How To Eat Soft Shell Crab

by chefkeem

If you don't know how to eat soft shell crab, or how to clean and cook 'em in the first place, you'll be surprised at these easy soft shell crab recipes. Read on.

Before you learn how to eat soft shell crab, you should know what it is, right? Well, it's a hard shell crab in undies. That's right.

Crabs grow out of their shells, and when there's no more room left, they need to shed 'em and grow new ones. It's called "molting". Until the new coat is hardened, the poor things have nothing to wear but a flimsy piece of lingerie. Seabirds love it, and so do we. Now we can eat the whole thing just as it is. Yum.

Where to buy soft shell crabs?

You can buy fresh soft shell crabs from seafood retailers or better grocery stores, and have your fishmonger clean them for you. Or, if you have to clean them yourself, watch the video by New York Times food writer Mark Bittman below. He'll also teach you a basic Cajun soft shell crab recipe. If you are squeamish about watching the crab's eyes being cut off, close yours and listen to the sound only.

Or you could order your perfectly-cleaned and ready-to-cook Maryland Soft Crabs online.

How to clean soft shell crabs

and how to fry them for a po' boy sandwich

For a dish of sautéed soft shell crab, simply dredge the crabs lightly in seasoned flour and then fry them in a little hot oil (4-5 minutes each side) until they are slightly crispy and reddish.

If you want to add even more flavor to your recipe, marinade the crabs (15 minutes; before dredging) in a vinaigrette of your choice. For instance, whisk together 2 cups rice wine or vinegar, 1/2 cup oil, 1 or 2 mashed garlic cloves, 1/4 tsp black pepper and 1 tsp salt. 

Soft shell crab with curry

Soft shell crab with curry, peppers and onion
Soft shell crab with curry, peppers a...

How to grill soft shell crabs

Before grilling soft shell crabs, brush them with oil and season them with salt and pepper or your preferred seafood seasoning mix.

Ideally, you keep them in a fish grill basket and cook 'em 10 minutes on one side and 5 minutes on the other.

They should feel firm to your fingertips.

Soft shells are of course wonderful when breaded and fried, and then served with a remoulade or tartar sauce. A few squeezes of lemon juice won't hurt, either.

Dip the seasoned crabs first in egg wash, then in a mixture of cornmeal and breadcrumbs, and then fry them in hot oil (350-375 degrees) until golden brown. You could also double-dip 'em...chill the crabs for a few minutes after the first breading, and then repeat the process.

Deep-fried soft shell crabs

Soft shell crabs, breaded and fried
Soft shell crabs, breaded and fried

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Updated: 10/18/2013, chefkeem
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How do YOU eat soft shell crabs? Care to share your secrets?

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DerdriuMarriner on 11/05/2018

chefkeem, Thank you for the practical information and product line. I had to close my eyes during the helpful video with the dramatic music score, particularly when the eyes were being cut. And yes, I have to agree that there's not a more attractive sandwich.

chefkeem on 10/04/2013

Thanks for sharing, Treathyl! :)

cmoneyspinner on 10/04/2013

Share my secrets? Let's just say that wherever I eat them - in a chair, standing up, in my bedroom, on a rooftop - I'm loving it!! :) Sharing this on my foodie Facebook page.

katiem2 on 03/10/2012

I had crab for dinner last night, good stuff. Now want it again tonight.

Cace on 09/04/2011

Soft shell crabs are a big deal in my area, but I've never tried them. I had no idea how to cook them. I am feeling inspired to give it a try!

ohcaroline on 08/29/2011

Great tutorial on soft shell crabs. I've never fixed them myself; but you make it easy to learn how.

PeggyHazelwood on 08/29/2011

These looks so good!!!

kajohu on 08/28/2011

I have never had soft shell crab before, and had no clue that I could eat the whole thing! I've only eaten crab legs, and those very rarely (I'm in the middle of the continent, well away from the oceans!). Very interesting!

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