How to Steam Blue Crabs | The Ultimate Guide by Girl Carnivore (2023)

Want to know how to steam blue crabs? Here it is – the ultimate guide! From sizing, ordering, how to pick, and a recipe on how to steam the perfect Maryland blue crab.

How to Steam Blue Crabs | The Ultimate Guide by Girl Carnivore (1)
Table of contents
  • Have you ever cooked fresh crabs?
  • What is a Blue Crab?
  • How to Steam Fresh Blue Crabs
  • How to Pick Fresh Blue Crabs
  • More Crab Recipes
  • 📖 Full Recipe
  • 💬 Drop a comment

Have you ever cooked fresh crabs?

I’m talking right from the trap, still walking around blues; which as a gal from the North East, are the only kind. Enjoying steamed crabs is an experience of primal delicious flavors that everyone should sample at least once.

There’s something communal about spreading newspaper down and pouring out a half bushel of piping hot steamed crabs onto the table. Watching everyone go to town, with more time spent talking and enjoying company than actually eating.

Lucky for you, I made a guide on how to cook crab by steaming them so you too can enjoy all the fun of an old-fashioned picking. And also, enjoying all of your hard-earned work like the perfect meat for crab cakes and pretty creamy crab bisque, and even omelets, but I am not biased at all.

But, if you aren’t near the Chesapeake and don’t have a good honest blue crab shack nearby, can you re-create the experience or is it lost to those within driving distance of the Bay?

Crab boils are common in the south, big vats of seasoned water with these friendly crustaceans and a few others like crawdads, corn, and potatoes and up in New England, they like to host their clam bakes out on the beach in pits dug into the sand.

No matter where you travel, coastal seafood is all sorts of delicious, but I want to share a little flavor of my home with you.

The Chesapeake region has a flavor unique to the Maryland coastal area, crabs coated with a hefty portion of Old Bay, and cooked to perfection over a beer and water mix. Truly, heaven. And no place does it quite like they do.

How to Steam Blue Crabs | The Ultimate Guide by Girl Carnivore (2)

What is a Blue Crab?

For starters, yeah, they are blue. When they are right out of the ocean. But they do turn a bright red when cooked. The ones I am waxing on about here are harvested off the coast of the Maryland region and are the best in the world as far as flavor goes.

For those who are thinking of the long buttery king or snow crab legs you can pick up at nearly any fish counter, this isn’t that either.

Blue crabs are the classic small tough gunned little ones that are just bigger than the size of your hand and require far more effort to pick all of the meat-free correctly than their lanky crustacean cousins, making for the most tender and flavorful meat you can get.

Crab picking is not for the faint of heart, as the actual tearing open of the shell exposes just about everything. But hey, at least it’s all been cooked.

But, through the sting of lemon on freshly cut fingers and clumps of Old Bay caught under the nails, there is something utterly delicious about the simplicity of a steamed crab and an experience every seafood lover should enjoy at least once.

Now, on to enjoying fresh steamed little buggars, right from the trap.

(Video) How to Steam Blue Crabs Maryland Style

The best way to learn something is firsthand from an expert.

How to Steam Blue Crabs | The Ultimate Guide by Girl Carnivore (3)

How to Steam Fresh Blue Crabs

How to Buy:

First, you have to find a vendor shipping in real deal blue crabs. Give a call to your local fishmonger and see what they have in stock. Which is going to lead to some questions, so read this over quickly before actually dialing that number.

How to Size:

We only use #1 or #2 male crabs for our steamed crab recipes as they are grown into their shell and filled with meat. They are broken down into sizes, ranging from 5 to 7 inches or so.

When on the phone, make sure not to ask just for the number, but the actual size of the crabs to be sure of what to expect depending on the region you are in.

How many are in a bushel:

Depending on how many people you have coming over to help you pick is going to drastically affect just how many you want. A ‘bushel’ usually holds between 4 to 7 dozen crabs depending on the size you order.

For a small gathering, ask about a half bushel or ordering by the dozen. For a bigger party (or, if you really just want kicking leftovers to use in smoked crab imperial) go in for the full bushel. Friends will never complain leaving with a bag of a few extra to take home.

Pro Tip: When you pick them up from the market or dock, make sure that they are alive and kicking if you are going to steam them yourself. The fresher they are, the better they are. Remove any dead crabs from the batch before steaming.

What tools do you need to Steam Blue Crabs?

Here is a list of things you should stock up on if you are going to do this right. Also, if you do this once, and you’ve invested, assume you’ll do it at least once a year forevermore, amen.

