Baltimore, MD

Wait a Crab Picking Minute. Marylanders Been Picking Crabs All Wrong?

Heather Jauquet

This video is going to show us how we've gotten it wrong all these years
Bushel of steamed crabsAlvin Matthews/Unsplash

I've been a Marylander for nearly 30 years by way of California. I married a Baltimore man 20 years ago, and one of the first things I had to learn was how to pick crabs. I’ve had to do it on my own ever since. The first rule of crab picking is that you pick your own. I quickly learned that marriage vows do not include picking crabs for your spouse.

Over the years, I’ve learned to do it. It’s not always pretty. Sometimes I hit the shell a little too hard with my mallet, and I would get pieces stuck in the meat. Picking crabs is a tedious task but made all the more fun with the company you keep. All you need is a good beer, lots of Old Bay, a mallet, and a knife at your side, and you’ve got all you need for a crab picking good time.

But I recently watched a video, and it’s has me wondering. Have I been picking crabs wrong all these years?

How do you pick a steamed crab?

  1. I always learned to take the big claws off first. There’s usually a nice little pile of them in the middle of the table. After the crabs are eaten, then someone goes through and gets the claw meat. Usually, we’re too busy going through the nooks and crannies of the crab to bother with the claw meat right away. However! The video I watched says to leave the claws on so that you can get have crab lollipops. Stay with me here. There’s more.
  2. Then you lift the 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. You can use a butter knife to lift the apron and peel it back from the abdomen.
  3. Turn the crab right side up and pull the top part away from the body. It should move like a hinge, like you are lifting a lid.
  4. Next, remove the “mustard.” That’s the yellow stuff you see. It’s the crab’s liver, and it is edible, but you don’t have to eat it. Honestly, I haven’t seen many folks eating it. While you’re there, remove the feathery things on the side. Those are the gills and are not edible. Just take them out.
  5. Still with me? Good. Then crack the crab in half from the center of the body. According to the video, the claws and legs should STILL be on the crab.
  6. If you have already taken the legs and claws off as I do, then you go in and pick all the meat from the crevices.

But wait, there’s more! AND you’ll get all the meat without having to search for it

There’s more. There’s more? Yes, there’s more. This is where the video and I deviate from how to pick a Maryland steamed crab.

According to the video, you crush the half a little bit. Then you peel off the back shell while holding the legs. The claw is still attached! You’re just taking the frame off, but keeping the legs and claw on. Still with me?

Then hold the base of the leg, squeeze, and twist. Now you have a crab lollipop. There is no cavity left and no tiny crevices to pick through. You have nothing but meat. Watch the video on how to do it.

I’ve been doing it wrong for 20 years

Is your mind blown? Because mine is. I’ve been picking crabs the same way without crab lollipops for 20 years. And this video just showed me how I’ve been doing it wrong for so long. So I don’t even know what to think.

How do you pick crabs? Does this video change your whole perspective? I think I’m going to give this a try the next time I’m picking crabs.

I’d really love to know your opinion on this one. How do you pick crabs? Have we been doing it wrong all these years? Let me know in the comments!

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Heather Jauquet writes articles centered around the DMV and her adventures in other local communities. Follow her to get information about Montgomery County education, government, and community news. When she's not writing, she's running. Got a story to share? Email her:

Gaithersburg, MD

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