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In Season in Spring: Brown Crabs

Go to:  Main Spring Seasonal Page


Jump to:-    Buying & Storing Brown Crabs  |  Cooking Live Brown Crabs  |  Preparing Whole Cooked Brown Crabs  |  Nutritional Value of Crab  |  Editor's Choice Top 3  Spring Crab Recipes


Brown crabs are the most common crab found in the UK. It has a brownish-red shell, grows to a width of about 20cm/8 inches, and is available starts from April.


Although you can buy crab throughout the year, they are at their best in spring when the meat is sweet and flavourful, making them excellent for more simple preparation such as in salads and sandwiches.



Buying Fresh Crab

When buying fresh crabs, pick older-looking ones and preferably cocks (males) which contain more white meat than Hens (females). You can tell which are male crabs as they have larger claws and their tail flap is more pointed and narrower. Cocks range in size from 1- 2kg/2.2-5lb, of which you can expect to get a little over 1/3rd (between 300g/10oz and 1 ˝ lb) with more white meat than brown.

If you’re lucky enough to get live crabs, choose one that seems lively and check that all the legs are intact: there should be eight small legs and two large claws.

Storing Crab

Live crabs should be cooked as soon as possible on the day of purchase although they can stay alive for three to four days if they are kept in the fridge covered with a damp cloth. NEVER put into fresh water. Cooked fresh crabs and crab meat will keep for  3 or 4 days in the refrigerator and can also be frozen.


Cooking Live Crabs

Most recipes you come across will call for cooked crabs. You can either kill the crab before you cook it by turning it onto its back where you’ll see a triangular tail piece pointing up towards the head.  Lift this back away from the claws to reveal a small cone shaped hole.  Drive a small screwdriver into the hole, with a sharp decisive tap with a hammer which will instantly kill the crab. Alternatively, place the live crab in a very large pan of cold,  well salted water, cover with a tight-fitting lid, bring slowly to the boil then cook at a rapid simmer, allowing 15 minutes for the first 450g/1lb and a further 5 minutes for each additional 450g/1lb. Drain and rinse under cold running water.


Preparing a whole cooked Crab


There are two types of meat in a crab: the delicately flavoured white meat in the claws and legs, and the stronger flavoured brown meat found in the body shell.


1. Once the crab has cooled, twist off the claws and legs and crack with nut crackers, a rolling pin or very gently with a hammer so you can extract the white meat.


2. Pull the large back shell away from the "body". Remove the feathery looking gills and small stomach sac which is behind the eyes then scoop out the brown meat from inside the large shell with a small spoon.


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3. Cut the "body" into four to get to the hidden pockets of meat. You will need to use a skewer or something similar to get right into the little crevices.


Nutritional value of Crab

Brown crabs are a good source of protein whilst still having a low-fat content and very few calories (about 84 per 100g/4oz). Crab meat also contains fatty acids, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium and selenium is a good source of vitamin B12.

Editor's Choice:  Top 3 Spring Season Brown Crab Recipes




Crab and Asparagus Salad

A cold starter which is easy to prepare and ready to serve in about 15 minutes. Fresh spring season crab mixed with mayonnaise, shallots, lemon juice and seasonal wild garlic leaves if available. The addition of capers adds piquancy.  Excellent for special occasions or just for a treat.  




Tagliatelle with Creamy Crab Sauce

A main course pasta dish. Pasta - you can use any you have to hand including short pastas -  coated with a creamy rose coloured sauce made with fresh crab and cream.




Fresh Crab and Watercress Sandwich

Fresh crab meat flavoured with new season peppery watercress and lightly cloaked with cream cheese.  A sumptuous sarnie perfect for  a special teatime or lunch treat.



> > > More Crab Recipes


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