How To Clean Dungeness Crab?

Last Updated on October 22, 2023 by Marjorie R. Rogers

To clean a dungeness crab, start by removing the apron and gills, then separate the body from the shell and rinse the crab thoroughly. Dungeness crabs are a popular seafood delicacy known for their sweet and tender meat.

If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some fresh dungeness crabs, cleaning them properly is essential to ensure the best eating experience. We will guide you through the process of cleaning a dungeness crab. By following these simple steps, you’ll be able to prepare your crabs quickly and efficiently.

So let’s get started and learn how to clean a dungeness crab like a pro!

How To Clean Dungeness Crab?


Equipment Needed

To clean dungeness crab, you’ll need a few essential tools, including a large pot, tongs, a crab cracker, and a small brush for cleaning the shell. These items will help you properly clean and prepare the crab for cooking.

Gathering The Right Tools For The Job

When it comes to cleaning a dungeness crab, having the right equipment can make the process much easier and more efficient. Ensuring you have the necessary tools before you start will help you avoid any hiccups along the way. Here are the essential items you’ll need:

  • A large pot: Choose a pot that is large enough to comfortably fit the crab and allow for easy submersion in boiling water.
  • Boiling water: Fill the pot with enough water to cover the crab completely when submerged.
  • Tongs: Use tongs to handle the crab during the cleaning process. This will help you avoid any accidental burns from the hot water.
  • Cutting board: Use a sturdy cutting board to clean and prepare the crab. Ensure it is large enough to accommodate the crab’s size.
  • Knife: A sharp knife is essential for cutting through the tough shell and separating the different parts of the crab.
  • Kitchen shears: These come in handy for cutting through the crab’s legs and hard shell.
  • Crab pick/cocktail fork: A crab pick or cocktail fork makes it easier to extract the crabmeat from the shells.
  • Bowl of water: Keep a bowl of water nearby to rinse off any debris or excess shell fragments.

Having these tools readily available will ensure a smooth cleaning process and help you tackle the task with ease. Now that you’ve gathered all the necessary equipment, it’s time to delve into the cleaning process itself. But before we jump in, it’s important to note that cleaning a dungeness crab can be a bit messy, so it’s a good idea to protect your work area with newspaper or a large tray to catch any splatter or shell fragments.

Ensuring A Smooth Cleaning Process

Cleaning a dungeness crab involves several steps to ensure you end up with delicious and edible crabmeat. Follow these guidelines to make the cleaning process as smooth as possible:

  • Prepare the pot: Fill the pot with enough boiling water to fully submerge the crab. Add salt if desired for extra flavor.
  • Handling the live crab: Place the live dungeness crab into the pot of boiling water using tongs. Be cautious to avoid getting your hands too close to the boiling water.
  • Cooking the crab: Boil the crab for approximately 15 minutes to fully cook it.
  • Cooling the crab: Once cooked, remove the crab from the boiling water and place it in a bowl of ice water to cool down.
  • Removing the shell: Carefully remove the top shell of the crab by gripping it and pulling it away from the body.
  • Cleaning the body: Rinse the body under cold running water to remove any debris or excess innards.
  • Separating the legs: Twist and remove the legs from the body by carefully breaking them off.
  • Breaking the shell: Use the kitchen shears to crack the hard shell of the legs so you can easily access the succulent meat inside.
  • Extracting the meat: Use a crab pick or cocktail fork to extract the meat from the shells. Be patient, as this can be a bit time-consuming.
  • Checking for shell fragments: Rinse the crabmeat in a bowl of water to ensure there are no small shell fragments remaining.

By following these steps and using the right tools, you’ll be able to clean a dungeness crab efficiently and enjoy the delicious reward of its sweet meat. Happy cleaning!

Preparing The Crab

Clean dungeness crab easily with these step-by-step instructions. Follow these simple tips to prepare the crab for cooking or serving.

Handling Live Dungeness Crab Safely

When it comes to cooking and enjoying dungeness crab, it’s crucial to handle live crabs safely to prevent any accidents or injuries. Here are some essential guidelines to follow:

  • Always wear protective gloves to avoid getting pinched by the crab’s sharp claws.
  • Approach the crab from the back, keeping your hands away from its front claws.
  • Hold the crab gently but firmly, ensuring it cannot escape or cause harm.
  • Avoid grabbing the crab by its legs or walking appendages, as this can harm the crab and also make it challenging to clean later on.

Humanely Dispatching The Crab

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of cooking a live crab or simply want to ensure a quick and humane process, you can choose to dispatch the crab before cleaning it. Here’s a humane method to consider:

  • Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a rolling boil.
  • Using tongs, grasp the dungeness crab firmly from the back and lower it into the boiling water headfirst.
  • Keep the lid on the pot to maintain a high heat level and prevent the crab from escaping.
  • Boil the crab for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or until it turns bright red in color.
  • Make sure to handle the cooked crab with oven gloves or tongs as it will be extremely hot.

Preparing It For Cleaning

Once you’ve either safely handled or humanely dispatched the dungeness crab, it’s time to prepare it for cleaning. Follow these simple steps:

  • Allow the crab to cool for a few minutes before handling it further.
  • Remove the large top shell, known as the carapace, by holding the body of the crab with one hand and gently lifting the carapace with the other.
  • Discard the carapace and set aside the crab’s body, which includes the legs and meat.
  • Using a pair of kitchen shears or a sharp knife, carefully cut the body into halves or quarters.
  • Rinse each section under cold running water to remove any residual sand or debris.