You really need a cooler to contain the live crabs and a steam pot. After that it gets easier, a few wooden mallets or blunt objects to help crack the hard claws and a thin poker to pull out and hard to reach meat or to just torment one another with as we rarely use them. Personally, one mallet is really all you need if you can share and I just use my fingers to dig the rest out, but some people prefer the picks.

You will definitely need a sturdy table and some old newspaper to cover it goes a long way too, but it’s really not required. You’ll just cus me later if you don’t put paper down (trust me).

Girl Carnivore Pro tip:A steamed crabs is nothing withoutOld Bay. It’s a magical blend of spices that is the signature Chesapeake flavor of seafood. Go hunt it out in your local market or smuggle some back from the McCormick store in Baltimore Harbor next time you stop through on a layover.

How to Steam Blue Crabs | The Ultimate Guide by Girl Carnivore (4)

Google, or a family friend who has picked crabs before to show you exactly how it’s done. Picking can be tough, but it’s really not a hard thing to do, once you have learned a few tricks.

Learning from an old pro is really the best way to enjoy this experience. A few rolls of paper towels at either end of the table and a cooler for of ice-cold beers will pretty much guarantee you as the best host ever if you really want to go the extra mile.

Now that you know how to cook them…

(Video) Keeping a Grocery Store Crab as a Pet

How to Steam Blue Crabs | The Ultimate Guide by Girl Carnivore (5)

How to Pick Fresh Blue Crabs

  • Step 1: Remove the claws. Dislocate the large front claws from the main body by moving them back towards the top shell of the crab, away from the belly. They will pop out without much resistance. Save those for later; they are the bacon of the seafood world.
  • Step 2: Peel back the apron. Flip the body over and pull the triangular part in the center called the apron back with your fingers or a butter knife. Pop that off and toss it into what will soon be a pile of shells to clean up later.
  • Step 3: Pry the top of the shell off with your fingers exposing the insides. Start gently poking fun at anyone who is new to this and has just become freaked out, or wait a moment and tell them to scrape out the lungs and mustard before the jesting begins. But, yes, now scrape out the gills and the thick yellow substance called mustard.
  • Step 4: Once cleaned, gently hold it with both hands and crack in half, bending the crab in towards itself gently. You will feel it snap. Now you can get to picking. I like to pull the remaining legs gently out to see if I can get any large chunks of meat to slide out before just going into the main body with my fingers.
  • Step 5: For the large claws you left aside earlier – these are the best part. I, personally, snap the flexible claw back to see if I can get lucky with any meat sliding out, then snap the leg at the joint before cracking the large claw open if all else fails. With a blunt object, gently break the shell of the claw (a hard whack and you will just get tiny shards of shell everywhere). Peel off the shell, exposing the large chunk of claw meat. Enjoy.
How to Steam Blue Crabs | The Ultimate Guide by Girl Carnivore (6)

New to picking or an old pro? Let me know! If you are adventuring through my region and looking for a suggestion on where to get the freshest crabs and best experience, shoot me a message and I will happily help you out. Crab picking is a Maryland region classic pastime and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

I can’t get enough of these! Or any seafood for that matter. If you’re looking for more crustacean inspiration, this is the place to be. Try these out:

More Crab Recipes

  • Maryland Crab Cake Sandwich
  • Char-Grilled Lobster with Zesty Butter Sauce
  • Grilled King Crab Legs with Chimichurri Butter

If you’ve enjoyed this Ultimate guide to Blue Crabs or any other recipe onGirlCarnivore.complease don’t forget torate the recipeand let me know where you found it in the comments below. I get inspired by your feedback and comments! You can alsoFOLLOW MEonInstagram@girlcarnivoreas well as onTwitterandFacebook.

📖 Full Recipe

How to Steam Blue Crabs | The Ultimate Guide by Girl Carnivore (11)

Print RecipePin Recipe

4.62 from 13 votes

Save

(Video) Grilled Lobster Tail Recipe with Garlic Butter (2018)

How to Steam Fresh Blue Crabs

Grab a bushel of crabs and a case of beer. It’s time to enjoy the bounty of the Chesapeake!

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: American

Author: Kita Roberts

Ingredients

  • Old Bay
  • 2 – 4 beers plus more for socializing (I like a light beer for this)
  • water
  • 6 lbs Blue Crabs fresh, living and a little feisty
(Video) How to Cook Crab Legs

Instructions

  • Mix enough water and beer in the pot of the steamer to get a rolling boil as per the manufacturers directions for your steamer.

