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How to Pick Crabs Like a Marylander


Learning how to pick crabs is a rite of passage for Marylanders.  Many locals grow up learning to eat these crustaceans at family crab feasts and, eventually, pass the knowledge of this summer tradition onto their children.  In the tourist town that is Ocean City, many out of state vacationers wish to partake in the local custom of picking steamed crabs on visits here, but may be unsure about or even intimidated by the process.  If you fall into this latter category, relax, we are here to help. There are many personal variations picking a crab, but the following step-by-step guide will walk you through the basics, and have you enjoying handpicked lump meat in no time.


Things you will need:

–          Crab knife

–          Wooden mallet

–          Old Bay seasoning

–          Melted butter

–          Vinegar

–          Cold beer

–          Friends/family


Start by selecting a fat, heavy crab from the pile, amd remove the claws and set aside.  You can also remove the legs and enjoy the small bits of meat inside, but many simply discard the legs and get right to the god stuff inside the body.

Next, flip your crab over and use a knife to remove the T-shaped apron on the crab’s belly.  Once removed, pry the shell and body apart from the back.  Discard the shell.

Then, using your knife or hands, scrape out the lungs and intestines of the crab, and discard.  The yellow substance, known as the ‘mustard,’ is considered a delicacy and eaten by many. We recommend giving it a taste.

Remove backfin meat from inner shell.

Once cleaned, break the crab in half to reveal the backfin meat.  Pull the meat out of their crevices in the inner shell of each half by hand or with a knife.  The lumps you remove are now ready to be eaten.  A traditional crab feast will include vessels of melted butter, vinegar, and Old Bay seasoning to dip the luscious meat into and enhance the flavor.

Pull apart pinchers and gently twist.

Remember the claws you saved earlier?  They contain the sweetest meat of the entire crab.  To eat, break apart at the joint separating the bicep and the pincher.  Then, using your knife or mallet, gently crack each shell at its fattest part.  Pull the bicep meat out with your knife or finger and simply break apart the pinchers and twist to remove the claw meat popsicle inside.  Dip the claw meat in your favorite accoutrement and enjoy.

For a more visual demonstration on how to pick crabs, please see our How to Pick a Crab video.

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