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How to Cook Dungeness Crab Legs (With Recipes)

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

how to cook dungeness crab legs, what is a dungeness crab, crab cakes

Next time you’re browsing through YouTube, try searching “mukbang crab legs.” The term “muk-bang” was first familiarized in Korea in 2011. The name was used to describe someone making videos of themselves or multiple people eating a gigantic portion of food and then posting it online, usually on YouTube.

Although there are multiple mukbangs involving other foods (burger dinners, ordering from Wingstop, dessert platters, etc.), the majority involve mukbangers eating, my personal favorite, a plate of crab. These are called crab boils and typically include either full crab or crab legs accompanied by corn on the cob, smoked sausage, and jumbo shrimp.

Mukbangs are a strange delight that have gotten over 6 million viewers to smack their lips at the delicious-looking feast. Among most of these crab boils include the most popular of crabs, the Snow Crab and the Dungeness Crab.

If you are fortunate enough to have fresh Dungeness Crab legs to prepare at home, follow these easy recipes and tips and have a mukbang of your own!

What Is a Dungeness Crab?

The heart-shaped crustacean coined its name from its origin in the Dungeness Spit. This sand spit is said to be one of the best habitats for crab, just northeast of Clallam County, Washington. The west coast shore creates a perfect environment for this species of crab due to the water’s temperature, where they can feed on other fish, worms, and clams.

The Dungeness crab takes on an oval-shaped shell colored with a light brown to purplish tint that can exceed 8 inches in width. These crabs are one of the most fished types of crab to ship both locally and nation-wide.

Dungeness Crab Vs. The World

crawfish meat, crayfish meatThough all crab is equally delicious, there are many variations of crab that have different textures, as well as prices by the pound, that may be of interest. Let’s take the most popular crab, the King Crab.

King crab is known to be a rare catch while fishing, and for this reason, it can be one of the most expensive crabs to purchase. Their legs have much more mass which makes them one of the most notorious crabs caught in the colder waters of Alaska.

The Snow Crab can also be found in Alaska but is an easier crab to find. Large bundles of these crabs are often processed in brine, which can give the crab meat a more salty or artificial taste. Its legs are less bulky but longer than the King crab.

The Rock crab is another affordable option. The crab meat is rumored not to be as flavorful as its competitors. Although clusters of this crab are not as long or meaty, the Rock crab is readily available for a quick crab craving. The female rock crab can sometimes contain eggs inside, which some are brave enough to eat.

We can compare our Dungeness crab to the male Rock crab, which is said to hold plenty of meat. Some hold this crab to a higher quality standard than the more famous King crab, due to a sweeter taste and flakier texture. The frozen Dungeness crab available in your grocery stores can vary greatly in location and price range.

Dungeness Crab Legs Recipe

  1. To prepare steamed crab, you first want to make sure that you have killed your crab before cleaning if preparing fresh crab legs. One trick is, while carefully holding the crab’s legs on both sides with each hand, slam the belly face-down on a hard edge. It will crack the middle of the shell that connects all the nerve endings, swiftly and humanely killing the crab in one motion.
  2. You should then twist both handfuls of legs, pulling them out of their socket and disengaging them from the shell. It will leave you bundles of Dungeness crab clusters to work with.
  3. lobster meat, cooking lobster meatA simple way to clean your crabs is to first boil or steam them for 8 minutes per pound.
  4. When the time is up, take the crab out of the pot and place in ice-cold water. Iced water will quickly shock the cooking process, and keep your crab meat perfectly cooked all through-out. The shell containing the meat will cook the crab further if simply left out to cool, so be careful. You can re-warm it in a steamer basket for 30 seconds if need be.
  5. After proper cleaning and cooking of the crab, you can then remove the outer shell if you have not already, as well as any pointy gills, mandibles (the mouthpiece), or viscera (internal organs or intestines).
  6. If you prefer smoked Dungeness crab, you should then take your freshly boiled crab and put it into a smoker for 20 minutes, along with your choice of flavoring.

Crab Cakes Recipe

If you’re looking to spruce up your freshly steamed crab legs, this delicious crab cake recipe by Nicole McLaughlin as entered into popular recipe-sharing website MyRecipes.com is sure to be the centerpiece of any dinner. This recipe produces one crab cake, enough to serve six.