  • Arrange the crabs in a single layer in the steamer pot and sprinkle with a thick coating of Old Bay. Arrange another layer over top and repeat.

  • Place the steam pot over the boiling water and cover the lid tightly. You will be working in batches, so don’t try to fit them all in.

  • Steam the crabs until cooked through, checking after 15 to 20 minutes to see how things are going. Depending on how big your pot is, how many crabs you packed in there will determine how long the steaming takes. The crabs will have turned a beautiful bright red color when done.

  • With the steamer pot carefully removed from the boiling water, pour out your first batch onto the table and begin the second batch for steaming.

  • Meanwhile, pick some crabs.

Nutrition

Calories: 228kcal | Protein: 49g | Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 114mg | Sodium: 2275mg | Potassium: 555mg | Vitamin A: 65IU | Vitamin C: 19.1mg | Calcium: 125mg | Iron: 1.6mg

Save this recipe
Sign up to save all your favorite recipes!

Made My Recipe?Mention @girlcarnivore and tag #girlcarnivore!

(Video) Woman Doesn't Eat PLANTS for 13 Years and...? with Lisa Wiedeman, OD

How to Steam Blue Crabs | The Ultimate Guide by Girl Carnivore (12)

FAQs

How long should you steam blue crabs? ›

2 Carefully layer crabs on rack; sprinkle each layer with OLD BAY. Cover and steam 20 to 30 minutes depending on size of crabs or until crabs turn red.

What is the best way in steaming the crabs? ›

Bring to a boil over high heat. Put a layer of crabs on the rack in the pot. Sprinkle with a generous amount of seasoning, then repeat with another layer, and another, until all 12 crabs are in pot (and well seasoned). Cover and steam over medium-high heat until the crabs are bright red, 25 to 30 minutes.

How do you steam and eat blue crabs? ›

Preparation
  1. Combine water, vinegar, and beer in a steaming pot. Add a few dashes of Old Bay.
  2. Add live crabs to steamer & sprinkling each layer with OLD BAY.
  3. Steam for 25-30 min – until bright red. Remove and add more Old Bay if you prefer.
  4. Eat on a newspaper covered table. Enjoy!
10 Sept 2010

Is it better to boil or steam blue crabs? ›

Blue crab is sweet with a hearty texture, and when you steam them, you lose that. Because steaming is at a much hotter temperature (up to 600 degrees), you wind up getting a rubbery texture. Water boils at only 212 degrees, so that preserves the great texture blue crab is known for.”

Why do you steam crabs with vinegar? ›

The addition of vinegar helps to soften the crab shells which makes them easier to pick. Any type of crab or crab legs can be steamed Maryland style.

How much water do you need to steam crabs? ›

Directions
  1. Set up a steamer for the crabs. ...
  2. Add 1 1/2 cups water, lager, vinegar and 2 tablespoons seafood seasoning to the bottom of the pot. ...
  3. Layer the crabs in the steamer insert, generously sprinkling the salt and remaining seafood seasoning on each layer of crabs.
  4. Cover the pot and steam the crabs for 30 minutes.

How long should crabs be boiled? ›

Once water is at the boil place crabs in the pot upside down. 2: Cook for approximately 5-8 mins. Once they start floating & are a very vibrant orange colour it is a good indicator to tell they are cooked. 3: Once crabs have reached this point, take them off heat and place them into cold/ice water.

How do you cook blue crabs at home? ›

Cooking Blue Crab
  1. Fill a six-quart pot 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil.
  2. Add salt and Old Bay to water.
  3. One by one, add in crabs with claws attached and cover. Keep in water for 8-10 minutes or until cooked through. ...
  4. Drain crabs with a colander.
  5. Let cool and transport to serving receptacle.

How long do I steam cooked crab? ›

#2. Steam Cooked Crabs Legs
  1. Fill a large pot with about two inches of water. Place a steamer or colander over the water. ...
  2. Cover the pot and heat over high until the water is boiling.
  3. Place crab legs in the steamer or colander and cover with a lid.
  4. Remove them from the heat using tongs after six to eight minutes.

How do you steam? ›

To steam, place the rack in the center of the pot. Add about an inch of water—it shouldn't be touching the highest part of the rack. Cover the pot and turn the heat to medium. When you hear the water boiling or see steam coming out, you're ready to start.

Do you clean blue crabs before boiling? ›

While we normally leave crabs whole for crab boils, for other dishes we clean the crabs before cooking. It's quick and easy, and cleaned crab makes a lot less mess at the table. Cleaning the crab also allows seasoning flavors to soak into the body meat as they cook.

