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“How To Break Down A Blue Crab”

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Crabs are my favorite thing on the planet. They’re sweet, briny, flaky, 0 calories and just all around a party. They can be a bit intimidating, but if you know how to crack them, you can make quick work of them and get to the gold of the sea inside.

Crabs have always been a gathering sort of food in my family. Some of my earliest memories are of picnic tables lined up end to end. The smell of seasoning and beer in the air, and the sound of old rock and roll in the air. Everybody seated on both sides of the tables, and my Granddaddy at the head of the table. He was the KING of the crab pickers, and rightly held that head seat of the table. We’d all start around 10am, and by the end of the night, he was the last one left. Still at the head of the table picking crab after crab.

When I was about 3, I was walking around the tables like a little vulture, asking for scraps of anybody i could. Until I got to my grandfather… He picked me up, put me on his lap and said, “Now listen here you little shit! You’re going to stop stealing my crab and learn to pick one for yourself!”. He showed me how to do it and I’ve never turned back! Here I’ll show you the same way he showed me.

Blue Crab

Blue Crab

Blue Crab

After they’re steamed, first thing we do is insert something under what’s called the apron. This gives us some leverage to pry the back off.

After they’re steamed, first thing we do is insert something under what’s called the apron. This gives us some leverage to pry the back off.

After they’re steamed, first thing we do is insert something under what’s called the apron. This gives us some leverage to pry the back off.

After they’re steamed, first thing we do is insert something under what’s called the apron. This gives us some leverage to pry the back off.

After they’re steamed, first thing we do is insert something under what’s called the apron. This gives us some leverage to pry the back off.

After they’re steamed, first thing we do is insert something under what’s called the apron. This gives us some leverage to pry the back off.

Now remove the mandibles (mouth) and the feathery gills.

Now remove the mandibles (mouth) and the feathery gills.

Now remove the mandibles (mouth) and the feathery gills.

Now remove the mandibles (mouth) and the feathery gills.

Break the crab in half.

Break the crab in half.

Break the crab in half.

Remove the claws and legs, leaving the fins on the end.

Remove the claws and legs, leaving the fins on the end.

Remove the claws and legs, leaving the fins on the end.

Now we’re going to break each half in half by squeezing it and then prying it apart.

Now we’re going to break each half in half by squeezing it and then prying it apart.

Now we’re going to break each half in half by squeezing it and then prying it apart.

Clean all the meat out of the open cavities.

Clean all the meat out of the open cavities.

Once the open cavities are cleaned, we squeeze the body to get the rest of the body meat out.

Once the open cavities are cleaned, we squeeze the body to get the rest of the body meat out.

Last in the body we have the backfin meat. Just roll that beautiful gold nugget out, and clear away the extra shell around it.

Last in the body we have the backfin meat. Just roll that beautiful gold nugget out, and clear away the extra shell around it.

Last in the body we have the backfin meat. Just roll that beautiful gold nugget out, and clear away the extra shell around it.

Now we turn to the legs and claws. Pull the points out and crack the legs in half. Pull the meat out.

Now we turn to the legs and claws. Pull the points out and crack the legs in half. Pull the meat out.

Now we turn to the legs and claws. Pull the points out and crack the legs in half. Pull the meat out.

Now those big beautiful claws.

Now those big beautiful claws.

Separate the arm from the elbow. If you’re lucky, the meat will come out with the cartilage, if not, crack the arm.

Separate the arm from the elbow. If you’re lucky, the meat will come out with the cartilage, if not, crack the arm.

Separate the arm from the elbow. If you’re lucky, the meat will come out with the cartilage, if not, crack the arm.

Using a nut cracker, pry the knuckle off from the claw.

Using a nut cracker, pry the knuckle off from the claw.

Now there are two ways to crack the claw. First way, and the most used is to position your cracker just above the joint and crack there.

Now there are two ways to crack the claw. First way, and the most used is to position your cracker just above the joint and crack there.

Now there are two ways to crack the claw. First way, and the most used is to position your cracker just above the joint and crack there. Then, just pull the meat out.

The other way is to use a butter knife and a mallet to crack it in the same place. Then flip it over and crack it in the same place. The meat will just pull out again. Then just break the extra claw piece off.

The other way is to use a butter knife and a mallet to crack it in the same place. Then flip it over and crack it in the same place. The meat will just pull out again. Then just break the extra claw piece off.

The other way is to use a butter knife and a mallet to crack it in the same place. Then flip it over and crack it in the same place. The meat will just pull out again. Then just break the extra claw piece off.

break thre extra claw piece

The other way is to use a butter knife and a mallet to crack it in the same place. Then flip it over and crack it in the same place. The meat will just pull out again. Then just break the extra claw piece off.

The other way is to use a butter knife and a mallet to crack it in the same place. Then flip it over and crack it in the same place. The meat will just pull out again. Then just break the extra claw piece off.

Either way you need to make sure you pull the cartilage out.

Either way you need to make sure you pull the cartilage out.

It’s easier the more you do it, but the end result is always worth it!

It’s easier the more you do it, but the end result is always worth it!

     

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2 COMMENTS

  • wb Giorgio on August 22, 2017

    Hi ho Chef J,
    Wow! where is you at ? Those crabs are big jumbos for sure. Gotta be near the coast. Growing up in New Orleans I know how & what ta do with them. I had same kind of memories catching, cooking, then picking crabs with my “Bumpa” just like you. Enjoy all your posts. Thanks for taking the time to enlighten the rest of us.
    Giorgio

    • JustinBorecky on August 23, 2017

      Hey Giorgio! I’m located near Lancaster PA, but I have a guy that hand picks them for me down in MD. Those guys were GIGANTIC! 9″ point to point, and close to 10oz each! The meat from that one crab was enough for 2 full crab cakes!

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