How to Cut Crab: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Cut Crab: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you’re a seafood lover and want to learn how to cut crab like a pro, you’ve come to the right place. Cutting crab can seem intimidating at first, but with the right techniques, it’s actually quite simple. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk you through the process of preparing and cleaning the crab, as well as separating and cracking its legs and claws to access that delicious meat. So grab your apron and let’s get started!

Step 1: Prepare the Crab

Prepare the crab by gathering your tools: a sharp chef’s knife and sturdy kitchen shears. Begin by flipping the crab onto its back to expose the belly, or abdomen. Use your fingers to locate and lift up the apron, which is located on the underside of the body. With one quick motion, remove it completely from the carapace.

Gather the necessary tools

To effectively cut a crab, you will need to gather the following tools:

  • Crab cutter or kitchen shears.
  • Cutting board.
  • Kitchen towel.

These tools are essential for efficiently and safely preparing the crab. The crab cutter or kitchen shears will help in breaking through the hard carapace, while the cutting board provides a stable surface for working on. Lastly, having a kitchen towel nearby ensures that you can keep your hands clean and dry throughout the process. By having these tools at hand, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle any sized crustacean with ease!

Remove the top shell

Hold the crab firmly in your hand to ensure stability. Locate and lift up the triangular-shaped flap on the underside of the crab, which is also known as the apron or abdomen. With a firm grip, pull off and discard the top shell, also called the carapace, exposing the belly of the crab for further preparation by a skilled chef.

Step 2: Clean the Crab

Remove the gills by carefully lifting the top shell of the crab and using a small knife to cut them away. Be sure to discard them properly as they are not edible and can affect the taste of your dish.

Clean out the innards by removing the feathery lungs, known as the dead man’s fingers, located on either side of the body. Use a spoon or your fingers to gently scoop out any remaining innards, being careful not to damage any meat in the process.

Rinse the crab under cold running water to remove any debris or excess slime. Pay attention to all nooks and crannies, ensuring that it is thoroughly cleaned before proceeding with your recipe.

Remove the gills

Understanding the anatomy of a crab is essential before removing the gills. The gills, located on either side of the crab’s body, serve as respiratory organs. To identify and remove them properly, gently lift up one side of the carapace to reveal the feathery structures underneath. Using your fingers or a small spoon, carefully detach and discard these gills from each side. It is crucial to ensure proper removal for optimal taste in your cooked crab dish.

Clean out the innards

Locating and opening the apron is the first step in cleaning out the innards of a crab. The apron is located on the underside of the crab and can be easily identified by its triangular shape. Carefully lift up the apron to expose the stomach sac and intestines.

Next, remove the stomach sac and intestines by gently pulling them away from the body cavity. Be cautious not to rupture any organs during this process to avoid contaminating meat with digestive juices or waste products.

To ensure thorough cleaning without damaging meat, use a small brush or sponge dipped in cold water to scrub inside the body cavity. Pay extra attention to removing any residual dirt or debris from hard-to-reach crevices.

Remember, proper cleaning techniques are essential for maintaining food safety standards while enjoying delicious crab dishes with family and friends!

Rinse the crab

Rinse the crab by preparing a bowl of cold water and gently washing away any remaining debris. Cleaning is essential to maintain the flavor and texture of the crab.

  • Prepare a bowl of cold water.
  • Gently wash away any remaining debris.

Cleaning is important for maintaining flavor and texture.

Step 3: Separate the Legs and Claws

Twist each leg of the crab until it detaches from the body. Once separated, set aside for later use. Next, carefully remove the claws by pulling them away from the body and cracking them open to access the meat inside.

Twist and detach the legs

Hold the crab firmly on its back, ensuring a secure grip. Locate the joint where each leg connects to the body and apply gentle but firm twisting motions away from the body to detach each leg.

Remove the claws

Flip the crab over to expose its soft belly. Locate the two large claws towards the front of its body. One at a time, firmly grip a claw and apply pressure to separate it from the body.

  • Flip the crab over so that its belly faces upwards.
  • Look for the two large claws located near the front of its body.
  • Grasp one claw at a time and apply pressure to separate it from the body.

Step 4: Crack the Legs and Claws

To crack the legs and claws of a crab, you will need to use a crab cracker or mallet. Place the leg or claw between the teeth of the cracker and apply gentle pressure until you hear a cracking sound. Repeat this process for all legs and claws to ensure easy access to the succulent meat inside. Remember to be careful not to crush too hard as it may shatter the shell and mix fragments with the meat.

