Brown crab is a delicious crustacean that is popular in many coastal regions. With its sweet, succulent meat and rich flavor, it can be the star of many meals. Learning how to properly select, prepare and cook brown crab will help you enjoy this seafood at its finest.

1. Selecting And Buying Brown Crab

When selecting live brown crab to cook, there are a few things to look for to ensure you choose high-quality specimens.

  • Look for crabs that are active and lively when you pick them up, not sluggish or lifeless. Their legs and pincers should move energetically.
  • Choose crabs that feel heavy for their size, which indicates plump, meaty bodies. Avoid any that feel unusually light.
  • Examine the shell, ensuring it’s intact with no cracks or damage. Discard any with broken or missing appendages or shells.
  • Opt for crabs that are a reddish-brown color rather than grayish, as fresher crabs tend to be more vivid.
  • Make sure the underside apron is firmly attached on male crabs.
  • For females, choose crabs with a rounded, dome-shaped shell rather than flat, which signals they are not carrying eggs.
  • The ideal size is around 5-7 inches across, measured by the width of the shell.
  • Buy live crab on the day you intend to cook it for ultimate freshness. Place on a damp towel and refrigerate until ready to cook.

2. How To Cook Brown Crab


  • 2-3 live brown crabs, about 1 1⁄2 pounds each
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Spices and aromatics (optional – such as thyme, parsley, lemon slices, peppercorns, bay leaves, etc.)


  • Large pot with lid
  • Colander or spider strainer
  • Large bowl for cooked crab
  • Wooden mallet or spoon for cracking claws
  • Small hammer or nut cracker
  • Seafood forks
  • Towels


Fill a large pot about halfway with water and add several good pinches of salt so it’s lightly seasoned. Bring to a boil over high heat.

While waiting for the water to boil, prep your crab by rinsing under cold water and using kitchen shears to remove the triangular tab on the underside.

Once boiling, carefully lower the crab into the pot. Cover and return to a boil then lower heat to a simmer.

Cook for about 12-18 minutes per pound. (A 1 1⁄2 pound crab will take 18-27 minutes). Add any desired spices, aromatics or extra salt to taste.

Use tongs to periodically turn and rotate the crab while simmering so it cooks evenly.

When the shell turns bright red, use tongs to carefully transfer the cooked crab to a colander to drain and cool slightly.

Set the crab on a towel-lined surface. Using a mallet, crack the claws and legs, separating them from the body.

Flip the crab over and pry off the top shell. Remove and discard the feathery gills.

Crack open the body and legs to expose the meat. Use a small hammer, nut cracker or pick to reach the leg meat.

Use seafood forks to pull the meat out in chunks, taking care not to crush or shred it.

Serve crab meat chilled, at room temperature, or briefly warmed in melted butter or olive oil. Enjoy on its own or in dishes like pasta, salad or sandwiches.

Properly cooking and preparing brown crab takes some time and effort, but it’s worth it for the delicious, tender meat inside. Following these steps for buying, boiling and cracking into the coveted crabmeat will give you the very best experience with this gourmet seafood.

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julia jane

Julia Jane is a home cook inspired by her mother's cooking. With the desire to share my cooking experiences with everyone, she created this website

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