How to Pick a Crab

Hammer & Claws’ Joshua Morgan’s step-by-step guide on getting the most from a blue crab
Jane Bruce

It might not be easy to pick a blue crab, but it's certainly worth it.

There are few things more daunting and infuriating in the food world than looking at a piping-hot blue crab, one fresh from the steamer that smells intoxicating and is covered in Old Bay seasoning, and having absolutely no idea how to get any meat out of the sucker. Once you know what you’re doing, though, it’s actually quite easy if you can get over a bit of squeamishness. Joshua Morgan, the organizer of New York’s Hammer & Claws Festival, which will be hosting its third annual Maryland blue crab feast on Sept. 21 and 22, walked us through the process, and after viewing our slideshow you’ll be pickin’ crab like it’s your job.

How to Pick a Crab (Slideshow)

At the event, which will be held at The Tunnel at the Terminal Stores Building in Manhattan on Sept. 21 (with seatings at noon and 8 p.m.) and Sept. 22 (seating at noon), nearly 50,000 Chesapeake Bay blue crabs will be enjoyed along with Abita beer, corn on the cob, cornbread, and Pat LaFrieda hot dogs, and it’s all you can eat-and-drink for $95 (for adults) and $50 (for children aged 6 to 12). A la carte options will include peel-and-eat shrimp and wines from Gotham Project. And even if you’re a complete crab novice, you won’t feel out of place there as long as you’re willing to get your hands a little dirty.

"All different types of people come through, and that’s what gets me the most excited," Morgan told us. "Everyone from die-hard Marylanders to people who have never eaten crab will be there, and it’s more like a sit-down dinner because everyone’s in it together, and eating crabs takes a little work."

And while it isn't easy to get meat out of a crab, the process is all a part of the experience. "It takes time, patience, effort, and a little bit of determination, but that’s the fun part of it," he continued. "You have to work for your food, but that makes the reward even sweeter."

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Sitting down with a big group of people and working your way through a mound of fresh crabs can be one of the most satisfying meals you’ll ever eat, or it can be one of the most frustrating. While you can always learn on the fly, it’s always better to study up in advance on the right way to pick a crab. So Morgan dropped by our test kitchen with a sack of crabs and some Old Bay, and waked us through the process. Click here to learn how to pick a blue crab, the right way.