This post will focus on cleaning or processing the blue crab after they have been cooked and before any recipes will take place. Better said by separating the crab meat from the shell.
If you still have to make your blue crabs turn red check out this post –
After you have thoroughly cooked your newly caught or purchased blue crab, it is time to clean them so you can either eat them or process them for the meat. The first step is to get everything together so you don’t have to do it once you have gotten into the cleaning process.
- Bowls for the refuse or shells – larger bowls so they can pile up the trash
- Bucket – for the main body shell to temporarily store – these take up a lot of space and need a place to be.
- Bowls for the crab meat – With a lid would be preferable so you can save the crab meat for another day in the refrigerator.
- Newspaper – The more newspaper the better. This will be used for a staging area and then for cleaning up to store the trash. You can also catch up on the news and the latest sales while cleaning the crab meat.
- Plastic bags – grocery bags work well, but trash bags or any other type can be used (re-use or recycled)
- Nutcracker – for the claws mostly
- A thin pokey tool – ice pick, wood skewer, toothpick, sometimes it helps to poke the meat out and not have to break it again.
Once you get all this together, spread some base newspaper out onto a counter or table. This is going to take a while so you want to do it somewhere that you are comfortable.
1 – start with your full trays of crabs and start pulling the claws off and putting them in a separate bowl. This will help the person who is processing them do the same thing over and over. If you are wanting to eat the crabs in spaghetti sauce or some other way where you want to leave the claws on, then skip over this step.
2 – Pulling the main body shell off – wrap your finger around the point of the shell while holding your thumb towards the other side of the shell and pull straight up. The shell should pop off, then throw in the bucket or somewhere they can pile up. This will make a mess with the juice if you let them get away from you so hold still and don’t splatter.
3 – Now start removing the insides – the lungs, the front feelers, the backside, then the middle, this is the first step before washing. Shaking it into a bowl should loosen it up. Then pull all you can out. We want to remove all the yellow stuff, but this step won’t remove it completely.
4 – set these newly processed bodies onto another tray and now we are ready to wash the rest of the insides out.
5 – Once you are ready, start washing off the bodies. You should now be able to see that you only have meat and cartilage left. They should look clean and neat or all white. Make sure that all the yellow stuff is out of there. It should not hurt if there is a little residue left, but get as much as you can! These are now ready to eat (knowing they are thoroughly cooked). This post is going further than eating them now to get the meat ready for crab cakes. You can do many things with the blue crabs at this point.
6 – To process the claws, take the nutcracker and crack the main body of the claw right behind the claw joint. This should free it up to break it open. There is a piece of cartilage that has to be taken out, then there is a nice chunk of meat to harvest. The knuckle between the two claw sections does not have much in it unless the crabs are really big, then there might be a small chunk in it. The other part is the same, crack it open, remove the cartilage and harvest the meat.
7 – Cleaning the bodies is a little more challenging, because you have to pay attention to which bowl is the good crab meat and which bowl is the blue crab trash. Take and break the body in have. Leaving the legs on will give you something to hold onto while breaking it apart. Now take the half and put your thumb through the top of the shell, this will break the half into another half and begin to now separate the legs. Now that this is open, the crab meat should start to come out. Now as you break it apart by separating the legs from one another you will see the meat is attached to each leg. Continue and pull the good crab meat out and put into the bowl. The newspaper is now so you can just drop the pieces onto the counter while you are pulling the crab meat out. Some will go better than others and after you have done a few you will develop a style of separation.
8 – Cleaning up should have been taking place while these other steps were going on, especially if you had more than 1 dozen blue crabs. Take the shells and place in the newspaper that has been soiled while cleaning. Place this onto new newspaper and wrap up the trash with the top layer of newspaper, then continuing with the lower layers. Once you are comfortable with the amount of newspaper you can take this and place in a plastic bag and tie tight. Now take this bag and put into another bag. 3 bags is not out of line, because I would then take these smaller bags and put into a larger bag.
9 – Depending on what you are going to do with the garbage is where to go from here. I would put these into the freezer until garbage day. If you live close to the saltwater you may be able to put the garbage in there, of course without all the newspaper and plastic bags. If you put this in your garbage can, you may have a huge problem the next day if it sits too long. The juice will eventually leak out and leave you breathless from the stench.
Now you are ready to put this crab meat into a recipe for crab cakes, crab alfredo, seafood salad, and more.
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