‘Dealing’ with a mud crab

We’re lucky enough to have a ready supply of seafood round our parts, and occasionally there’s a crab bonanza in the local fisherman’s cooperative.

I love crab meat but I’m frankly a bit put off by all the faff of killing and cleaning them; consequently, the House of Chopsticks more frequently consumes prawns than crab. But I saw them merrily waving their claws at me this weekend, and I thought I’d give it another go.

So – how do you kill & clean a crab? Here’s my step by step illustrated guide.

Now, I’m ashamed to say I’m a tad squeamish about the killing bit. Ashamed, because I’m not vegan, and I believe one should be aware of, and take as much responsibility as possible for, the well-being and ending of the lives of animals bred or caught for food. So I should be up for a bit of killing, right? Right. Trouble is, how do I know that what I’m doing to the crab is humane? I’m not getting much feedback from it. Just the odd silent claw wave and a keen scuttling sideways towards the edge of my worktop.

I read. Most commonly touted options appear to be swift knifing through the head/torso or freezing to stun them to sleep first. I went for freezing, on the basis that hypothermia in humans reportedly causes a sense of well being before caning it, and it if works for a mammal, why not apply the same (unscientific) guidelines to a crustacean?

In the deep freeze they went, for 2 hours. On reflection, perhaps the more widely recommended half to one hour would’ve been more sensible since 2 hours was enough to actually freeze it solid, making the next bit that much harder. You live and learn.

I know this can be a bit confronting for a first timer, so here is a step by step guide to Killing your Crab:

1) Freeze for an hour or so to put it to sleep._MG_3439 - Version 2

2) Grasp your asleep/dead crab firmly, looking at its tummy. Identify the V or U shaped flap – this is technically its abdomen.
_MG_3443 - Version 2

3) Lift the flap, and pull firmly and smartly up and over so as to lift it’s top (the carapace) right off._MG_3444 - Version 2

4) Twist it smartly to separate the carapace (with its tail bit, bits of crab gut and goop) from the rest of the body.You’ll be left with the body & legs/claws._MG_3446 - Version 2


5) That yellow stuff is known as the mustard – it’s edible but if you’re just interested in the crab meat, you can scoop it out with the rest of the brown/black sloppy stuff in that central cavity.

6) The important bit that you must remove are the gills, also known as dead man’s fingers. Pull them off and discard.gills

7) Rinse the body under clean running water briefly to sluice any remaining guts. Now your crab is ready for the pot.IMG_3454 - Version 2


Follow your recipe – but most will call for sectioning, thus:

In half:halved

And quartered:IMG_3458 - Version 2


Finally, give the claws a whack with the back of your knife to crack them open, ready for the sauce to penetrate:IMG_3463 - Version 2

Ready for cooking!

Next time – check out my awesome easy chilli ginger sauce for crab!


2 thoughts on “‘Dealing’ with a mud crab

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