Ingredients

  • Crabmeat 1 pound
  • Panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs) 1 ½ cups
  • Hot sauce 1 teaspoon
  • Worcestershire sauce 1 teaspoon
  • lobster crawfish, lobster crayfishLemon juice 1 teaspoon
  • Whole-grain mustard 1 tablespoon
  •  Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley 1 tablespoon
  • 1 egg
  • Mayonnaise 1/3 cup
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of salt (preferably Kosher)
  • 1 finely chopped celery stalk
  • Finely chopped red onion 1/4 cup
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons separately

Preparation

  1. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the celery, pepper, bell pepper, onion, salt. Cook for approximately three minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  2. Stir in mayonnaise, egg, parsley, mustard, lemon juice, Worcestershire, and hot sauce in a medium bowl and mix well. Stir into the vegetable mixture. Gently fold crabmeat into 3\4 cup of panko. Now, you need to form the dough into six patties. Dunk each patty into the remaining breadcrumbs to coat.crawfish cakes, crawfish cakes recipe
  3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook 3 crab cakes at a time (about 2 minutes per side) until golden brown. Repeat with remaining oil and prepared crab cakes.
  4. Bake crab cakes in preheated oven for 10 minutes until cooked thoroughly and slightly crisp. Serve with dip.

Tips for Fishing

  • Mostly, you will find crabs in colder temperatures of water.
  • Salmon heads/backs are the best bait to use to capture crabs.
  • You can use Chicken drumsticks as bait.
  • Once you have caught a few crabs, measure their shells lengthwise using a crab gauge or measuring tape. A good crab will be around 6 inches or more. A crab any shorter should be thrown back into the water to be fished again.
  • To quickly check your crab’s gender, flip the crab upside down. You will find a belly flap that is pointing towards the eye of the crab. If this shape looks like an upside-down “T,” it is a male, and if the figure has a more rounded look, it is female. If the crab is female, make sure to check for eggs when cleaning.
  • When ready to pull your pot (the cage to capture crab in) from the ocean, pull quickly. The force will keep down any crab that is hanging onto the outside of the pot.
  • The best time to place your pot in the ocean to capture crab is 2 hours before or after high tide. Crabs will most likely be hiding while the tide is high.

How to Break Your Crab Apart?

A true crab-lover will have a personalized method of how to crack crab clusters open to obtain the most meat. There are many different ways that people crack their crab open, including using a hammer, a nutcracker tool, or even their teeth to crack the outer shell. Here are some simple tricks to know when breaking your clusters.

  • Break the legs at the joints for easy removal
  • Break the piece at the center to pull the meat out
  • For the claw, break at the joint again and take off the knee. After pulling the small claw out, crack the shell with your cracker of choice and pull the meat out.
  • peel crawfish, how to peel crawfishWhen enjoying blue crab, open the tab on the belly side up, and pull apart. Pick off any gills, then break in half. Then further break each half into halves with your fingers and pull for meat.
  • Watch out for the yellow substance found inside of the crab shell. It is called the “mustard,” and is the excrement of the crab. Although usually a turn-off for most, this mustard is safe to eat if you dare.
  • If you have a crab that gives off a smell of ammonia, do not be alarmed. This smell is given off of older crabs and is not related to the health of the crab meat.

Toxic Crab

Not all types of crab found in the ocean are safe enough to eat. According to the Western Australian Museum, three main species of crab found in the Australian reefs can be toxic and sometimes fatal if consumed.

  • The Mosaic Crab
  • The Toxic Reef Crab
  • The Shawl Crab

Only a select few species of crab can be fished and sold safely out of a large number of species. These three species of crab are too toxic to consume. The majority of toxic crabs come from the Xanthidae family and you can easily identify them by their black-tipped claws.

toxic seafood, toxic crab

Some crabs themselves are not toxic, but gradually collect toxins from their diet. Crabs have no way of administering poisons to their “prey,” so poisoning would occur during the consumption of their meat. Xanthid crabs tend to accumulate saxitoxin and tetrodotoxin. These substances are lethal. The toxin collects mainly in their eggs, as well as muscles. These toxins are also a neurotoxin and can result in paralysis.

Conclusion – Hail the Dungeness

Aside from its strong demand, you can find the Dungeness crab as the symbol for the Zodiac sign of Cancer. According to ancient myth, the Latin root of the word “crab” can also be translated to describe the star constellation that is known as “Cancer.” (Also, those with the sign of Cancer can take on “stubborn” characteristics, like the shell of a crab!)

Many people enjoy and favor the taste and overall quality of the Dungeness crab. Yes, it is a popular favorite even above the King Crab, but the popularity can also be a risk to the species of the Dungeness. As with any living thing, the more often that it is harvested for human use, the more difficult it will become to find over time. I suggest enjoying a dish of crab on special occasions, or as a rare treat.

It would be a shame for the foods that we love to become rare or even extinct. For now, you can enjoy Dungeness crab legs from your local seafood market and most seafood restaurants.

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

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