Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Steamed Dungeness Crab

So you've made the leap - bought a crab trap and a can of tuna, and dropped it near some other crab pot floats.

You go back, pull it up, and you have crabs - and they are keepers.  This is exciting!


video

Now what?

The bad news is you need to get these guys cooked pretty soon*.

The good news is cooking is as easy as boiling water, and after they are cooked, separating the tasty stuff from the yeuccchhhh is possibly even easier.

My Favorite Method**:

For the beginner - just leave the crabs whole and live.  Rinse them well with sea water (fresh water is OK too).  For the advanced crabber, get out your gloves, and clean and split the crabs first.

Get a hold of a pot with a Lid (essential) big enough to hold at least 1 crab, with some room to spare.
A "big, ol' crab cookin' pot" is great, but sometimes you just need to work with what you've got.
Line the bottom with smooth, flat rocks, the type that is easy to hold in your hand - the kind you'd think of as "skippin' stones."
[The rocks help hold heat.  With the little dinky galley burners, it takes a long time to bring the water back to a boil, so getting the rocks helps speed the cooking.  Wash them off and use them over and over. ]

Do you have to have rocks?  Nope - but they are handy.

Fill the pot with about 1inch of water - just over the top of the stones.

Bring the water to a steamy boil.
Put the crab in and clap on the lid.

video


Let the crab steam for 8-11 minutes.

Remove with tongs and let it cool enough to clean.

Cooling in the cockpit
Repeat with the rest of your crabs.  As you get a feel for your stove and the crabs, you can steam 2 or more crabs at a time.

When your crab has cooled - pop the top.

Get your crab to where you are going to rinse your crabs.  This is about to get messy.
You will need running water. The shower on your swim step, a hose, or a friend with a bucket of water to pour slowly over the crab while you are cleaning, are all good options.

Hold onto the shell the one hand, and the legs on one side with another.  Pull up on the shell.
All the soft stuff goes - and you can just rinse it over the side.  It belongs to the sea, so return it there.
Pull off the little "dead man's fingers" the floppy, pointy gills attached to the hard body under the shell.

Now your crab is clean.

Crack it open, extract the meat and munch!

can't talk, eating

- and to complete the perfect meal?
Melted butter (or even clarified/drawn butter or ghee - all the same thing)
Garlic Bread
a Big Green Salad

* Cook your crabs soon.  They can live out of the water for a bit - but they can get too hot or suffocate if it is too long.  Some options are:
Cooling the crab by putting it in your refrigerator in a paper bag.
Making a mini "live well"; If you have 1 or 2 crabs, they can go in your big crab cooking pot, just  change the water every 45 minutes or so.
If you have more crabs, a cooler works great - and change the water every hour.  The more crabs you have, the more important it is the water is changed thoroughly.  The crabs use up the oxygen from the water, and put waste products into it.  If you do not change the water, they can poison themselves if you have to hold them for too long in the same water.
The water changing method also means you can hold your crabs for quite awhile.  We've done it for 6 - 8 hours with no ill affects.  Just don't lose your bucket!

If you are unsure of the health of you crabs, poke them a little.  If they still act annoyed, you are in good shape.

**There are many other methods for cooking crabs, and all of them work pretty much the same - this is just nice for a small galley with a bitty little flame.

It is also a method that works if all you have is a big sauce pan, or a flat bottomed wok - with a lid.

However you cook the crabs, you must have a lid.

     You can also boil a pot of water and cook the crabs that way.  However - the crabs remove a huge amount of heat from the water when you put them in.  Then it takes the water ages to get back to the boil.  Fortunately it is not necessary for the water to be actually boiling to cook the crabs.
     Water boils at 212˚F, and the crabs cook at a much lower temperature.  Up to 3 crabs covered in water that started at boiling will still cook in about 8 - 12 minutes, as long as you keep the lid on, and the pot over the burner to keep adding heat.

You do need the rocks or something else to keep the crabs out of the water, to do the steaming method.
If the crab is half in the boiling water, the water will not come back to steaming temperature for quite awhile, and the part of the crab in the water will cook a different amount than the part out of the water.

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