Home-cooked crab meat

Home-cooked crab meat

By
From
A Lot on Her Plate
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

Picked crab meat is quite accessible in shops and fish mongers these days, as are dressed crabs, but nothing tastes quite as good as fresh crab meat you’ve cooked and picked yourself. It takes some patience to break down the crab and mine out all that gorgeous sweet flesh, but it’s easy to do, quite a lot of fun, and well worth the hard work.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
1 live crab
1/2 bulb fennel
4 black peppercorns
50ml white wine or white wine vinegar
1/2 lemon
1/2 white onion
1 bay leaf
sea salt

Method

  1. Place all the ingredients apart from the live crab in a high-sided cooking pot or Le Creuset and bring to a rolling boil. Drop the crab into the water, and bring it back to the boil, cooking for 10–15 minutes, depending on the size (12 minutes per kilo is a good guide) and then remove from the liquid (bouillon) with a slotted spoon and leave to cool.
  2. Prepare 2 bowls for shells and meat, and a hand bowl of warm water to clean your hands as they’ll get messy. Snap the legs and claws off from the main body and bash them with the back of a heavy knife (or a small hammer) to break the shell. Remove the claw and leg meat (you can use the end of a teaspoon as a pick), being sure to discard any of the hard membrane from the claw and feel carefully for bits of shell.
  3. Give the main body shell a good wipe with a clean cloth to get rid of any dirt. To separate the ‘purse’ – the part of the crab that the legs were attached to – from the outer shell, just put the crab on its back and push up on the purse. It should come away quite easily. Remove and discard the ‘dead man’s fingers’ (the feathery gills attached to the purse or shell).
  4. Use a paring knife to score around the inner shell (follow the natural curved line on the overarching edges of shell), and remove it. Push the jaw down into the shell until it breaks away and remove it – the stomach sack will come away too. Scrape out the brown meat from the crab into a bowl, feeling through it to check for any shell. To get the meat from the purse, scrape all the meat from the top of it, cut it open and scrape the meat from inside it. I like to mix the white and brown meats together because I like the blend of strong nutty brown meat and sweet white meat, but you could keep them separate.
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