Blue crabs, also referred to as Atlantic blue or Chesapeake crabs, have a taste similar to, but not quite as sweet, as their West Coast counterparts. Crabs from both coasts are prepared the same way -- steamed. Crabs degrade and develop toxins quickly after dispatching, and because there is no reliable way of determining when they died, only live crabs are suitable for cooking. Also, although a crab steamer has more capacity than a stockpot with a steamer basket insert, both perform the same function and produce the same results.
Fill a crab steamer to its fill line with water or fill a stockpot with 4 inches of water. Add 10 black peppercorns, five fennel fronds, five sprigs of dill and 2 tbsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Place the steamer basket in the stockpot and cover.
Bring the water to a boil and add the live blue crabs to the basket. Cover the crabs and steam until the shells turn bright orange, approximately 20 minutes.
Remove the crabs from the steamer and place on a serving tray. Season the whole crabs to taste with a spice mixture, if desired. Spice mixtures commonly used with blue crab typically consist of equal parts paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, dried dill, kosher salt, dried thyme, sugar, dry mustard and coriander seed.
- "The Professional Chef, Eighth Edition"; The Culinary Institute of America; 2006
- Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary: Steaming Blue Crabs
- South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources; Cooking and Cleaning Blue Crabs; J. David Whitaker
- Jeffrey Hamilton/Lifesize/Getty Images