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Dec 5, 2011 08:55 AM

Cooking live dungeness crab question

Since dungeness crab are currently in season here in the bay area, we were thinking to purchase a few and simple steam it to accentuate the natural taste and freshness of the crab. A couple of questions.

1. Should we clean the crab first prior to putting it into the freezer to put it to sleep? If yes, do we just run it under tap water?
2. Anyone have any great dipping sauce recipes? Anyone know how to make the sauce they serve with steamed/boiled seafood when we order at the good chinese restaurants?

Thank you

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  1. I'm confused by question #1. Are you freezing the crab before cooking them?

    2 Replies
    1. re: Sushiqueen36

      No, just the 10 minutes to put it to sleep before steaming it. The question is should I clean it first after buying them live?

      1. re: M_and_H

        Like what SherBel said.
        Don't clean before cooking and I also don't understand the freezer thing. Cleaning before cooking, in my experience, detracts significantly from the flavor. We've also never steamed them - we boil in seawater if possible (we are lucky enough to usually catch our own) and salted water if not.
        I also prefer butter for dipping but if you've got very fresh crab and you boil it in salted water, I am happy with no dipping at all. We usually dump ice on them just out of the cooker but I'm always the one grabbing the crab before it's cold; it's so good when it's warm.

    2. I don't clean them, and I've never put them in the freezer...don't know what to think about that. I just swiftly place them into a big stockpot of boiling water.

      Can't help with the dip, I'm a butter-for-dipping gal.

      1. Ok. Just re-read your post and thought of another comment. By "cleaning them" do you mean the outside shell? When I think of cleaning a crab, I am thinking of taking the top shell off and removing the innards. Cleaning the outside of the shell won't change the flavor of the cooked crab but removing the shell and innards will.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sushiqueen36

          I was referring to cleaning them under running tap water and maybe a brush, since we'll probably buy them from a tank from a local asian grocery store. Who knows what surfaces it touches between the pots from the ocean to when it reaches the tank.

        2. I think what you are really asking is - should you KILL them and clean them first before steaming, or steam them whole.
          I think you should clean them first as steaming will be an inhumane (read; slow) death, vs. plunging into boiling water which is quick.

          I live in Seattle, and go crabbing - well, used too often - and we always cleaned our crabs right away as the taste is better if they don't sit around with guts in them after cooking. Also, in your case, this is the way to go as you are steaming, which is faster and better with only the meat to steam, not all the viscera, etc.

          Get the crab to put it's legs out - poke at it with a fork or something (best if there are two of you), and you might want to do this outside. Grab the crabs legs on each side - all of them - big hands are a big help here. Working quickly and decisively(!) position the crab above a stake or such and bore down hard on the stake, simultaniously pulling at the body sides, and pushing the carapace upward with the stake. In a moment, the crab will lose it's carapace - shell, and the body will come apart into two halves. Most of the viscera will fall down at this point, and your crab is instantly dead with the actions. You can then rinse the 1/2's to clean the final guts away.

          Then steam the neat clean 1/2s. Voila!
          We used to do this on our boat, using one of the railing stantions, and let the guts fall back in the water as fish food. YOu might want to put a bowl or pail below your work area to catch 'em.
          Please DONT think putting a crab in the freezer to 'sleep' won't wake up when he hits hot steam. That would be mean.

          Good luck

          1 Reply
          1. re: gingershelley

            I have to completely disagree regarding cleaning the crabs before cooking. When the crab meat (or just about any meat for that matter) comes into direct contact with the cooking water, it dilutes the flavor. The innards contribute to the flavor in a good way. Also, as we clean the cooked crab, we enjoy the "crab butter" that collects in the shell (see thread from another CH'er:
            When you see cooked crabs for sale down at Pike Place Market, they are whole for a reason.

          2. I just steam or boil in a very small (not immersed) amount of water to cook/kill, and since they're out of the ocean, have never come across a dirty Dungeness. RE: sauce, black bean sauce garlic ginger green onion is brilliant with crab. Google "black bean sauce crab" and you'll get many delicious and simple options.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rcallner

              I think the idea of putting them in the freezer for a few minutes is a humane deal rather than a culinary choice. I have a really hard time dumping live things into boiling water ever since an old friend brought back a bunch of live lobsters from Cape Cod on the plane. Ala Annie Hall, they skittered around on the kitchen floor and then banged against the pan when they were dropped in. Ever since then I can't do it.

              I realize that just because I don't participate in killing them and don't have to watch, I'm happy to scarf down crab and lobster as often as I can afford it.

              This is a big dilemma because cooked and cleaned crab is very expensive. I'm going to try to get my sister to do it next time.

              Signed, "Wimpy in Oaktown"