How to Steam Crab

Опубликовал Admin
15-08-2021, 12:00
A pile of fresh steamed crabs or crab legs can make for a delicious meal. Crabs are not difficult to steam, and they are high in protein but low in saturated fat. It doesn't take long or much equipment to steam crabs, and they are healthier to eat that way.

Preparing the Crabs for Steaming

  1. Keep the crabs chilled. Crabs can be steamed alive or frozen (the latter are usually crab legs). However, if possible, live crabs taste better after steaming. If you're not immediately cooking the crabs, you will want to keep them cold, whether they are alive or frozen. You can use a cooler full of ice or you can use cold packs.Keep the crabs chilled right until the second you steam the crabs. If you're cooking live crabs, you could put them in an ice chest.
  2. Clean the crabs before or after steaming them. If you are handling live crabs (such as Dungeness and Red Rock crabs), you should clean the crabs before or after cooking them. Cooks do this either way.
    • Remove the crabs' aprons (their abdomen) by pulling off the shell flaps on the crabs' bellies. This is the triangular shell piece positioned at the crab's tail. You can use your hands to break this off or use a knife tip to do so.
    • Remove the crabs' backs (called the carapace) by sticking your thumb into the hole left from removing the crabs' abdomens. Lift up firmly, and the shells should detach from the crab body with guts attached.
    • Take off the leafy, spongy gills from both sides of the crabs, and throw them away.
  3. Rinse the crabs with water before you steam them. You can steam many kinds of crab, although the cooking times will vary. Be careful to use separate plates for raw crabs and cooked crabs to avoid cross-contamination.
    • You will want to rinse out the green-brown guts from the crabs. Break off the mouth parts on either side of the crabs, and throw them away. Then, turn the crabs upside down. Gripping the crabs on both sides, place your thumbs underneath along the back midpoint.
    • Crack the crabs along their centers by pulling down with the hands while pushing up with the thumbs. It's also possible to do this process in reverse and cook the crabs and then clean them using the same process.
  4. Defrost frozen crab legs. You can either steam live crabs or you can steam frozen crab legs that you buy at the store. You will simply need to reheat frozen crab legs. It's a simpler process.
    • One serving of frozen crab legs is usually between 8 ounces and 1 pound (225-450 g). To defrost frozen crab legs, put them in the refrigerator for about 8 hours. You don't want to leave them in the refrigerator for more than 2 days without cooking them, though.
    • You'll want to put the crab legs in a watertight container so the legs drain while they are defrosting without creating a mess in your refrigerator.

Prepare the Pot for Steaming

  1. Use a tall high-walled pot. You don't want to use a pot that is too shallow or a saucepan. That could easily make a mess. A 6-quart pot is a good idea.
    • A sturdy pot or a steamer that is tall and high will work well. You need a steaming rack or separator on top of the pot so the crabs don't touch the hot liquid. You can purchase a steam rack or make one out of tin foil. The basic goal is to allow the steam to rise into the crabs while preventing the crab from touching the boiling liquid below it.
    • A crab steamer is a two-part pot. The bottom pot holds the steaming liquid, while the inner pot is perforated with holes and holds the crabs. If you do not have a crab steamer, you can improvise and use a large pot and a circular rack to place in the bottom of the pot for the crabs to sit on during the steaming process.
  2. Add liquid to the pot. Water works to steam live crabs and frozen crab legs, but if you want to steam crabs like a local, you could try the Maryland approach, and use beer and vinegar. Add about ¼ cup salt to the water.
    • All you need is two cans of cheap beer and an equal amount of apple cider or distilled white vinegar. Some people also add bay leaves into the mixture. If using water, pour 2 cups of water into the pot and add 1 tablespoon (14.8 ml) of salt. Some recipes call for adding spices to the beer or water (such as salt, garlic, chiles, limes, and cilantro).
    • Place about two inches of liquid in the bottom of the pot, enough to boil and produce steam. You don't want the water line to rise above the steam rack. Boil the liquid. Other recipes call for one cup of water and one cup of vinegar.
  3. Place the crabs in the pot. You should use tongs to do this, especially if they are still alive. Put three to four crabs belly down on the steam rack.
    • Cover them with a spice blend. Then, add another layer of crabs and repeat the seasoning process. Then cover the lid of the pot. You can find many recipes for different crab steaming spice blends online.
    • A spice blend can vary by taste but often includes a mix of celery salt, dry mustard, cumin, black pepper, rock salt, and nutmeg. You could also purchase a spice blend for crab meat at many grocery stores.

Steaming the Crab

  1. Steam the crabs the right length of time. The size of the crabs, of the pot, and the number of crabs you are steaming can change the cooking time.
    • Generally, crab legs cook in about 4-8 minutes. Try not to cook frozen crab legs too long since they have already been cooked once. The crabs are done if the shell color is reddish-orange. You should check the crabs frequently. When the crabs are steamed, you will smell their aroma, and they will be warm.
    • If you are going to steam more crabs, change the liquid before you do so. Make sure not to overcook crabs. It doesn't take long to steam, and overcooked crabs won't taste as good. For Dungeness crabs, boil about 18-20 minutes.
    • Some types of crabs, such as blue crabs, can take significantly longer to steam, as long as 20-30 minutes. Whole Dungeness crabs can take 10-20 minutes to steam.
  2. Remove the crabs from the pot using the second pair of tongs. It's important to not use the tongs that handled the raw, live crabs.
    • Doing so increases the risk of bacterial contamination. Place the steamed crabs on a large platter or a newspaper covered table, or any other protected surface.
    • Sprinkle a light layer of seafood seasoning on the steamed crabs, grab your seafood bib and enjoy!
  3. Make a butter sauce to serve with the crabs. One tasty way to enjoy steamed crabs is with melted butter and wedges of lemon. You may need a cracker to crack the shells.
    • Boil ½ pound unsalted butter in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat for about 1 minute. Let the butter settle.
    • After a few minutes, skim off the milk solids that will raise to the top of the butter using a spoon. Pour the rest of the butter into a serving bowl.
    • Break the claws in half at their joints. Take a seafood mallet, and tap the shell of each claw so it breaks apart in order to serve that part of the crabs, if applicable.


  • Crabs
  • Seafood seasoning
  • Kosher salt
  • Water
  • Apple cider vinegar


  • If possible, steam living crabs. It will taste better!
  • Take care not to overcook crabs.

Things You'll Need

  • Two pairs of tongs
  • Crab steamer
Users of Guests are not allowed to comment this publication.