How to Cut Live Dungeness Crab at Home

how to clean live crab

In Chinese culture, nothing says fresh like seeing your seafood swimming around alive in the tank. I remember growing up, I used to poke and prod at the tank and watches as the crabs walked across the tank. My dad always used to joke that the crabs that put up the biggest fight, were often the freshest and therefore, the sweetest. This is why we always bought live crab. Frozen crab had nothing on live crab in terms of flavor. Fresh crab is soft, juicy, tender, and is so delicate and sweet, but oftentimes, people are intimidated by the process of killing and chopping the crab. Well, have no fear! Today, I’m going to teach you everything you know about how to properly kill and chop a live crab so that you can also have fresh seafood everyday!

Where can you buy live crab?

In my experience, mostly Asian markets carry live crab. You can bring back the crab alive and handle the chopping at home. 

Anatomy of live crab

How long does live crab last?

If you buy live crab, it is advised to eat it within a day to make sure the crab is fresh. 

How do you store live crab before chopping?

A common misconception is to soak the crab in a pot of water to keep it alive until it’s time to cook. That is completely UNTRUE! Freshwater crab are used to a certain mixture of ocean water than our normal tap water at home. If you submerge a live crab in normal water, the crab will die quickly of shock. 

The way you should store live crab before you cook it is to put the crab in the refrigerator. This will slow down the dying process and the crab will most likely just be kinda “dizzy,” but will still be alive for a couple hours. 

How soon do you need to cook the crab after you kill it?

amzn.to/3dNKy7F(opens in a new tab)

As soon as possible! A crab’s ability to retain its freshness in the meat depends on how soon you cook it after being chopped. If a crab has been dead for a while, a black liquid will release, causing the meat to start to shrivel. This in turn, will change the texture of the crab, resulting in a mushier taste, which is displeasing. So obviously, the sooner you cook it after you chop it, the better! 

Equipment

  1. 1 wooden cutting board that is at least 2 inches thick (the thicker the board, the more stable)
  2. 1 cleaver
  3. 1 mallet

Note: Sharpen your cleaver before you begin. Have paper towels on hand for wiping away liquid from crab. When handling live crab, always have the claws of the crab facing away from you. 

How to Cut a Live Crab

  1. In a deep sink, flip the crab so that it’s underside is facing up. You will first drain the urine from the crab, which will allow the crab to die slowly. To release the urine, use a chopstick to poke a hole below the abdomen. You can also opt to hold one of the legs and with the other hand, detach the abdomen from the crab. 
Crab Abdomen

2. From there, the crab will slow down in energy. Depending on the crab, it can take about 15 minutes to half an hour. Once the crab is ready, bring it to the cutting board. 

3. Using your cleaver as a barrier, wedge your cleaver between the claw and the head. Using your right hand, press the cleaver to hold down the claws of the crab, as you use your left hand to detach the head of the crab from its body. (Be careful of the left claw while you are removing the head). Once you detach the head, place it in a bowl.

4. Remove the gills from the body. Remove the crab mouth. 

5. Chop claws off both sides of the crab. 

6. Use your cleaver to chop the crab body right down the middle.

7. Starting on one side, chop two legs at a time to remove from the body. After legs have been chopped, chop the body of the crab into 2-3 pieces depending on the size of the crab. Chop in between legs to ensure a cleaner cut.

8. Repeat on the other side. For larger legs on the crab, chop in between the joints and detach. 

9. Using a mallet and paper towel, cover up the crab leg with a paper towel. (Using a paper towel prevents the juices from flying everywhere.) Hold the crab leg facing up, and then use a mallet to smash the crab, just hard enough to crack the shell but not so hard that it shatters it. Repeat on all crab legs. 

10. After you’re done chopping the crab, the crab is ready to be cooked! 

Print

How to Cut a Live Crab

how to clean live crab

A crab’s ability to retain its freshness in the meat depends on how soon you cook it after being chopped. This step by step process will teach you how to properly and easily handle live crab.

  • Yield: 23 1x

Ingredients

Scale

Instructions

Notes

Sharpen your cleaver before you begin. Have paper towels on hand for wiping away liquid from crab. When handling live crab, always have the claws of the crab facing away from you.

Keywords: how to cut a live crab

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag us @adashofsoy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Recipe rating