My First Time Cooking Whole Dungeness​ Crab

Since the first time I stepped foot on to Fishermen’s Wharf in downtown San Francisco, I’ve been in love with the taste of Dungeness Crab. This sweet, flakey crustacean is packed with meat and is sold in food trucks, fish markets, and gourmet restaurants up and down the West Coast of Canada and the USA.

Since our cross-country move to the coastline of the Pacific, I have been anxious to learn how to cook with this delicious delicacy. There was only one problem… I’ve never actually killed my own crab…

On the East Coast, hosting large lobster and crab boils was a regular occurrence for me. It was one of my “go-to” dinner party meals, because boils are quick and easy, and they always feed a crowd. However, on the Canadian East Coast – finding crab legs is common – while finding the whole crab is less common.

last seafood boil
The last seafood boil my husband and I hosted on the East Coast, the night before our home officially sold.

It’s been 12 days since we arrived in Vancouver. Every time I wandered into a market or walked up to a seafood stall, I looked at the large live Dungeness crab. I hesitated, paced back and forth by the stall, then left.

Today, during my lunch break, and filled with determination –  I walked next door and picked up my first live crab. When I got home I popped it into the icebox and waited. As I placed the large pot of salt water on the stove, I could feel my anxiety creeping in.

This is where I get a little dramatic. 

I texted Jamie (a lifelong friend, foodie, and blogger at The Slow Braise) while I watched the bubbles form on the side of the pot. I paced back in forth in the kitchen.

“You can do this, you can do this, you can do this” I whispered to myself.

“Just put it in head first – and close the lid” Jamie reassured. “It’s just like cooking a lobster.”

When the water reached a rolling boil, I carefully picked up the crab. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. In a quick, swift motion, I closed my eyes, dropped the crab into the pot, slammed the lid down, and ran out of the room. I tripped into the bed in the guest bedroom, landed on my knees, and picked up my cellphone.

“I did it! I did it!” I texted Jamie back, my heart still pounding and my hands still shaking.

“It’ll be totally worth it” he responded. And he was right!

whole dungeness crab
Whole Dungeness Crab

After 13-14 minutes in the salt water (7 minutes per pound), and an ice bath, my Dungeness Crab was ready!

One of my favourite ways to have Crab (aside from the pure, classic, dipped in butter method), is to saute it up with garlic and chilis. So, that’s what I did!

Here’s my recipe!

Garlic & Chili Dungeness Crab: 

  • 1 Whole Dungeness Crab (2 lbs)
  • 2 Tablespoons of Butter
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic (Minced)
  • 1 Birds-eye Chilli (Diced)
  • 1 Shallot (Minced)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of Fresh Ginger (Minced)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon of Sweet Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon of Chili Oil (With Peanuts)
  • 1 Teaspoon of Brown Sugar
  • 2 Sprigs of Green Onion
  • 1 Lemon (In Wedges)
  • 1 Small Handful of Diced Cilantro
  • Kosher Salt

1: Bring a large pot of salt water to a boil. Once your water is at a rolling boil, drop your crab headfirst into the water and close the lid. (Note: It is suggested that one of the more humane methods of boiling crab is to let them rest in the freezer beforehand. This slows their response to pain and distress).

img_3157

2: Allow the crab to cook for approximately 7 minutes per pound. Carefully remove from the water and immediately place in a large bowl of ice water.

3: Shell your crab. Place your thumbs at the back of the crab, and push the body from the head. Then twist off the legs and cut the body section into two pieces.

img_3170

4: A lot of people ignore the meat in the body of the crab. It’s a little more effort to access, but it’s always worth the trouble!

img_3171
Crab meat in the body is often ignored, but delicious!

5: Set the meat from the body aside, and get a sharp knife for the legs.

Crab Meat
The Meat from the body of the crab

6: With a sharp knife, carefully chop into the center of the crab legs. Then, give a quick twist with the knife. The crab legs will snap open. You will be sauteing the majority of the crab in the shell, but this method allows for easy access to the meat while eating.

img_3176

7: Preheat a wok over medium heat. Drop in your butter, and place your diced shallot, garlic, ginger, and birds eye chili in, stirring continuously.

garlic ginger onion chili

8: In a small bowl, mix rice vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, and peanut chili oil together.

ingredients

9: Toss your crab (in the shell and deshelled), and lemon wedges into the wok with your garlic, shallots, ginger, and chilis. Saute, coating the crab.

10: Once your crab is coated, pour your vinegar, sugar, chili, and soy sauce over the crab.

crab sauce

10: Toss the crab in the sauce until evenly coated. Then, add in diced green onion and cilantro. Give a final toss.

crab in wok

Since your crab is already cooked, it’s important not to add additional heat for too long. From start to finish, your crab should not be in the wok for more than 2-3 minutes. We just want to reheat the crab, and allow it to soak up the flavour from the herbs and sauce.

11: Serve, and enjoy!

chili garlic crab

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