Preparing crab is surprisingly easy. In most cases, it only takes a pot of water, a burner, and some seasoning. For most people, especially newbies, the hardest part of cooking crab is, well, buying them. It can be difficult to know what to look for, especially in live crabs, and gauging how much you should purchase is hard if you’ve never cooked them before. Below, you’ll find a brief guide to buying and storing fresh and live crab purchases.
What to Look For
When buying crabs, look for crustaceans that are still alive. If you don’t want to deal with the hassles of buying a live crab, purchase meat that has already been cooked and processed in some way. No matter what, never buy dead, raw crab – the meat will become mushy very quickly, and the flavor will change. If you’re buying crab portions in the shell, the exposed meat should look white, and as always, look for signs of freezer burn or blue and gray pockets.
If you choose to buy live crabs, look for animals that are moving around in the tank. This indicates a healthy crab, ensuring it will stay alive until you cook it.
If you’re lucky enough to live close to where crabs are sourced, do everything you can do buy what is in season. This ensures the best quality product possible, and you’ll likely save some money. If you can’t buy in-season, or if you don’t live near the ocean, consider an online vendor that guarantees high and fast stock turnover.
How Much Should You Buy?
If you’re buying live crabs, it may be difficult to know how much you’ll need to feed you and your guests. Crabs yield around 20-25% meat, which means the total amount you’ll be able to eat is around 25% of how much they weigh alive. To be safe, buy around 3 pounds per person. If you’re serving smaller crabs, a good rule of thumb is to get between 8 and 12 crabs per person, slightly less if you are planning to serve additional food.
Storing Your Purchase
If you buy live crabs, you want to cook them the day you buy them – or as soon as possible. Store the crabs in an open container lined with wet newspaper and put the container into the refrigerator. This ensures the animal stays moist (but not wet) and cool. If you have purchased fresh crab meat, refrigerate and eat it within two days of buying.
If you have chosen to order live crabs online, try to cook them the day they arrive. While most online retailers do their best to get crabs packaged and shipped soon after catching, it is difficult to know for sure. The best course of action is to schedule your delivery for the day of your special event or dinner. The crabs will arrive packaged in a cooler with ice or cooler packs. After inspecting the crabs, shut the cooler and store in a cool, shaded area until it is time to cook.
Learn more about cooking methods and different types of crab on our main page for buying crab.