How To Clean A Blue Crab In 2 Easy Steps (Quick & Clean Way)

By: Luke Simonds on March 20, 2020
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how to clean a blue crab

Want to learn how to clean blue crabs the fast and easy way?

Most people boil them whole, but there’s actually a much better way to cook and clean them that saves you from having to deal with the guts and the gills when you’re eating them.

I’ve enjoyed eating them much more by cleaning them like this, plus I’ll share a secret tip that makes this whole process go very quickly.

If you like eating blue crabs, you’re going to love this video!

How To Clean Blue Crab The Easy Way [VIDEO]

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There are just two easy steps to cleaning blue crabs this way:

  1. Crack off the top of the shell
  2. Clean out the guts and gills (the easiest way to do this is to blast it all out with a hose)

This leaves lots of delicious meat in the corners of the body, in addition to in the claws and legs.

By cleaning crabs before boiling them, you don’t have to deal with the guts and gills on the dinner plate, which makes things much easier and appetizing.


blue crabs cooked whole

Hope you enjoyed this two-step process for cleaning blue crabs!

I’ve also got a blue crab cooking video coming up soon that I can’t wait to share with you.

Have any questions about cleaning blue crabs?

Or have another way that you’ve found to be better?

Let me know in the comments below!

And if you know someone who likes to cook blue crabs, please TAG or SHARE this with them!

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3 months ago

You can open the blue crab easier if you pull the key first ( under the bottom). Pull it back just like opening a beer can. Once you do that, the shell literally separates. Then pull shell apart.

David Eddins
29 days ago
Reply to  Luke Simonds

Cleaning them is my favorite way but I dont wash the mustard and stuff out. Pull the lungs of and rinse leaving the mustard and stuff It is good to eat.

Michael McMillan
3 months ago

Ouch!!!!!!! Just bit my tongue and shed a tear over watching half the taste of a dark roux or fine crab etouffee being washed out for the pin fish to enjoy. I know the clean presentation is more pleasing, but the “mustard” holds a lot of flavor. I have to agree with most…steam whole and savor the whole flavor of the whole crab.

Thomas W German
3 months ago

You just ruined that crab. For one thing, any dead crab gets thrown out. You don’t boil crabs, you steam them, alive and whole. Steamed with a mixture of beer, vinegar and water with lots of Old Bay or JO sprinkled on the live crabs in the steamer.

Bill Bennett
3 months ago

My favorite meal, steamed crabs pilled on newspaper and cold beer. I usually cook my crabs whole, shit cooked to some. I was from NJ, Del area. I feel cleaning them dries the meat out. I also like the taste of the mustard, which isn’t guts. I usually clean them for guests. If I clean them it is to make garlic crabs. Mix some beer, olive oil, garlic, and seasonings, then pour over the crabs and steam. Also, cook some pasta and pour the juice over it. Have some good Italian bread on hand to dip in the sauce. Make you smack your momma! I also have a killer method of cleaning blue crabs after they are cooked.
Making myself hungry.

Jeffrey Dudenhefer
3 months ago

Ohh boy!! I’m from Louisiana and that is a very different way. To each his own, but…… We boil whole in a seasoned broth with fixin’s. You can put corn, potatoes, sausage, garlic, onions, celery, and Zatarain’s crab boil (liquid or complete mix powder or both). Ice the crabs live for a couple hours before you boil to make them dormant. This helps keep the legs on when you throw them in the boiling water. It keeps their muscles from tensing up and making he legs, claws fall off. Boil 10-12 minutes, shut off fire, let soak. As they soak, air pocket inside the shell cools sucking in the seasoned broth, you will notice they start to sink. You can use a couple pounds of ice to cool the water, stop the cooking and make them soak up the liquid faster. When you remove, stack upside down on a tray, this keeps the juice from running out of the crab and everyone will be great when you crack them open. The yellow is the fat, fat taste great to momma. You stated gills, we called them lungs, crabs can live out the water, not certain lungs or gills, anyway they’re not edible. All the fixin’s in the seasoned broth are edible as well, you just have to add them with the right timing so all are cooked but not overcooked. Most Louisiana natives prefer cooking crawfish whole and live, crabs whole and live, and shrimp with heads on. We just think its better. C’est ce bon!

Love your videos and tips, keep them coming.

A. Rollins
A. Rollins
3 months ago

Just to clarify, Mr. Dudenhefer, all crabs have gills, even all species of land crabs. But, the wrong/too much humidity could kill any land crab.

Jeff Forton
3 months ago

Do you have a video which shows clearly how to break up a blue crab for bait?

Tony Acevedo
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Forton
Clarence Fox
3 months ago

I’ve been cleaning my crabs this way for years. I know this is not the way Marylanders do it and is considered offensive to not do it the traditional way. Nonetheless my family enjoy them better this way. All I would add to your method is to remove the sex organs and the cleaning process is complete. This is also a great way to freeze crabs for use over the winter season.

Steve Tanner
Steve Tanner
3 months ago

Steam these beauties WHOLE with any and all Spices you can find!!! The Spicier the better!!!!!!

