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Start with Cooked, Cleaned Crabs
Whether you're having a crab boil or cracked crab, sitting around a table with everyone picking their own meat out of the crabs, or picking crab meat to make crab cakes or crab salad, this guide will show you how to pick crab meat out of crab legs and claws with ease.
Cooking and cleaning crabs is a fairly easy operation (see How to Cook Crab and How to Clean Crab, respectively), but you can also buy most types of crab already cooked and cleaned. The largest varieties are sold already partially... broken down (Alaskan king crab legs, for example).Continue to 2 of 8 below.
02 of 08
Start picking crabs by breaking them in half (or quarters for larger specimens). Most varieties can be broken by hand, but tougher shells can be tackled with a heavy knife or cleaver, if necessary.Continue to 3 of 8 below.
03 of 08
Separate the Legs
With a simple twist and a pull, most crab legs will separate easily. Larger crabs may require a nut cracker to ease the separation.Continue to 4 of 8 below.
04 of 08
Crack the Claws
Some people start with the body meat, but I like to treat myself to the sweetest nuggets of meat in the claws straight away. Even smaller crab claws will need to be cracked. A nut cracker or lobster cracker is a popular choice. I prefer a flat meat tenderizer—one solid whack and the claw cracks open enough to pull apart, usually without too much shattering of the shell and thus minimal shards of shell in the crabmeat.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
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Remove Claw Meat
Use a small fork (skewers and chopsticks work well, too) to remove the meat from the cracked claw. Once you have a claw picked clean, you can use the pointy pincer to pick out meat from the rest of the crab.Continue to 6 of 8 below.
06 of 08
Split Crab Legs
You can crack the legs just like the claws, but many crabs have soft enough shells on their legs to you can snip them open with a pair of kitchen scissors. The choice is yours!Continue to 7 of 8 below.
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Remove Leg Meat
If you've split the leg shell cleanly, you'll be able to pull out a solid piece of tender, sweet crab meat as a reward.Continue to 8 of 8 below.
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Some crabs, such as blue crabs and stone crabs, won't have much meat in their bodies to bother with. Larger crabs will have a fair amount. The body meat isn't, generally speaking, as tender or sweet as the claw and leg meat, but it can still be worth getting - especially since it's fairly easy to remove. Just use a small fork, pick, or pincer to pull out the meat from the different sections of the body.
Once done, you'll have a nice pile of fresh crab meat - if you haven't been eating it... as you go, that is.