How to Clean and Crack Hard-Shell Crab

by Contributor ; Updated September 28, 2017

Items you will need

  • Dungeness Crabs
  • Heavy Knife
  • Kitchen Shears
  • Lobster Picks
  • Nutcrackers
  • Mallets
  • Small Hammers

How to Clean and Crack Hard-Shell Crab. Dungeness crabs have more meat in proportion to their body weight than any other hard-shell crabs - and they're easy to eat, too. You can clean and crack crabs before or after cooking, but be sure to cook hard-shell blue crabs before cracking.

Step 1

Place crab on a table, belly-side up.

Step 2

Pull off triangular-shaped belly flap, or "apron."

Step 3

Turn over and remove shell by inserting your thumb between body and shell at rear of crab and pulling shell up.

Step 4

Twist off claws and legs.

Step 5

Use a nutcracker or small hammer to crack open the leg shells.

Step 6

Pick out meat with a lobster pick, fork, or tip of a crab claw.

Step 7

Use a spoon to scoop out crab meat and roe (also called "crab butter") from the inside of the shell. Keep the roe or discard it, depending on your preference.

Step 8

Pull off the spongy gills and small paddles at the front of the crab and discard.

Step 9

Use a knife to cut the crab's body in half lengthwise and then into quarters, if desired, or simply snap the body in half. Pick out meat.


  • If crab is alive, kill it by placing a heavy knife over its belly lengthwise and hitting the knife with a mallet to cut through the crab.


  • Watch out for live crabs' pincers.