At this point, we’ve covered most aspects of dungeness crab: catching (see Bless You, Charlie White!) cleaning (see Killing and Cleaning Dungeness Crab) and keeping (see Keeping Your Crab Catch Safe). Now, let’s get cooking!
Boiling may be the most well known method for cooking crab, either alive or cleaned, in heavily salted fresh water, or sea water. We’ve learned to steam crab instead of boiling. It’s a bit more economical, and, in our opinion, gives us better tasting crab.
While we kill and clean our crab before cooking, you can steam them live, if you prefer.
We put a couple of inches of sea water in a large pot, just to the under side of a rack or other spacer that will hold the crab off the pot bottom. We have a pasta pot with a fitted colander that works perfectly for this. We set the crab on the spacer, cover with a lid, and turn the heat on high. We set a timer for 30 minutes. We keep an eye the fluid level; we don’t want it to boil dry, but more likely, the cooking crab will create its own juice, and may raise the fluid level high enough to soak the crab.
When the time’s up, we can serve the crab hot. We prefer to dunk them briefly in cold sea water (or fresh, if necessary). Briefly—steaming’s better than boiling because the crab doesn’t fill up with water, so there’s no sense in soaking it after the fact.
The resulting crab will be less soggy, easier to pick and handle, and better tasting.
Some people flavor the steaming fluid by adding beer, wine, lemon juice, vinegar, soy or Tabasco. Favorite herbs would enhance the crab—use your imagination!
Steaming uses less water and less heating energy, as a full pot of water need not be brought to a boil.
I grew up eating boiled crab. It’s really, really good. Steamed crab, however, is better, in my opinion!
I suppose the series could include a post on how to eat crab. That, however, like certain other messy, spontaneous, joyous, and pleasurable activities, is best done in private.