Earlier this week we walked through a step-by-step guide to cracking and cleaning whole crab claws. Essential to the process of breaking through hard shells are two special tools: crackers and picks. Almost sounds like a honky-tonk country tune.
Metal crackers are made of two thin (but strong) rods hinged together at the top. A set of ridges on the inside of each rod creates the perfect shape for latching onto a shell and breaking through it.
To use the crackers, place your shelled morsel between the two rods, and squeeze them together. These things are strong, so it’s easy to smash through the shell and to tear the meat apart if you come at it with all of your strength. The seasoned shell cracker saves the brute force for the really tough spots and keeps a gentler hand for the more fragile spots.
Crackers work wonders, but they’re not perfect. Some of the larger, rounded segments of your crab or lobster are difficult to fit between the rods and grab onto. On the flipside, the skinniest little legs are too small to grab at all. That aside, they make the process a lot easier.
By now, you’ve got the shell broken and some of the meat out. But without fail, there’s a lot more hiding in hard-to-reach spots. The tiny little compartments of these shells are difficult for our fingers to reach into. And that’s where fine-tipped, nimble picks come in.
Picks are long, thin, and precise, like dentist tools. Sometimes they have pointed tips, sometimes fork-like tips, sometimes hook-like tips. These are spoon-shaped on one end. Many times, a set of picks will come with a set of crackers.
There are a few good stand-ins if you don’t have seafood picks. Fondue forks are usually a little larger but work well, as do trimmed skewers. If all else fails, you can twist away the little pincer on one of the claws and use that.
Crackers and picks are a standard part of place settings at crab shacks and seafood joints. If you’re a fan of fresh, in-shell lobster and crab, they’re a must-have for the home kitchen.