1. Twisting and pulling the legs from the body.
2. Pushing the body up to release it from the main crab shell.
3. Removing the feathery gills (dead man’s fingers) from the body.
4. Scraping out the brown meat from the body.
5. Removing the piece of shell containing the mouth and stomach sac.
6. Breaking the shell along its natural line to neaten (if using for serving).
7. Cutting the crab body in half to access the white meat.
8. Picking out the white meat from the body.
9. Extracting the meat from the legs.
10. Cracking the main claw shell with the back of a knife.
11. Carefully pulling the shell away from the claw meat.
12. Extracting the feather-like internal bone running through the centre of the claw.
13. The shell, claw and leg pieces, reserved for making a shellfish stock.
14. Spooning through the brown meat to check for any pieces of shell.
15. Checking the white meat to feel for any fragments of shell.
- Twist and pull away the claws and the legs from the body and place in a bowl. Take care to remove the leg knuckles along with the legs.
- Place the crab upside down on a board, eyes away from you, then lift up and pull off the apron. Place your thumbs at the bottom of the crab on the base of the apron, on either side of the internal body. Push up firmly to release the internal body of the crab and pull away.
- Pull away and discard the feathery finger-like gills, called ‘dead man’s fingers’.
- The internal body contains a little brown meat, but mainly white meat; the claws and legs contain white meat and the main outer crab shell contains brown meat. Turn the internal body over and scrape away the brown meat into a bowl, then put the internal body aside and deal with the main shell.
- Put the main crab shell, shell side down and eyes towards you, on a board, and locate the little piece of shell immediately behind the eyes. Push down firmly to snap this from the main shell; lift it out and away and discard it (it contains the mouth and stomach).
- Using a teaspoon, scrape all the brown meat from the shell into a bowl. If the shell is to be used for serving, for a dressed crab for example, remove the inner shell by pressing down firmly along the natural line on both sides of the underside of the shell, then scrub and rinse the shell under cold water to clean completely. Set aside.
- The internal body is made up of a honeycomb of little compartments divided by very fine shell. It is imperative to avoid getting shell in the crab meat and the best way to reach the white meat is to cut the body in half.
- Using a crab pick or the tapered handle of a teaspoon or a skewer, carefully pick out the white meat into a separate bowl from the brown meat. It is surprising how much white meat is located in this structure, so make sure you extract all of it. Once all the meat has been removed, the internal body should be hollow and can be discarded.
- Break the legs at the joints. Use a crab pick or skewer to extract the meat.
- For the claws, use the back of a large knife or a meat pounder to crack the main claw shell, but try not to crush the claw completely if using a pounder. It is often necessary to crack the shell on both sides.
- Carefully remove any small bits of shell and discard, then gently pull the shell from the claw meat. If carefully done the claw meat can be removed whole.
- Once removed, locate and extract the feather-like internal bone that runs through the centre of the claws. For the claw joints, repeat as for the leg joints, using a skewer to remove the white meat.
- The shell, claw and leg pieces can be kept to make a shellfish stock, and can be frozen until ready to use.
- Stir through the brown meat to check no shell has been left in.
- Scatter the white meat, except for any large whole claw pieces, over a large tray and work through it carefully with your fingertips to check for any fragments of shell. It is a good idea to repeat this task. Return the white meat to the bowl. The crab is now ready to use.