How to Prepare and Dress a Crab in 7 Easy Steps

Cornish Food - Food From Cornwall - Cornish Recipes
Photo © Elaine Lemm

Crab is plentiful around the British and Irish shores and is possibly the most underrated of our native seafood. A fresh, meaty crab is just delicious when eaten fresh, and for me, by the sea. One of my all-time favourite sandwiches is at the Ship Inn, in Northumberland.  The delicate sweet white meat, when tucked between two slices of thinly cut buttered brown bread, is the stuff of dreams in its simplicity and flavour.


How to prepare (dress) a crab is relatively straightforward and quick to do. You can ask a fishmonger for a dressed crab, but it is cheaper to do it yourself.

The hefty crab I bought - right in the picture - had already been cooked by the fishmonger and if you are a little squeamish, this probably the best way to buy it. Preparing the crab after cooking is very easy.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 10 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Place the crab on its back onto a large chopping board and snap off the tail flap, legs and claws. With a fresh crab, this should be very easy.
  2. Carefully push a chef's knife or large knife between the shell and the body of the crab, twist and the shell should open.
  3. Inside you will see the 'dead man's fingers' (off-white spongy gills) which must be removed. Then remove the stomach sac and hard membranes inside the shell.
  4. Using a teaspoon scoop out the brown meat, place in a small bowl and mash gently with a fork.
  1. Remove any white meat. You will need to root around in the nooks and crannies to find it all. Keep to one side.
  2. Crack each of the legs and claws and pick out all the meat. Once removed check through the flesh to make sure there are no splinters of the shell.
  3. Return the brown meat to the centre if the shell and the white meat to each side. Then stand back and admire your work. 
  1. Serve with a good mayonnaise, brown bread, a wedge of lemon and a little finely chopped parsley if liked.

Handy Tips on Dressing Your Crab

  1. Keep a good supply of kitchen paper at hand for mopping up any crab juices.
  2. Make sure any knives used are strong and sharp.
  3. Clean down all surfaces thoroughly when finished.
  4. Prepared crab should be kept chilled, crab meat spoils very easily and quickly.

What You Will Need for Preparing Your Crab:

  • Large, fresh, cooked crab.
  • Tea towels and paper towels.
  • A chopping board.
  • A sharp, sturdy kitchen knife.
  • Crab crackers or a lightweight toffee hammer.
  • Bowls for the brown and white meat.