How to cook and prepare a spider crab

Spider crab at Poco Bristol

Preparing crab takes time and is a real challenge, but so rewarding. It is the freshest and most flavourful way to eat it. I really believe that putting in the extra effort helps us value and savour the food we eat.

Store the live crab in the fridge under a damp tea towel for up to three days.

To cook, bring a pot of water (large enough to fit the whole crab) to the boil. Salt the water so that it tastes as salty as the sea.

It’s more humane to kill the crab before cooking. A live crab may shed it’s legs when boiled. Killing the crab beforehand prevents this from happening. Flip it upside down and pull open the flap on the underside. Skewer the crab through the center point with a small sharp knife or skewer and move from side to side. This will kill the crab instantly. The legs will go floppy but may still move and twitch with nerves. Watch my Broad Bean and Crab Bruchetta video to see how to do this.

Put the crab upside down into rapidly boiling water, bring back to the boil then start timing 12 minutes per kilo. For example a 1.5kg crab will take 18 minutes to cook. Once cooked remove the crab from the pan. Strain and keep the stock to make a fish stew or a paella. Stock will keep in the fridge for three days otherwise it freezes well.

Rinse the crab to remove any excess protein, allow the crab to cool. Remove the legs and claws and set aside. Pull the body and shell apart, scrape all of the brown meat out of the shell into a bowl. Remove the pointed gills from the central part of the body and discard, cut the body in half. Pick all of the flesh out of the honeycombed center into a bowl. Wrap the legs and claws one at a time, in a tea towel and crack open with a rolling pin or hammer. A sharp thwack should do the job. Pick all of the meat out. Mix the brown and white crab meat together or keep separate if your recipe demands so.

Crab is delicious served as it is with nothing more than a squeeze of lemon and maybe a twist of black pepper.

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