Learn how to clean, how to open, and how to crack a crab (video included)! This guide covers everything you need, so you can get right to eating and enjoying your Dungeness crab.
Whether you have crab legs, crab sections, or an entire cooked crab, you will learn: how to open a crab, what tools you need, every step to cracking crab legs, and how to store cooked crab.
Plus I'm answering questions on whether you need to cook crab purchased from the store again prior to eating, as well as how to do so! Not to mention suggesting a few of my favorite crab recipes.
If you have live crab, refer to this crab cooking guide first before diving in.
Now, let's get to cracking so you can enjoy your seafood dinner! I know I'm digging into this Crab Pasta with lemon garlic sauce or this Cajun Crab Boil every chance I can! Or eating the crab as-is with this seafood boil sauce that makes the perfect pairing!
Table of Contents
Where Can I Buy Cooked Crab?
There are a variety of ways to purchase cooked crab, thankfully, because this sweet crustacean is so versatile and absolutely delicious.
If you shop at Costco or your local grocery store, they will likely have a meat and seafood counter where cooked crab is available for purchase.
If you're lucky enough to live near a fish market, you can get your hands on freshly cooked or live crab.
The easiest way to purchase cooked crab without ever leaving your home is to order it online and ship directly to your home. There are several of great options to look into that are more local to you.
Is Store Bought Crab Cooked?
The easiest way to tell if the crab you're about to purchase is live or cooked is checking the environment of the crab.
If the crab is in water or in a tank, then it's live. If it's in the deli section over ice typically with a rubber band around it, then it's cooked.
When purchasing store bought crab legs, they are typically cooked. You can always double check with an employee prior to purchasing.
How to Crack Crab Video!
Everything You Need To Open And Crack Crab
Whether you have store bought crab legs, crab sections or an entire crab, you will need a few tools to successfully crack and open crab.
You will need this to discard all the crab shells and gills into. If you're working with a large amount of crabs, it's best to work with 5-gallons buckets, like we do. Thanks to life on the coast!
Get a small or medium bowl (depending on how much you're cracking) ready for collecting the crab meat.
You will need a seafood cracking set for cracking crab legs. You won't need these for removing the body of the crab. This seafood cracking set comes in handy if you don't have one. If you already have picks then consider grabbing my ultimate favorite seafood crackers.
These come in extremely handy when picking the crab meat from the smaller legs. Our fingers are a little too big for this job!
Step-by-Step How To Open And Crack A Crab
How To Open a Whole crab
First, flip the crab over, get your finger under the apron (the belly part that looks like a triangle) and rip it off.
With your thumb on the bottom edge of the crab shell, remove it and discard it into a large bowl. Be mindful it will be full of crab butter and juice!
On the body of the crab, remove all the gills and extra shells that don't contain meat.
Rip the crab body in half. Separating it into 2 sections.
Into a large bowl, give each crab section a quick and hard shake to remove the extra crab butter. We don't eat crab butter since it contains most of the toxins, but I know some people love it.
And, now you have crab sections to work off of.
Breaking Down Crab Sections
If you're cracking crab to remove all the meat, and not to separate the crab legs, then follow these steps:
Separate the crab legs while the body is still attached to each leg.
Crack the legs using seafood crackers.
Now pick the meat from the body first, and work your way down to the legs.
If you're wanting to keep crab legs separate, but collect meat from the body, then follow these steps:
Remove the body from the legs.
Separate the body into 2-3 parts so it's easier for pick through.
Pick through the body for meat. Place all the meat in the small bowl and shells in the large bowl to discard (or use to make seafood stock).
How to Open Crab Legs (How To Crack Open Crab Legs)
Start by cracking crab legs using seafood crackers.
Peel back the shells, tossing them into your large discard bowl or bucket. Place all the crab meat in a small bowl.
For the smaller legs, you will need to use seafood picks to remove the meat. If the crab crackers are too large for smaller legs, you can simply rip the shell as best as you can, then use the picks to remove the crab meat.
Remember to always pick through the crab meat once more prior to eating!
Be sure to follow us!
How To Crack Crab Without a Cracker
Follow the steps on cracking crab, but instead of using a cracker, use the palm of your hand to push with force on the crab while placed on the table. It's that simple!
