How to dress a crab

Written by alex bramwell
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How to dress a crab
Edible crab (Jeffrey Hamilton/Lifesize/Getty Images)

The edible or European crab is traditionally served dressed in Britain. All the edible meat from the shell, legs and body is extracted and put back into the cleaned shell. Choose to cook your own live edible crab in boiling water or buy a cooked crab from a fishmongers or supermarket. Choose a large crab for dressing (at least 2 pounds) as large crabs contain more meat.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Large cooked crab
  • Chopping board
  • Small knife
  • Teaspoon
  • Metal skewer
  • Hammer or nutcrackers

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  1. 1

    Place the crab on its back on a chopping board. Twist off the all the legs and the claws and set aside. Twist off the small tail flap at the base of the crab between the legs. Separate the core of the crab from its shell by placing your thumbs under the rear edge of the shell and pushing until it comes away.

    How to dress a crab
    Cracked crab claws and legs ready for picking (large cooked crab claws image by green308 from
  2. 2

    Remove the spongy gills from either side of the core. They are elongated and greyish with a tapered end. Also remove the stomach and intestines from the shell. These are gelatinous and found just behind the mouth.

    How to dress a crab
    Dressed crab served with brown bread and lemon (cromer crab thermador image by paul mitchell from
  3. 3

    Scoop out the remaining, brown contents of the shell and place in a bowl. Break the core into quarters and pick out all the white meat using a skewer and fingers. Remove any small pieces of shell that come out attached to the meat. Store the white core meat in a separate bowl from the brown, shell meat.

  4. 4

    Crack open all the leg and claw segments with a small hammer or nutcrackers. Pick out all the meat and mix in with the core meat. Shred the combined white meat until no lumps remain.

  5. 5

    Season the white meat with mayonnaise and lemon juice to taste. Mash the brown meat to an even paste and season to taste with Tabasco or Worcestershire sauce.

  6. 6

    Wash the inside of the crab shell thoroughly. Remove the overlapping rim, tapping it gently with a small hammer or pressing down with thumbs until it comes away. Place the brown meat in a central line inside the upturned shell with the white meat on each side.

  7. 7

    Serve the dressed crab with mayonnaise, brown bread and lemon wedges.

Tips and warnings

  • Choose a crab that feels heavy as some crabs are light and contain little meat. According to the Food Standards Agency, crab meat is a good source of healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
  • The Food Standards Agency warns that brown crab meat can contain low levels of dioxins and PCBs that can build up in the body. It recommends that you eat a variety of seafood and not eat brown crab meat too often.

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