Remember, when cleaning dungeness crab, it’s important to prioritize safety and ensure that the crab is dispatched humanely if desired. Now that the crab is prepared for cleaning, you’re ready to move on to the next steps in the process.


Cleaning Process

Discover the best way to clean dungeness crab with this simple step-by-step process. With easy-to-follow instructions, you can enjoy this delicious seafood delicacy without any hassle.

Cleaning a dungeness crab can seem like a daunting task, but with a little guidance, it can be a breeze. Follow these steps to properly clean a dungeness crab:

Removing The Top Shell And Gills:

  • Flip the crab onto its back and locate the apron, a small triangular-shaped flap on the underside of the crab.
  • Lift and twist the apron to remove it from the body.
  • Place your thumbs under the shell, near the apron, and gently pry it off.
  • Set the top shell aside.

Cleaning And Rinsing The Body Cavity:

  • Remove the gills, also known as “dead men’s fingers,” which are feathery structures located on either side of the body cavity.
  • Rinse the body cavity thoroughly under running water, making sure to remove any residue or debris.

Removing The Claws And Legs:

  • Hold the crab with the legs facing up and locate the joint connecting the claws to the body.
  • Use a sharp knife or seafood cracker to break off the claws at the joint.
  • Gently wiggle each leg to detach it from the body.
  • Set the claws and legs aside.

Breaking Down The Crab Into Sections:

  • Hold the body of the crab firmly and twist off the remaining sections, separating the body into two halves.
  • Break each half into smaller sections, ensuring that each piece contains a good amount of meat.

Cleaning a dungeness crab requires a bit of time and patience, but the end result is worth it. Once you have completed the cleaning process, you can cook and enjoy this delicious seafood delicacy to its fullest. So, let’s dive in and get cleaning!

Final Steps

Discover the final steps to cleaning dungeness crab effortlessly. This guide provides easy-to-follow instructions, ensuring a perfectly cleaned crab every time.

Cleaning And Cracking The Claws:

Once you have cleaned the body of the dungeness crab, it’s time to tackle the claws. These meaty appendages hold a delicious treat inside, but they can be a bit tricky to crack open. Here’s how to clean and crack the claws to get to the tasty meat:

  • Hold the crab’s body with one hand and twist off the large claw from the joint closest to the body.
  • Use a crab cracker, a pair of kitchen shears, or the back of a knife to crack open the shell of the claw. Be careful not to crush the meat inside.
  • Gently pull the two halves of the shell apart, revealing the succulent pieces of claw meat.
  • Use a small fork or your fingers to remove the meat from the shell and set it aside.

Extracting The Meat From The Legs:

In addition to the claws, dungeness crabs also have meat in their legs. While it may seem like a tedious task, extracting the meat from the legs is well worth the effort. Here’s how to do it:

  • Remove the small walking legs from the body of the crab by twisting them off at the joints.
  • Use a crab cracker or the back of a knife to crack open the shells of the legs. You can also use a rolling pin to gently roll over the legs to crack the shells without crushing the meat inside.
  • Carefully pull the shells apart and extract the tender leg meat using a small fork or your fingers.
  • Remember to remove any small bits of cartilage that may be present in the leg meat.

Serving And Enjoying The Cleaned Dungeness Crab:

Now that you’ve cleaned and extracted all the delicious meat from the dungeness crab, it’s time to enjoy your feast. Here are a few serving suggestions and tips to make the most of your cleaned crab:

  • Serve the cleaned crab meat on a platter with lemon wedges, melted butter, and your favorite dipping sauces.
  • Use the crab meat to make crab cakes, crab salad, or add it to seafood pasta dishes for an extra touch of flavor.
  • Pair the cleaned dungeness crab with a crisp white wine or a refreshing beer to complement its delicate flavor.
  • Sit back, relax, and savor each mouthwatering bite of the freshly cleaned dungeness crab.

Remember, cleaning and cracking the claws and extracting the meat from the legs can be a bit time-consuming, but the reward is worth it. Take your time, enjoy the process, and relish in the deliciousness of this delectable seafood delicacy.

Frequently Asked Questions For How To Clean Dungeness Crab?

How Do You Clean Dungeness Crab?

To clean dungeness crab, remove its top shell, discard the gills and the guts, and rinse it thoroughly under cold water.

What Is The Best Way To Cook Dungeness Crab?

The best way to cook dungeness crab is to steam it for about 15 minutes until the shell turns bright red.

How Long Can You Keep Dungeness Crab In The Fridge?

You can keep cooked dungeness crab in the refrigerator for up to 3 days in a tightly sealed container.

Can You Freeze Dungeness Crab?

Yes, you can freeze dungeness crab. Just wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container before freezing.

What Is The Best Way To Serve Dungeness Crab?

The best way to serve dungeness crab is simply with melted butter or a lemon-garlic aioli for dipping.



Cleaning dungeness crab may seem like a daunting task at first, but with the right techniques and a little practice, it can become second nature. Remember to start by purchasing live, healthy crabs and handle them carefully to prevent injury.

Once you have your crabs, follow the steps of cleaning, including removing the top shell, cleaning out the internal organs, and separating the legs and claws. Rinse the crab thoroughly, removing any excess debris, and you are ready to cook or store them for later use.

Cleaning dungeness crab not only ensures a delicious meal but also promotes food safety. By taking the time to properly clean the crab, you can remove any potential harmful bacteria or contaminants, giving you peace of mind when it comes to serving this delectable seafood to your loved ones.

So, next time you have a craving for dungeness crab, don’t hesitate to follow these tips and enjoy the fresh and succulent taste of this pacific northwest favorite. Happy cleaning and happy eating!

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