Use a crab cracker or mallet

Selecting the right tool is crucial when using a crab cracker or mallet. Look for a sturdy and durable tool that can withstand the force needed to crack open the shell without breaking.

To ensure proper cracking, position the crab with its legs facing away from you and hold it firmly in place. This will provide better control over where you apply pressure and minimize any potential mishaps.

When applying controlled pressure, start by gently tapping the shell with your chosen tool until cracks form. Gradually increase the force while maintaining precision to avoid crushing the meat inside. Practice patience and finesse to enjoy perfectly cracked crab every time!

Step 5: Remove the Meat

To extract the leg meat, gently twist and separate each leg from the body. Use a seafood fork or pick to carefully remove all of the succulent meat from within.

For removing the claw meat, use a crab cracker or kitchen shears to crack open each claw. Then, delicately extract the tender flesh using a seafood fork or your fingers.

Next, carefully extract the body meat by pulling it apart at its center joint. Use your fingers or a small spoon to scrape out any remaining delicious morsels.

Now that you’ve successfully removed all of the delectable crab meat, you’re ready to enjoy it in various dishes like salads, pasta sauces, or even as part of an indulgent crab cake recipe.

Extract the leg meat

1. Gently pull the legs away from the body to separate them, ensuring not to apply excessive force.

2. With a sharp knife, carefully cut along each joint where the legs meet the body.

3. Snap off and twist each leg at the joint until fully separated from the crab’s body.

4. Utilize your fingers or a seafood pick to extract all of the delicious meat hidden within each leg.

Remove the claw meat

Hold onto one of the crab’s claws securely, using your hand to maintain a firm grip. Employ a small mallet or the backside of a heavy knife to gently crack open the shell, ensuring not to crush it. Carefully remove any broken shell fragments and discard them before delicately pulling apart both sides of the cracked shell with your hands, unveiling the delectable claw meat that lies within.

Extract the body meat

  • Use your thumb and index finger to pry open the top shell (carapace) from underneath, starting at the rear end near the tail flap.
  • Once opened up all the way around, lift away the carapace, exposing internal organs including gills.
  • Remove the gills (usually called ‘dead man’s fingers’) by gripping their base firmly with your hand and pulling upwards in a steady motionthey come out easily if done correctly!
  • Scrape out the yellowish-orange substance known as ‘mustard’ found in the main cavitythis is edible but some people prefer not to eat it because its flavor can be strong.
  • How should you store the crab before cutting it?

When it comes to storing crabs before cutting them, there are a few important steps to ensure their freshness and safety. Proper storage not only helps maintain the quality of the crab meat but also reduces the risk of bacterial contamination. Here’s how you should store crabs before cutting them:

1. Keep them alive: Ideally, crabs should be kept alive until right before you’re ready to prepare them. This helps ensure the freshness and flavor of the meat. If you’re purchasing live crabs, store them in a well-ventilated container or a crab pot with a damp cloth or seaweed to keep them moist. Make sure the container is not sealed tightly, as crabs need oxygen to survive.

2. Refrigeration: If you’re unable to cook the crabs immediately, refrigeration is the best storage option. Place the live crabs in a large, open container and cover them with a damp cloth or paper towels to keep them moist. Avoid direct contact between the crabs and ice, as this can cause them to freeze and deteriorate the meat quality. Instead, place a layer of ice packs or ice in a separate container below the crabs to maintain a cool temperature.

3. Temperature control: The ideal storage temperature for crabs is between 40°F (4°C) and 32°F (0°C). Use a refrigerator thermometer to ensure the temperature remains within this range. It’s important to note that crabs are highly sensitive to temperature changes, so avoid fluctuations in temperature as much as possible. Keep the crabs in the coldest part of the refrigerator, such as the back or bottom shelf.

4. Proper handling: When handling the crabs, be gentle to avoid causing any unnecessary stress or injury. Avoid dropping or knocking the crabs, as this can damage their shells and affect the quality of the meat.

5. Use them within 24 hours: It’s best to use the crabs within 24 hours of purchase or capture to ensure optimal freshness. The longer they are stored, the more the quality of the meat deteriorates.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your crabs stay fresh and safe before cutting them. Proper storage not only preserves the quality of the meat but also helps prevent any potential health risks associated with bacterial contamination. Enjoy your delicious crab dish with confidence!

What safety precautions should be taken when cutting a crab?