This will be one of the best ways to opening the crab without a cracker, but you might end up needing a small fork, scissors and knife to cut the crab legs that can't be cracked with force. My go-to alternative for crab crackers is kitchen scissors. Simply cut the legs instead of cracking and peal apart.
How To Store Crabs After Cooking
Whether storing the entire crab, crab legs or crab meat you will need to store it in an airtight container or bag in the fridge. Cooked crab doesn't last long, so be sure to enjoy as soon as possible.
Place in an airtight storage bag, or vacuum seal, the entire crab, crab sections or crab meat to store in the freezer. Store in the freezer up to 3 months if purchased cooked from the store.
Crab that you cooked fresh will last longer. We notice ours lasting at least 6-9 months when frozen soon after cooking.
How Long Does Cooked Crab Last In The Fridge?
Cooked crab must be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a maximum of 2 days. It's best consumed within 24 hours for freshness. However, reheating and adding it to another meal the next day is just as good!
For any leftovers crab that you need some inspiration on, look through my suggested crab recipes below!
Do You Need To Cook Cooked Crab Again Before Eating?
Most often you're purchasing cooked crab from the store, and in that case you will need to re-heat the crab prior to eating.
I have the full instructions on how to reheat cooked crab two questions down.
However, if the crab is live, in a tank of water, then yes you will need to cook it. Use this How to cook crab guide, it's incredibly easy!
Do You Have To Cook Store Bought Crab Meat?
Though store bought crab meat is already cooked, it's always a good idea to warm it up prior to eating.
To do so, add it to your dish the last 5 minutes of cooking to warm it through.
If you're making a meal that doesn't require the crab to be mixed in, then heating it with a bit of butter or olive oil on the stove will do the trick. The goal is to warm it completely to kill off any potential bacteria.
How To Reheat Cooked Crab?
For reheating crab legs, it's best to steam them in a pot with a few inches of water.
Bring the water to a boil and drop in crab legs.
Cook until warmed, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook them.
For reheating crab meat, you can add them to your meal just 5 minutes before you're done cooking. Otherwise, warm in a pan on the stove with a little bit of olive oil or butter until warmed through.
Now that you know how to open and crack crab, here's some crab recipe ideas!
We love cooking enough crab to have extras the next morning with our Crab Omelets. They're a protein filled seafood breakfast that I can't get enough of! For a fun dinner, take your traditional pizza and upgrade it to this Creamy Crab Pizza. Our family is obsessed with it! For another creamy, yet crispy recipe, this Air Fryer Crab Rangoon is incredibly dreamy. Crunchy and crispy on the outside, yet creamy and crab-filled on the inside, with a slight Mediterranean twist!
You can't have whole crab without considering a Cajun Crab Boil! It's one of the best and easiest crab recipes that always impresses our crowds!
How To Clean, Open and Crack Cooked Crab
- 1 Seafood Cracking Set with picks
- 1 Large Bowl , for collecting shells
- 1 Small Bowl , for collecting crab meat
- 1 Crab, whole, sections or crab legs
Opening a Whole Crab
- First, flip the crab over, get your finger under the apron (the belly part that looks like a triangle) and rip it off.
- With your thumb on the bottom edge of the crab shell, remove the outer shells and discard into a large bowl.
- On the body of the crab, remove and discard all the gills and extra shells that don't contain meat.
- Rip the crab in half. Separating it into 2 equal sections.
- Into a large bowl, give each crab section a quick and hard shake to remove the extra crab butter. We don't eat crab butter since contains most of the toxins.
- And, now you have crab sections to work off of.
Cracking Crab Sections
- Remove the body from the legs.
- Separate the body into 2-3 parts so it's easier for pick through.
- Pick through the body for meat. Place all the meat in the small bowl and shells in the large bowl to discard (or use to make seafood stock).
Cracking Crab legs
- Start by cracking crab legs using seafood crackers.
- Peel back the shells, tossing them into your large discard bowl or bucket. Place all the crab meat in a small bowl.
- For the smaller legs, you will need to use seafood picks to remove the meat. If the crab crackers are too large for smaller legs, you can simply rip the shell as best as you can, then use the picks to remove the crab meat.
Other Seafood Recipes