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Feb 18, 2004 12:32 PM

How to kill a crab?

  • j

I'm not a vegetarian but I respect all forms of life. I love to eat crab I've cooked myself. To kill one before cooking I put it in the sink and pour on boiling water.

This bothers me more each time I do it. The creature seems to be watching me and blinking its litle eyes. It takes a while before it stops struggling and I feel like I'm inflicting unnecessary pain.

Is there a more humane way to do it?

I prefer the microwave method, 6-l/2 minutes in a heavy glass lidded casserole with one tablespoon liquid and some spices, so starting the cooking with the crab still alive isn't an option.


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  1. I feel the same way - I usually boil crabs and crawfish. I throw them in the water and they die nearly instantly. I just say a little prayer when I do it.

    1. Here's an old trick: Put the crab in the freezer for 15-20 minutes. This does not freeze it, or affect the quality, but it does put it in a sleep state, so that there is no kicking when you put it in the boiling water.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lala

        I tried this once with Dungeness, thinking that it might kill them, actually. Turns out I was very wrong, and while they did go into a sort of sleep state, it lasted exactly ten seconds after I pulled them back out. Before I could get them in the pot they were trying to pinch me!

      2. If you want to dispatch them before boiling, you can cut the ventral nerve cord on crabs or lobsters (I just did it with my friends). Take a knife and stab them in the middle of their "belly", that being where the flap beneath them (actually their abdomen folded up beneath them) ends. The abdomen ends in a triangle-like shape, so just stab them right at its tip, or on either side of it, with a knife, and they will stop moving in seconds. The deeper you stab the better. Its the same basic deal with lobster, except there abdomen isn't folded up beneath them, so just stab the knife right in the center of where their legs meet.

        4 Replies
        1. re: cuttlefish1

          You just cut the ventral nerve cord on on your friends!?!

          1. re: alwayscooking

            That is totally what I thought, too. Practice on your friends, 'til you get good enough to try the procedure on a crab! Bonus: more crab for you.

          2. re: cuttlefish1

            I pretty much to the same (to the crab, not to my friends) but I use a chopstick...seems to work well.

            1. re: karen2006

              I tried this, and the crabs kept wiggling for maybe 30 seconds or a minute. Are you sure this technique causes instant death? How can I differentiate between post-death spasms and a slow and painful death?

          3. Rip the shell off, break the body in half. Takes about 2 seconds. Sure beat killing them slowly with hot water, Or just dunk them into a pot of boiling water, again much quicker.

            They are bugs, they don't think like you or I.

            1 Reply
            1. re: PeterL

              That is how I do it, only way to insure you have fresh crabs.

            2. I doubt seriously that a microwave is more "humane" than plunging the crab into a pot of boiling water, or into a steamer at full temperature.

              Look, I get it, really. If you are vegetarian for health reasons, please ignore the rest of this post. But if your concern about killing animals is what prevents you from eating meat, eating fish and seafood is somewhat hypocritical, correct? So, you either need to get over this or eat this food only at restaurants if you don't like doing this.

              I personally believe that nature intended for some living things to be eaten by other living things. It's the cooking part that truly separates us from the other species, so go for a hot boil bath, or go the opposite, and slow down the metabolism of your live crabs by putting them in an ice water bath before you cook them. They can stay that way for hours and will be really groggy.