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How to Select and Cook Dungeness Crabs

It seems that almost any coastal area has a favorite kind of crab, found in their waters. Such is the case of the delicious and famous Dungeness crabs found along the Pacific coast, especially in colder waters such as Oregon’s and Washington’s. Selection and cooking the crab isn’t hard to do, but it is important for the best possible crab feast.

Whether purchased at the store, at the docks, or caught out of the ocean, the first thing to look for is size. Not only are there minimum size limits, measuring the crab from point to point across the back of the shell, larger crabs present less work for the amount of meat you get after cooking and cleaning them.

Also, make sure that the shell isn’t cracked and that the triangular shaped segment on the underside of the crab is tight to the shell. Cracked shells lead to rapid spoiling, and one of the signs that the crab has been out of water too long is that the segment will droop. The arms and legs should also have some up and down movement when the crab is turned from right side up to upside down. If they are stiff, the crab may be too old.

Most crabs bought in the store will be precooked and will be reddish in color. Raw crab doesn’t last nearly as long as cooked crab, which is the reason for this. Commercially, placing live crabs in pots of boiling salted water or seawater does the cooking, quickly. This is commonly also done on the docks, and it may be offered, free of charge, to those who even catch their own crabs. Otherwise, a person can do the same thing by filling a large pot with water, adding a cup of salt for every 2 gallons of water, bringing it to a boil, and immersing the crab for several minutes and until it has turned a bright red color.

While crabs bought in a store are pre-cooked as a rule, it doesn’t hurt to put them in a boiling salt-water bath for a few minutes prior to cleaning them. Doing this heats the meat, which makes a better meal, regardless of how the crab is served.

Few animals are easier to clean than a Dungeness crab. Allow the crab to cool to the point you can handle it without burning yourself, then turn it over. Push your thumb under the triangular segment previously mentioned, and then push down and toward the back. The entire shell and most of the innards should come away easily. The exception is the lungs, which will usually adhere to the body. Under running hot water, remove these, and then rinse the rest of the body cavity well.

Selecting and cooking a Dungeness crab is easy to do. Further cooking can be a little more involved, since you need to shell the crab, but the meat can be used in patties, over salads, or as just crab. To enhance the cooked crab, try heating butter and adding lemon juice, for dipping the crab in. It is even simple to make a cocktail sauce that goes great with the crab, yet is far better than anything you can purchase in the store.

Dungeness crabs have long been considered one of the best, and from the first bite, it is easy to see why. Selecting and cooking them should not be a major task, and it isn’t. This is one kind of crab, which everyone deserves the right to try, at least once. Most people will want to come back for more since the flavor is so outstanding. It isn’t difficult to see why Dungeness crabs are one of the most favored crabs, once you’ve tried them.