Letter to the Editor: First-timer at a crab feast and mystified? Here’s some help


Delawareans are blessed with not one but two nearby bays that are homes for delicious blue crabs: the Chesapeake Bay to the west and the Delaware Bay to the east. While we need not get into a debate over which bay has the tastier crustacean, a common question for anyone who’s never attended a crab feast is, “How exactly do you eat these things?”

Though exact methods may vary, this guide from the Chesapeake Bay Program will teach you the basics of picking a blue crab.



  • Steamed blue crabs
  • Knife
  • Crab mallet
  • Optional: old newspapers, a seafood cracker, paper towels, beer



Before you begin, cover your table with old newspapers or an easy-to-clean tablecloth, as picking crabs can make quite a mess!


  1. Remove all the legs of the blue crab by grabbing each one at the base and pulling it away from its body.
  1. Toss away the “flippers,” or the smaller back legs. Crack the little legs from the crab’s midsection in half and squeeze out any meat. With the larger front legs, access the meat inside the back portion by breaking them in half at the joints.
  1. Access the meat inside the front portion of the legs by cracking them open. To do this, use a crab mallet, the end of a butter knife or a seafood cracker. Just don’t use too much pressure!
  1. Flip the crab over, so its bottom side is visible. In the middle of the shell, there is a V-shaped flap called an “apron.” On a male crab, this apron is shaped like the Washington Monument. On a female, it is shaped like the dome of the U.S. Capitol. Slip your finger (or the blade of a knife) under the apron and pull it up and off the crab.
  1. Open the crab by wedging your thumbs into the gap between the crab’s shell and its body and pulling the two pieces apart.
  1. The feathery cones lining both sides of the crab’s body are the crab’s lungs. Sometimes called “dead man’s fingers,” these are inedible and should be removed. Scrape the rest of the innards out of the center of the crab’s body. The yellow material is known as “mustard” and is the crab’s liver. This is edible, but not everyone likes it.
  1. Using both hands, break the crab’s body in half from the center. This will help you access the meat located in the crevices on each side of the body.
  1. Remove — and eat! — the meat.

You are now a crab-picking expert. Repeat these steps till the bushel’s empty and your belly is appropriately filled.

Jake Solyst

Chesapeake Bay Program

Annapolis, Maryland


Editor’s note: This was originally published by the Chesapeake Bay Program

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