How do you steam crabs without a steamer? ›

Without a Steamer

Bring the water to a boil. While the water is boiling, place the frozen crab legs in the colander. Once the water begins to boil, place the colander into the pot and cover the pot with a lid. Let the crabs steam for approximately 10 minutes.

What's the best beer to cook crabs in? ›

Seafood in general goes well with a Belgian white beer, and a popular choice is Blue Moon. Typically, Blue Moon is considered to be a more fruity beer.

Why do you steam crabs with beer? ›

Using beer to boil your crab, along with a little seasoning will give your meal a delicious flavor. You can boil crab in beer as a method to heat up cooked pieces of crab or to cook a live or raw crab to perfection.

How do you clean blue crabs before cooking? ›

How to Clean a Blue Claw Crab - YouTube

How do you know when steamed crab is done? ›

Cook the crabs for about 18-20 minutes, depending on size. The crabs are done when they turn orange and the meat flakes when tested with a fork. Carefully remove the crabs from the pot with clean tongs and serve on a platter with a sprinkling of seafood seasoning and some lemon wedges.

What kind of vinegar do you use for blue crabs? ›

Cover the table with newspaper or butcher's paper, and serve crabs with bowls of butter and/or white vinegar for dipping the meat and cold beer as the perfect accompaniment.

How much vinegar do you put in steamed crabs? ›

Depending upon the size of your pot, for each dozen crabs put 1 cup of water and 1 cup of vinegar into the pot**. If you like you can add a can or 2 of flat beer.

Why are my steamed crabs watery? ›

You have steamed to long it all the claws fall off or if they become very mushy. Watery crabs are often indicative of light crabs or crabs that have come in contact with water from the bottom of the pot.

Can you overcook crab? ›

Do not overcook crab legs. They are already fully cooked and it's just a matter of heating them through for a maximum of 4 minutes, or until hot to the touch. Over cooking the crab, and letting it sit too long in the water causes the meat to turn yellowish in colour and give it a strong fishy odour.

How long can a blue crab be dead before cooking? ›

Meat from a dead crab will get mushy and lose the delicate flavor that fresh crabs have. ... It's best to cook them within 10 or 15 minutes of dying in order to preserve the meat for as long as possible. If they're kept cool, crabs can be cooked 24-48 hours after they die but the flavor and texture are going to suffer.

How do you clean live crabs before cooking? ›

killing and cleaning live crabs. humanely!!! - YouTube

How do you boil fresh crabs? ›

One at a time, grasp crabs as described above and plunge them headfirst into the boiling water; if you have too much water, ladle out excess and discard. Cover pan and start timing. When water resumes boiling, reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-pound crabs 15 minutes, 3-pound crabs about 20 minutes.

How long do you steam crab legs for? ›

If necessary, bend crab legs at joints to fit in steamer basket. Add water to skillet to just below the basket. Bring to boiling. Cover; steam 5 to 6 minutes or until heated through.

How do you steam frozen blue crabs? ›

Drop live or frozen crabs into the water and cook them for 10 minutes. Grab your crabs with a pair of tongs and completely submerge them in the boiling water. Cover the pot with a lid and let them cook in the water for about 10 minutes. The crabs should have a bright orange or red color once they're finished cooking.

Are blue crabs good eating? ›

Their Scientific Name Suggests They're Delicious

And blue crabs are prized for their sweet, delicate flavor and tender meat.

Is it better to steam or boil crab legs? ›

Thaw Frozen Crab Legs

The best way to cook them is by steaming them. The gentle, moist heat helps preserve the pure, sweet taste and the tender texture of the meat. They're also less likely to overcook and turn rubbery or lose their flavorful juices, as they often do when they are boiled.

How long can cooked crabs sit out? ›

How long does cooked crab meat last at room temperature? Bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F; cooked crab meat should be discarded if left for more than 2 hours at room temperature.

How long can cooked blue crabs stay in the fridge? ›

Steamed crabs may be kept in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Make sure to keep them in an air-tight plastic bag. They should be refrigerated as soon as possible after steaming. The longer they remain at room temperature, the more bacterial growth will occur.

How long do I steam cooked crab? ›

#2. Steam Cooked Crabs Legs
  1. Fill a large pot with about two inches of water. Place a steamer or colander over the water. ...
  2. Cover the pot and heat over high until the water is boiling.
  3. Place crab legs in the steamer or colander and cover with a lid.
  4. Remove them from the heat using tongs after six to eight minutes.

