepped the crab for eating you can start cracking.
Step 1 Place the leg on hard surface.
Step 2 Lay flat.
Step 3 Use a mallet (or something hard) to give it a little pop.
Step 4 Be sure to pop it once in each part of the leg.
Step 5 Gently peel shell away and enjoy!
Tip! You can also crack legs and claws with nut crackers if you have one on hand.
Wrap any leftover crabs (cooked or dead) in plastic wrap or foil and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. Or if you have huge haul then you can keep crabs in the freezer at -18ºC or lower, for up to three months.
Any smaller leftovers can go into salads, as a garnish for soups, tossed through hot pasta or in dishes where it’s only lightly reheated such as crab cakes and omelettes.
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