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Food and Drink: How to Eat Crabs in Maryland
Maryland is famous for it's Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. So you haven't tried crabs in MD because you aren't sure how to pick them? Well, below are the steps you will need to learn as well as some ideas about eating crabs in Maryland if you are heading to a crab feast, picking up a dozen or planing a trip to a MD crab house.

Getting Started:

If you are picking up Maryland crabs and plan on eating them at home be sure to have newspaper or a table cloth to make your clean up easier. Also make sure to have enough crabs for your friends and family. A good estimate of how many crabs to get for each person is about 6 - 8. More or less depending on appetites. Also be sure to have some other goodies to eat and drink as well for your Maryland feast. Corn on the cob, hush puppies, coleslaw, beer, iced tea are just a few good ideas to go with your crabs. Besides that you will need some wooden mallets and paring, butter or even plastic knifes. These are pretty much standard eating utensils for Maryland blue crabs and small appetizer forks are nice to have but not necessary. Some condiments for the picked crabs meat are melted butter, vinegar and Old Bay seasoning. Try dipping the crab meat in all of these or just one or two at a time and see which combination you like best.

Buying Crabs in Maryland:

If you are buying Maryland crabs it's a good idea to call around to a few different crab vendors and see what the going prices are, the price will vary depending on season, availability and whether you are buying your crabs at a restaurant or from a road side crab dealer. Also ask about the size differences when you are buying crabs. The price goes up as the size of the crabs get bigger. Sometimes its better to buy medium crabs instead of large crabs because the large are not that much larger. However, the larger the crabs in Maryland the better chance to get large pieces of crab meat.

Picking Crabs:

Break off the crabs claws and legs
Step 1:
  Hold the crabs by the body and break off his claws and legs. Crack the crabs claws with a small wooden mallet. It's also possible to place your knife near the center of the claw and tap on top of it with your mallet, some Marylanders just use their hands to hit the knife but be careful if you are trying this with a paring knife. Then break open the claw with your hands after getting a good crack on the claw. You should be able to pull the crabs claw meat out easily at this point. If not, work on where you are cracking the claws. Move your knife closer to the edges or joints and once you start getting the crabs meat out in large pieces, remember that spot. You can dig the meat from the claws if some gets stuck, just use your knife or small fork. Then try your condiments, remember to have some drinks at hand. Old Bay seasoning on crabs is known to make Marylanders very thirsty.

 

The crabs come with their own pull-tabs!
Step 2:
  When you start working with the crabs body, flip it upside down and pry off the apron by starting with the pointed end. Be careful that you don't prick your fingers, crab shells are very pointy and sharp and can cut or prick your hands.

Pry crabs apart!
Step 3: Now use both hands and stick your thumbs between the top and bottom shells of the crab where the apron was previously covering. Separate the top part from the bottom part.  Remember that you are working with the whole crab and that you will need to get around some of the stuff you wouldn't if you just bought a can of crab meat at the seafood market.

Scoop out the yucky stuff and throw it on the table!
Step 4:
  You will want to scrape out the stuff that looks yellow and off-white. Scrape down to the white or clear colored shell is exposed, this is where the majority of crabs meat is located. This means the yellow gunk (mustard), spongy lungs, deadman's fingers, etc. Some tidy pickers use the top part of the shell to hold all of the unwanted insides. This is a hard step if you are not use to picking crabs but the rewards afterwards are delicious.

Break crabs in half with your hands, not kitchen shears like the rookie shown here!
Step 5:
  Next, to expose the meat inside the now cleaned crab, break it in half or use a knife to get a clean cut down the middle. You should be cutting from the front to back or at least in that direction. You do not want to cut the crab from left to right at this point. From here you can either pick out the meat with a fork or knife or you can quarter your pieces again with your knife. To quarter your halves, hold the half on end or on its left or right side of the crab. Then use your knife and cut the piece into two more pieces. This cut would be in the left to right direction if the crab was flat on the table with the knife in a horizontal position.
Here's the good part - the EATING in Maryland!
Step 6:  "Pick" the crab.  Dig the meat out of the little membrane tubes with a little fork or your fingers.  Make sure you get it all because you've worked hard to get this far and you should get some meat out of the deal!  If it looks like nothing's there, look again - this is the sweetest part of the crab and if you were to buy it in a store it would cost you a fortune
.

Keep in mind that any left over crab meat can be used to make delicious Maryland crab cakes.
Maryland is home to some of the best steamed seafood in North America.

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