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How to dress crab

This step-by-step guide – with photos for each process – makes it easy to dress your freshly caught crab

crab jaws

Dressing a crab is simpler than you’d think and it’s the freshest way to enjoy your delicious catch. The common European crab has two types of meat in its shell: white, firm meat, and the softer brown meat, which has a more intense “crab” flavour. You should keep these two meats separate until you have finished dressing your crab. To serve, pack half of the shell with dark meat, the other with white, season, and serve with lemon wedge.

1: This boiled and cooked male spide crab is ready for preparation

crab2: Grasp the back of the shell and pull it over the body to separate it.

crab shell

3: To make removal of the brown meat easier, press down on the jaws with your thumbs until a crack appears. You may want to put a tea towel under your thumbs to prevent them being cut when the jaws give way.

remove brown meat from crab

4: Pull gently on the jaws and most of the meat should come away with them.

crab jaws

5: Pulling the jaws away from the shell leaves a clean, empty shell and means you can avoid digging around with a spoon or knife to extract the meat.

crab shell

6: Twist the legs off the body, and twist the joints in each leg until they crack. If you are lucky, the meat can be gently withdrawn while still attached to the ligaments from each leg.

crab legs

7: Remove the gills, or dead man’s fingers shown in the picture, from the body and discard. Split the body in half. Using a knife, work your way through each half to remove the meat.

crab gills

Looking for a recipe for crab? This delicious crab and mussel chowder recipe brings out the natural flavours of the ingredients that can be sourced from the sea.