Mark Pohlhaus
3 months ago

As a lifelong Marylander, let me share a couple thoughts and questions. Blue Crabs have some strong claws and can hurt you if you handle them live, unless you know how to handle them, or use tongs to get them into the steamer pot alive. Any dead crabs are discarded and not steamed, as the meat spoils quickly after they perish. How long was that crab dead before you cleaned it ?

Secondly, yes, Maryland style steamed crabs create a mess. You need to cover the table with newspaper, and prepare for the clean-up in advance. Almost always an outside event , rarely at a formal dining room table, but what a feast it is !

I love Salt Strong, and glad you are enjoying the steamed blue crab experience. As you point out , there is actually a lot of excellent meat in those sections behind each fin on the crab, that’s where “back fin”, or “lump crab” meat comes from. It’s worth the effort, and as others have commented here, some very good “mustard” to be enjoyed in the corners of the shell when removed from steaming live whole crabs.

Paul Williams
3 months ago


That was awesome, I’ve boiled them whole for years and always hated cleaning the guts while eating. Awesome tip, super helpful. So simple but I’ve overlooked it for years! Thanks for making my next blue crab meal better!!

Paul & Neal

3 months ago

Growing up in Maryland and now in Florida since 1977, we learned not to eat crabs that were dead. You steam them alive ,As soon as they’re dead ,bacteria begins to grow. Plus your taking all the true flavors out of the crab. I’ll stick to the old fashion way ,Old Bay or JO, vinegar ,beer guts and all and more beer.

Harry Corter
3 months ago

Congrats, you found the secret all Marylanders and Eastern Shore Residents Know. Quick and easy. Old Bay is one, we prefer J.O.
A bushel or half steamed then dump on a table covered in news paper. When finished gather up all the junk with the newspaper and discard.
GREAT eating.

Brownie Ramsey
3 months ago

I would never cook a crap that way !!! I have eat and cooked thousands !! Sissy’s eat their craps that way , you are washing away a lot of great cooked in flavor and tasty parts from the inside !!!!!!!!!

Bill Press
3 months ago

Love what you guys do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Keep it up.

Dave Mckinnon
3 months ago

Love it, fantastic job 🙂

Thomas Marks
3 months ago

I love it! I always avoided blue crab because they were too messy eating, but cleaning them first seems to be a no brainer. I wish I had thought of it.

Bob Currie
3 months ago

Good job on the cleaning. A couple of recommendations: flip the crab over and pry the skirt open and break it off. Then break the crab in half with your hands. They cook better and are easier to eat. My crabs are all alive when I clean them. Letting them cool in ice makes them easier to handle, but wear gloves to save from being badly pinched. If your crabs are still alive, and they should be, hold them by the back flippers and they can’t reach you to pinch.

Bill Utter
3 months ago

Hey Luke, you guys at Salt Strong are great! I love all the information. Now that we are on the subject of blue crabs, I got the catching and cleaning and am looking forward to how you cook them. But I am also looking forward to the picking and eating. I’m told those Maryland boys eat about six crabs an hour, I can only eat two an hour. So I just eat until I fall asleep, hope to see tips on picking as well, thanks.

Ronald Pelham
3 months ago

Hi Luke,
I’m from Mandurah in Western Australia, a “home” for blue swimmer crabs. Unless your blues are different to ours, I think you are removing the top shell the hard way. I lift the tail (folded against the underside of the crab), then where it joins the shell at the back of the crab, simply lift and the shell slips off easily.
A question:
Your crab in the video was very “dead”. how do you achieve this with a freshly caught crab? I place mine on ice which helps to immobilise them, but they still move a little and recover quickly once removed from the ice. I would not want to be dissecting a crab that was still alive.
The wash before cook method would be great for those who don’t eat the “mustard” with the flesh, but not so for those mustard lovers.

Robbie Johnson
3 months ago

Great video I have learn a lot over the last year everyone needs to become a member

Skip Aten
3 months ago

Florida amateur … when you grow up in Maryland you know that shell has the best mustard. It’s also a key ingredient in crab soup and batter for fried hard crabs. So you’re missing out

3 months ago
Reply to  Skip Aten

Thats how you fix’em for a “date” nite, but your right getting into a nice bushel of boiled blues in MD, North Beach is the bomb. The Happy Harbor in Deale is great too. Miss them.

3 months ago


3 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Meant Steamed…lol

Thomas Manley
3 months ago
Reply to  Luke Simonds

Hi Luke, I am also from Maryland and we would never take the shell off before cooking. Yes, maybe date night for a new honey but, she will get use to eating crabs with the shell on. George is right about the Mustard. that is the Greenish Yellow stuff in the center of the crab that you washed away with most of the gills (we call them the dead man). If you pull the Apron away from the body and then grab the center back portion of the shell after cooking of course, the shell will come right off. Would you care to have crabs cooked the Maryland way? If so, come on down to North Port and I’ll be glad to fix you some. 🙂 Take care and your way will work of course just something that is different from the Marylanders in the family. tight lines and maybe you can have a quick video of crabbing by line and chicken necks, crab traps and trout line that we used to use in Maryland. Have fun!!