Why do you steam crabs with beer? ›

Crab steamers can agree that steaming blue crabs using a good light beer and some Old Bay seasoning, cooks the crabs faster and more efficiently without the concern of water logging.

How do you cook blue crabs at home? ›

Cooking Blue Crab
  1. Fill a six-quart pot 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil.
  2. Add salt and Old Bay to water.
  3. One by one, add in crabs with claws attached and cover. Keep in water for 8-10 minutes or until cooked through. ...
  4. Drain crabs with a colander.
  5. Let cool and transport to serving receptacle.

How long should crabs be boiled? ›

Once water is at the boil place crabs in the pot upside down. 2: Cook for approximately 5-8 mins. Once they start floating & are a very vibrant orange colour it is a good indicator to tell they are cooked. 3: Once crabs have reached this point, take them off heat and place them into cold/ice water.

How do you steam crabs without a steamer? ›

Without a Steamer

Bring the water to a boil. While the water is boiling, place the frozen crab legs in the colander. Once the water begins to boil, place the colander into the pot and cover the pot with a lid. Let the crabs steam for approximately 10 minutes.

Is it better to steam or boil crab legs? ›

Thaw Frozen Crab Legs

The best way to cook them is by steaming them. The gentle, moist heat helps preserve the pure, sweet taste and the tender texture of the meat. They're also less likely to overcook and turn rubbery or lose their flavorful juices, as they often do when they are boiled.

How long can cooked crabs sit out? ›

How long does cooked crab meat last at room temperature? Bacteria grow rapidly at temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F; cooked crab meat should be discarded if left for more than 2 hours at room temperature.

What is the best beer to cook crabs in? ›

Seafood in general goes well with a Belgian white beer, and a popular choice is Blue Moon. Typically, Blue Moon is considered to be a more fruity beer.

How long can a blue crab be dead before cooking? ›

Meat from a dead crab will get mushy and lose the delicate flavor that fresh crabs have. ... It's best to cook them within 10 or 15 minutes of dying in order to preserve the meat for as long as possible. If they're kept cool, crabs can be cooked 24-48 hours after they die but the flavor and texture are going to suffer.

What part of Blue Crab do you eat? ›

How to Pick and Eat Blue Crab | Southern Living Test Kitchen

Do you need to clean blue crabs before cooking? ›

Before you can cook and eat a blue crab, you have to clean it. To thoroughly clean a blue crab, you'll need to remove its shell (after it's been humanely killed) and clear out everything but the meat. Once your crab is clean, you can cook it as is or cut it into quarters so it's easier to eat.

How do you know when crab is done boiling? ›

Cook the crabs for about 18-20 minutes, depending on size. The crabs are done when they turn orange and the meat flakes when tested with a fork. Carefully remove the crabs from the pot with clean tongs and serve on a platter with a sprinkling of seafood seasoning and some lemon wedges.

How long do you steam crab legs for? ›

If necessary, bend crab legs at joints to fit in steamer basket. Add water to skillet to just below the basket. Bring to boiling. Cover; steam 5 to 6 minutes or until heated through.

Do you need to clean crabs before boiling? ›

While we normally leave crabs whole for crab boils, for other dishes we clean the crabs before cooking. It's quick and easy, and cleaned crab makes a lot less mess at the table. Cleaning the crab also allows seasoning flavors to soak into the body meat as they cook.

How do you clean blue crab? ›

How to Clean a Blue Claw Crab - YouTube

Videos

1. 10 SHOPPING SECRETS Costco Doesn't Want You to Know!
(The Deal Guy)
2. Alligator Snapping Turtle vs Common Snapping Turtle
(Brave Wilderness)
3. Low Carbs Diet Complete Guide For Beginners | Tips to Follow In Low Carb Diet Plan to Lose Weight
(FoodFitness&Fun)
4. WE THOUGHT IT WAS A FISH!! (DANGEROUS ANIMAL)
(Ty PigPatrol)
5. Why Snails Kill 200 000 People Every Year
(Facts in Motion)
6. NSNG® Basics Part II Episode 2081
(Vinnie Tortorich)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Errol Quitzon

Last Updated: 02/19/2023

Views: 5697

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (59 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Errol Quitzon

Birthday: 1993-04-02

Address: 70604 Haley Lane, Port Weldonside, TN 99233-0942

Phone: +9665282866296

Job: Product Retail Agent

Hobby: Computer programming, Horseback riding, Hooping, Dance, Ice skating, Backpacking, Rafting

Introduction: My name is Errol Quitzon, I am a fair, cute, fancy, clean, attractive, sparkling, kind person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.