The best part of catching blue crabs has to be eating them. While not the most adrenaline-pumping way to catch your dinner, using crab pots to get a mess of crabs is very rewarding. There’s just something different about fresh-caught blue crabs. They seem plumper and sweeter than the ones you get from the store. With these summer crabs caught from the bay, I generally don’t cook them whole; instead, I will do a blue crab cajun boil.
I know that’s sacrilege for many people, but when the water temperature is 88 – 89F, I just don’t like the flavor of the mustard and head fat they hold. It could be different up north where the water temps aren’t as high or if they’re catching them in deeper water, but here I think it’s better to just clean them out before cooking.
Before I start cleaning the blue crabs, I ice them all down for a couple of hours. This will kill the crabs out right or chill them out so you can break them down easily. It’s up to you. You can use other methods of dispatching the crabs like cutting them in half with a heavy kitchen knife, or putting them in a freezer. I just prefer a cooler of ice.
To start cleaning the crabs take the top shell off. Once they’re dispatched it should be relatively easy. Just grab one side of the shell and then the legs and claw under that side and pull. The top shell should just pop off easily with a lot the guts attached.
Now that the gills – also known as dead man’s fingers – are exposed, they can be removed easily by hand and the little leftovers can be scrubbed away later.
Make sure to remove the mouth parts and filaments along with the gills. These parts along with the stomach will hold grit and sand.
Once everything has been removed it should look like this. Don’t worry about the little bits of guts left. We’ll clean those up a bit later.
Flip the blue crab over and remove the apron of the crab. This slots into the bottom of the body so a small tool to help push it out is useful.
Once everything has been removed from the crab, split the body in half. You can use a kitchen knife, an edge in the sink, or just your hands. This makes it a lot easier to clean the rest of the guts out of the crab. If you want to keep the mustard you can skip this step. It’s honestly personal preference at this point.
Once you split the crab in half, you can just shake the halves into the sink. Grab the half by the legs and claw with the body side being near your thumb and index finger. Then, give it a gentle whipping motion into the sink or trash can you’re working over. Most of the guts will fling off when you shake it this way. Anything left can be rinsed out with some water. Just don’t shake it too hard, you might sling some of the meat out.
The final step of cleaning the crabs is to just use a scrub brush and go over the crab with it. The legs and claws will hold some dirt and mud on them. So, give them a good scrub. The little bits of gills and membrane I said not to worry about earlier can also be scrubbed away now as well. Do note some blue crabs have a tan-stained shell, this will not scrub away so don’t worry if you catch a few like that.
Now that you have all your crabs dressed and cleaned, it’s time to prep blue crab cajun boil.
Blue Crab Cajun Boil – What you will Need
- Cleaned crabs
- Crab Boil
- Hot Sauce
Boiling crabs is incredibly straightforward. You can buy pre-made boil mix at most supermarkets. I prefer the granular mix over the boil bags and liquid boils; especially Louisiana brand crab boil. If you don’t have crab boil available, but have cajun or creole seasoning on hand, that will work as well. Just season the water to be salty and decently spicy. I like adding some minced garlic and Louisiana hot sauce to the blue crab cajun boil as well.
Adjust the boil to your tastes, just aim for it to be a little saltier and spicier than you’d like. The final product won’t be as salty or as spicy as the boil water. Once you got everything tasting how you like. Put the burner on high and get that water to a rolling boil.
Once at a rolling boil, drop the crabs in and leave it on high till it’s boiling again. Then, start your timer for 10 minutes. Boil for those 10 minutes and then cut off the heat. Add in a whole lemon worth of juice and the juiced peels into the pot. The most important step is to add some ice to the pot. Just enough ice to drop the temperature so it stops cooking the crab.
Once that’s done let the crab halves just soak in the boil. The longer they sit, the more flavor they’ll pick up. The spicier it’ll get. I usually soak mine for 15 -20 minutes, again this is a personal preference. Once they’re done soaking, pull the crabs and enjoy. You can serve with lemon wedges and drawn butter or just eat it as is.