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Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs: A Guide on How to Pick Them

Sep 26, 2014

The Crab Feast is a staple to many Eastern Shore towns around the Chesapeake Bay...especially in Maryland. While crab feasts are prevalent in the late spring and summer months, they're a great way to enjoy the fall too! Below are the supplies you'll need to enjoy your feast as well as picking directions.


Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs (steamed unless you want to steam them yourself)
Wooden Mallet (having a knife is also useful for the claws)
Old Bay / J.O. Spice
Drawn Butter (melted with lemon juice added if desired)
Shell Bowl / Trash Can


  • Pick a nice flat surface with plenty of room for everyone and cover it with the newspapers. Crabs get messy so having space for everyone makes eating them more enjoyable and the newspapers make for easy cleanup!

  • Pick up your first crab and remove the front legs with the claws by pulling them off where they meet the crabs body.

  • Crack the leg at the joint.
  • Position the leg vertically on the table and use the mallet to break it open. Just a wack or two to get the leg cracked and use your hands and/or knife to break it open and get the meat. For the claw, hold each end of the pincer and pull them apart. It you do it right, you should be able to pull out a nice bit of meat on the part that breaks away.

  • Break off the back legs of the crab.
  • Flip the crab over so it's upside down and locate the apron. On a female crab this will be rounded and on the male crab it will be pointed. Use your fingers of a knife to get under the apron. Pull it back and break it off cleanly.

  • Turn the crab back right-side up and place your thumbs at the back end of the crab where you just broke the apron off. Pull the top of the shell from the bottom of the crab and separate the two parts.

  • Discard the top of the shell or leave it near by to scrape off extra seasoning.
  • In the body of the crab you will see feathery white/grey pieces which are the crab's lungs. Some people call these "Dead Man's Fingers". These aren't edible so remove them and toss them. You will also see a yellow substance which is called "mustard". This is the crab's liver and is edible, but an acquired taste.

  • Place your thumbs in the center of the crab and break it in half. This allows you to get meat from each side.

  • Use your fingers (or knife if necessary) to remove all the meat from each side. Once finished, enjoy your next crab!

  • Once finished, you can use the leftovers to make crab soup or just roll everything up in the newspaper and throw it away.

We hope you found this information helpful and enjoyed reading how to properly pick a crab!
*Images courtesy of