Sweet, succulent crabmeat is one of nature’s greatest gifts to the dinner table. Cracking that crab without slicing open your hands, however? It can be tricky (especially after a few glasses of chilled rosé).
Luckily we got an expert to dish on the essential steps that lead to perfectly cracked crab: Chef Heidi Lane of Red Lobster. That means you get to spend more time enjoying the ocean’s bounty and less time wrestling with slippery crustaceans.
1. Choose your crab
You want to choose crab legs that are flavorful and meaty so your hard work pays off. “We suggest king crab, snow crab or our wild-caught Alaska bairdi crab,” Chef Lane told SheKnows.
Because almost all king crab is cooked and then frozen before it’s sold, you are better off buying them from the freezer section than from the fish counter, which is just going to thaw those same legs before selling them to you. You can save a few bucks by defrosting the legs yourself.
2. Prepare your crab
Since king crab legs and other large crab legs are almost always sold frozen and precooked, you just need to warm them through. Start by defrosting them in the fridge overnight, then steam them or simmer them in a pot of water until hot.
While the crab cooks? “Make sure you have all the right tools,” Chef Lane encourages. Invest in a crab cracker (like a big nutcracker specifically for crab), a seafood mallet for especially stubborn shells, a cocktail fork that can get tender crabmeat out of small spaces and a bowl for your crab shells.
3. Separate the legs
For easy meat retrieval, you’ll want to separate each leg from the cluster it came in. This should be pretty easy — a gentle twist and tug should do the trick.
4. Bend the legs
“Loosen the meat of the leg by bending forward and backward at the middle of each joint,” Chef Lane instructed. This will help you pull all the meat out of the legs easily once the shell is cracked.
5. Get crackin’!
Cracking the crab doesn’t have to be hard. “Take one part of the leg, crack it in half, and pull the shell off to slide the meat right out. For the claw, use your crab cracker to loosen up the shell, and pull out the meat with your cocktail fork,” said Chef Lane.
You can wrap a dishcloth around the crab before you start cracking to help protect your fingers and to prevent crab juice from spraying all over the table.
If you’ve been afraid to order crab legs at restaurants or to try cooking them at home because cracking them open just seemed like too much work, never fear. These five steps make it almost too easy to start enjoying crab legs. Your taste buds will thank you, but your wallet might have a thing or two to say about your newest obsession.