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Cooking a Live Dungeness Crab

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Cooking Live Dungeness Crab
I hate to toot my own horn, but we have really awesome whole cooked crab at our shop.  They're cooked almost every day, first thing in the morning, right out of the live tanks and I like to say that they just don't get any fresherBut they do!  You can, of course, cook your own. :)  And nothing is quite as fabulous as a fresh Dungeness crab, right out of the pot.
  1. Obtain a live crab.  Dungeness crab need to be cooked while they're still alive, so the clock starts ticking once the crab has been removed from the water.View from Copper River Bridge  You've got some time as long as you keep him cool - probably a good 6 hours or so, but it's almost never a good idea to wait until the next day to cook a live crab.  And another note - don't try to keep your crab in water.  They actually move a fair amount of oxygen and unless you have some sort of aeration system they'll use the oxygen that's in the water and then essentially drown fairly quickly.  They live much longer kept cool OUT of the water because they can use oxygen from the air for a few hours.
  2. Get your pot boiling.  You don't need anything but water and salt, but we like to add some seasoning.seasonings  My Grandpa always used pickling spice, so that's our secret recipe around here!  For 1 or 2 crab use about half a cup of salt, a tablespoon of spice and get your water rolling.  It helps to have a bigger pot than you think you need, also - crab pots have a tendency to boil over.  If you're watching your salt intake, feel free to leave the salt out as it's only needed for enhancing flavor.
  3. Toss in the crabs!  If you're not a crab wrangling expert, here's the method I'd recommend.... Tear open your bag and dump your crab into the sink. in the pot! Get a pair of tongs (watch out for those pinchers!) and take them from the sink to the pot and stick them in.  (No, they won't scream, but you might have to give them an extra jab with the tongs if your pot is smaller and your crab is very frisky.)  At this point I like to throw out a little upward "thank you" to whatever or whoever is in charge of establishing the food chain and my position securely on top of it.  And maybe pour a drink.  Heh.
  4. Set your timer.  Before you can set your timer you have to watch your pot closely.   The water will stop boiling when you put your crab in and you only want to set your timer after the water begins to boil again.  This will ensure proper cooking temps and such and take into account if you're cooking just one crab or five.  Once you see the water begin to boil again (and this is also a good time to turn down your burner a bit and avoid a boil-over) set your timer for 12 minutes.
  5. Get your sink ready.  While you're crab are cooking you can prepare for the final step.  When the buzzer rings, you're going to want to take your crab directly out of the hot water and into some cold.  This will prevent the crabmeat from cooking to the inside of the shell and make it a whole lot easier to shuck, so don't skip this step!  If you've got just one crab, you can use a bowl, but if you have two or more you might as well just plug up the sink and use the whole thing.  Fill it up with cold water and if you've got lots of ice you can throw some of that in there too for even faster cooling.
  6. Chill out.  When the final bell buzzes, carefully remove your crab from the boiling water and place in the cold. 
    cooked and ready to eat!
    If you're planning on eating your crab immediately, while it's hot, leave it in the cold water for only 3-4 minutes (it will still be plenty hot!), otherwise, give it 10 minutes or so and then you can drain the water and either begin the process of cleaning and removing the meat, or simply place them in your fridge for later.  Once a crab is cooked it should keep for a good 5-6 days, but the sooner you eat it the better it will be. 

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  • Highly recommend dispatching and cleaning the crab before cooking. Otherwise your crab are boiling in a cauldron of guts and gills. Clean crab (2 claw segments per crab). Boil the cleanest sea water possible. 10-12 mins. Put ‘em on ice. Enjoy!

    Cole Kenny on

  • The kids and I just finished off six of these. Pretty delicious! Kind of pricey, but every now and then you have to treat yourself to some delicious crab and wine.

    Jason on

  • I was taught by my Granddad that you boil them is sea water which isn’t hard because while crabing we always had sea water in the cooler that we put the crab in. it may not be any different then adding salt to tap water but granddad said city waster had chlorine and now even fluoride that can change the past. just my two cents

    Travis on

  • Perfect instructions! My 3 crabs came out perfect! Thank u! Melanie Benson

    Melanie Benson on

  • Yours is the same why I was taught and have done it basically the same way for years. Can’t beat fresh cooked Crab. I’ve got three in the pot as I write and three more to go. The Mrs is making salad…I make Thousand Island to top of the salad, add sour dough bread with unsalted butter, a bottle of white wine…and life doesn’t get any better.

    The Top of the Day to you…


    Crabie Larry on

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