Blue crabs (Callinectus sapidus) are famous from Chesapeake Bay down to Florida and throughout the Gulf coast states.  The sweet, firm meat is used in everything from crab cakes and salads to soups.  Steamed with seafood seasoning is the most popular form of crab eating at home.  To pick a steamed hard shell crab, start by breaking off the legs.  Turn the crab on its back and remove the U-shaped (which means it is a female) or V-shaped (male) shaped key on the underbelly, pull in back to the mouth and removing.  Pull up on the point where you just removed the key, which will allow you to remove the top of the crab.  Many people use mallets, but this is unnecessary, both bruising the crab and leaving small bits of shell behind.  Simply pick way the think pearly white cartilage to expose the meat.  Eat the soft yellow crab butter or mustard.  Clean the chambers of meat, breaking the body in half lengthwise, if necessary to expose the chambers filled with meat.  Crack the claws, you can do this with your fingers and eat the crab meat.

Hard shell crabs are harvested by either scooping them from a baited trot line or by using crab traps.

IngredientsCrab traps

  • 1 package seafood seasoning (such as Old Bay or Zatarain’s)
  • 2-3 lemons, cut in 1/2
  • 1-2 garlic heads, split in 1/2
  • 6 whole blue crabs
  • Cocktail sauce and/or warm clarified butter, for serving


In a large pot of boiling water, add seasoning, lemon, and garlic. Add crabs and cover. Bring to a boil and cook until crab is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Serve with cocktail sauce and/or warm clarified butter.