Consider the Blue Crab

21st May 2007


Everybody’s always talking about lobster--in a roll mixed with mayonnaise, sliced in two and charred on a grill, served with dipping butter next to a tender piece of filet mignon.  The fact is, this animal gets far too much attention.  No doubt about it, lobster is quite something--but how often can you afford to eat it?  For the same reason we rarely eat filet mignon--and then only when it’s on sale --we don’t buy much lobster.


There’s always the question of cost, not to mention guilt.  The destruction of another animal is never easy to do. As much as we enjoy chowing down on a lobster, there is always a little apprehension upon tossing a live being into the pot.   And since every lobster we seem to buy is slow, sleepy, and barely puts up a fight, we end up feeling terribly about throwing what amounts to a defenseless creature into a vat of angry, boiling water.


But blue crabs--that's another story.  They're mean, strong, and feisty. Because it's impractical to rubber band each one, they are armed and ready to attack--which they do without fear. Stick your tongs within reach and they’ll snap in unison, all attempting to bludgeon your utensil to death. When they grow bored with your game of pinch-the-kitchen-utensil, they start to turn on each other. Leave them unattended, and you'll notice detached arms and legs start appearing all over the place.


Which all means that when you get the chance to throw them in boiling water you will relish it. Killing these oversized bugs feels really good. When one is done, you’ll have no problem throwing another one in.  And they are cheap.  We scored a dozen of them for $15 at our local fishmonger, which is about the same price you'd pay for one lobster.


The unfortunate catch of all this ill will is that these crabs are hard to eat. Unlike their larger brethren, blue crabs have very little edible meat, and what they do have is buried under seething yellow globs and exoskeleton. And while what little is left does taste very good, after cracking a dozen or so of them, you’ll be repulsed.  Not by the ethics of such slaughter, nor by any metaphysical difficulties--but by their disgusting insides and the relentless work it takes to pry their shells off.

Spicy Blue Crabs with Melted Butter


One dozen blue crabs
1/2 cup total of the following seasonings:

  • Chile powder
  • Paprika
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Cayenne

Or, just use Old Bay seasoning--which, apparently, is not available in bodegas in Brooklyn.

Steep the spices in a little boiling water in the bottom of a large stockpot.  Insert a steamer tray in the bottom for the crabs to rest on.  Alternatively, you could increase the spices and boil them instead.


Toss one in for testing--depending on size, they need between 6 and 10 minutes.  We found ours worked best at 8 minutes.  Too short and the meat is slightly slimy, too long and it gets stringy.  Improvise.


Remove with tongs to a plate to let cool.


While most civilized people would use crab crackers and other specialized utensils, we used two hammers, a series of forks, and a large knife.  The claws yield a lot of meat.  Once you've finished with those, slam a knife into the body to split it in two.  The gray finger-looking organs are not edible.  Look for white meat around the "shoulder" joints and pick around the green goop.


Dip the salvaged meat in melted butter.  Serve with corn on the cob.


Collect the carcasses in a large bowl. Consider taking the trash out immediately.


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