How to cook crab and prepare crab

July 5, 2024
by HelloFresh Tips & tricks

    Crab is a popular shellfish that can be used in a variety of dishes. From a simple crab salad roll to luxurious crab linguine, crab is a speciality in restaurant dining. It can seem intimidating to prepare and cook crab at home, but fear not —this HelloFresh guide is here to make it easier. Find out how to buy, prepare, cook and serve the shellfish below. 

    Buying crab guidance

    When buying a whole crab, it is crucial to select a crab that is exceptionally fresh. If possible, it’s best to buy from a local seaside supplier or fishmonger.

    You can also buy prepared crab meat or dressed crab in the shell. Check to ensure the meat is firm and white, with no grey or blue patches. Again, consult with your fishmonger to make sure you’re getting crab that is fresh and tasty.

    How to prepare crab

    Preparing crab might seem daunting, but the steps are relatively straightforward. The whole process should take about 45 minutes from start to finish, so just make sure you have enough time to follow each step. 

    You will need a few tools to prepare crab:

    • A large, sharp knife
    • Bowls
    • A lobster pick or skewer
    • A hammer or sturdy rolling pin

    Crab preparation steps

    To prep the crab, follow these seven steps:

    1. Turn the crab over so that the belly and legs are facing up. Twist the legs and claws off and set them aside. 
    2. Using the palm of your hand, push down firmly on the crab. Work your fingers into the gap between the body and the shell (pushing down will make it more visible). Grasp under this gap and pull upwards to separate the body from the shell. You may need to use a bit of force to separate them.
    3. Remove the ‘dead man’s fingers’ from the body. These are the feathery gills found on the body and in the shell, with a distinctive crooked-finger shape. You can also ask a fishmonger to do this for you.
    4. Returning to the shell, use a spoon to scrape out the brown meat into a bowl. You can set the shell aside and use it for presentation later.
    5. Using a sharp knife, slice the crab body into two. This will reveal cavities inside the main body containing pockets of meat, which can be removed using a lobster pick or fork. 
    6. Take the claws and legs and wrap them gently in a tea towel. Use your hammer or rolling pin and strike down on the claws to crack open the shell. Try to do this in one smooth motion, as it will reduce shell fragments.
    7. Remove the white meat from inside the claws and legs, discarding any cartilage or chips from the shell.

    How to cook crab meat

    You can cook crab easily by boiling it whole and then preparing it as per the above steps. This gives you fresh, tasty crab that can be added to salads, stirred into risotto, or folded into ravioli. To boil your crab:

    1. Bring salted water to boil in a large pot. Use plenty of salt – approximately 30g of salt per litre of water. 
    2. Once the water is boiling, lower the crab into the water and cover the pot with a lid.
    3. Cook the crab according to weight – as a guide, a 1kg crab should take about 10 minutes to cook through. 
    4. Remove from the water and set aside to cool before you prepare the meat. Don’t be tempted to place the crab into ice water to cool it quicker – this will flood the crab and soak the meat.

    If you want to make the cooking process easier and safer, you can use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of your crab. If the core temperature (where the crab is thickest) reaches 74 degrees, then it has reached its perfect temperature and is safe to eat.


    All cooking appliances vary. These are guidelines only. Ensure the food is piping hot before serving. Do not reheat.

    What to serve with crab

    Crab meat is tender, sweet and very quick to cook. To truly savour the natural essence of crab, choose simple recipes that let the delicious shellfish’s flavour shine through. 

    Crab is wonderful served with pasta, such as crab linguine, ravioli, tagliatelle or fettuccine pasta. It also goes great in many Asian dishes, such as the famous Sichuan ‘Ants climbing trees’, which combines pork and crab meat with umami spices. You could try a comforting crab chowder with lashings of cream, or a lighter alternative is a crab salad with watermelon. 

    If you want to start with a basic crab recipe, you can’t go wrong with crab cakes – perfected with plenty of fresh herbs and a zesty dipping sauce. Just like this salmon cake recipe, you can substitute salmon with crab meat for a light meal with rich flavours.


    All food products vary. The instructions printed on the food packaging always supersedes those printed in this article and must always be followed.
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