Last week we featured a healthy recipe for Spicy Caribbean Crab Claws boiled with spices and habanero peppers. For those of you who may be new to whole or in-shell crab, we offer this handy step-by-step guide for cracking ‘em open and getting to that sweet, tasty meat.
Crab claws consist of a few different segments connected by flexible joints. Before you start cracking, twist each joint apart so that you’ve got individual segments to work with. This is easy and doesn’t take much force.
First, twist apart the claw and arm segment.
Then, twist the little pincer away from the larger part of the claw. If you don’t have a seafood pick (more on these later this week), you can now use this to get to hard-to-reach meat.
Now, use a pair of metal crackers (also to be covered later this week—often sold as nutcrackers) to break the actual joint away from the claw. Don’t throw that joint away! It’s full of meat that’s difficult to get to, and it makes a great addition to a pot of shells for making stock.
Crack, scrape, and poke
Now that you’ve got your pieces broken down, you should have some meat exposed. Use your crackers to gently crack the shell and break it away, allowing you to pull the meat out and to set it aside (or eat it!). The plump part of the claw contains a thin piece of cartilage in the middle that the meat will cling to, so keep that in mind as you work.
Use a pick to get into the smaller nooks, scraping meat away when it sticks to the shell and pushing big chunks through the ends you’ve broken open. Don’t forget to save those shells! If you’re patient enough, you’ll end up with a nice big mound of meat.
One of my favorite crab memories is of my parents making my sister and I “crab lollipops.” They’d leave the claw in-tact, pincer and all, and meticulously break away the shell to reveal all of the meat in one piece, which we’d then gobble up.
It takes some practice to do this without totally busting through the whole thing and ending up with lots of little pieces, but if you’re careful and gentle enough, it yields really nice, full chunks of meat. I had to try three or four times before I got one, but after that I had it down.
And that’s all you need to crack into some crab claws!