When it comes to cutting a crab, it is important to prioritize safety to prevent any accidents or injuries. Here are some essential safety precautions to follow:

1. Use the right tools: Ensure you have a sturdy and sharp knife specifically designed for seafood. This will allow for easier and safer cutting. Avoid using dull or inappropriate knives as they can slip and cause accidents.

2. Proper handling: Always handle crabs with caution. They have sharp claws that can pinch and cause injury. Hold the crab firmly but gently to minimize the risk of being clawed.

3. Secure the crab: Before starting the cutting process, make sure the crab is secure and cannot move around. This will prevent it from slipping out of your hand or the cutting surface, reducing the chances of accidents.

4. Protect your hands: Wear protective gloves or use a kitchen towel to grip the crab securely. This will provide an extra layer of protection against accidental cuts or pinch injuries.

5. Work on a stable surface: Choose a stable and non-slip cutting surface like a cutting board. This will provide a secure base for cutting and minimize the risk of the crab or knife slipping.

6. Maintain proper posture: Stand in a stable and comfortable position while cutting the crab. Poor posture or unstable footing can lead to accidents. Also, keep your fingers and other body parts away from the knife’s path to avoid unintentional cuts.

7. Cut away from your body: Always cut away from your body and keep your hands and fingers away from the blade. This will minimize the risk of accidentally cutting yourself.

8. Take your time: Cutting a crab requires precision and focus. Rushing the process can increase the chances of accidents. Take your time and work slowly and carefully to ensure your safety.

9. Dispose of waste properly: After cutting the crab, properly dispose of any waste, including the shell and innards. Place them in a sealed bag and discard them in a designated trash bin. This will prevent any potential contamination or unpleasant odors.

10. Clean and sanitize: After cutting the crab, thoroughly clean and sanitize your cutting tools, work surface, and hands. Use hot, soapy water and disinfectant to remove any bacteria or pathogens. This will help prevent cross-contamination and ensure food safety.

By following these safety precautions, you can confidently cut a crab without putting yourself at risk of injury. Remember to always prioritize safety and take the necessary steps to protect yourself while handling and preparing seafood.

What tools are needed to cut a crab?

When it comes to cutting a crab, there are a few essential tools that can make the task much easier and more efficient. Here are the primary tools you will need:

1. Crab Cracker: A crab cracker is a crucial tool for breaking open the hard shell of the crab. It is typically made of sturdy metal or plastic and has a ridged surface that helps grip the shell securely. With a crab cracker, you can easily crack open the legs and claws to access the succulent meat inside.

2. Crab Scissors: Crab scissors are designed specifically for cutting through the tough shell of a crab. These scissors usually have a curved blade with serrated edges that allow you to effortlessly cut through the shell without damaging the meat. They are perfect for separating the body into halves or quarters, depending on your preference.

3. Crab Pick: A crab pick, also known as a crab fork or crab leg picker, is a small utensil with a narrow, pointed end. It is used to extract the meat from the intricate crevices of the crab’s legs, claws, and body. A good crab pick will have a sturdy construction to handle the resistance of the shell and extract the meat cleanly.

4. Cutting Board: To ensure a clean and organized cutting process, a sturdy cutting board is a must-have. Choose a cutting board made of a material that is easy to clean, such as plastic or wood. This will help prevent cross-contamination and maintain proper hygiene while preparing and cutting the crab.

5. Gloves: While not necessarily a tool, wearing gloves can provide an extra layer of protection while handling the crab. Gloves can help prevent any potential cuts or injuries and also minimize the risk of contamination. Choose gloves that are food-safe and disposable for easy cleanup.

6. Knife: A sharp knife is essential for cutting through the crab’s shell and separating the different parts. Opt for a sturdy, heavy-duty knife with a strong blade that can withstand the resistance of the crab’s shell. Make sure the knife is properly sanitized before and after use to ensure food safety.

7. Bowl or Container: To collect and store the crab meat after cutting, have a bowl or container ready. This will help keep the meat organized and prevent any potential mess. Choose a container that is large enough to hold all the meat and easy to clean afterward.

These tools will make the process of cutting a crab much smoother and safer. Remember to always handle the tools with care and follow proper safety protocols to avoid any accidents or injuries.


In conclusion, cutting crab requires precision and knowledge of the anatomy. By following this step-by-step guide, you can confidently and skillfully dismantle a crab to enjoy its delicious meat. Remember to use a sharp knife, take your time, and be cautious of the sharp edges to ensure a safe and successful experience. Happy crab-cutting!