Clean and Cook Soft Shell Crabs – They’re In Season

We visited a small fresh seafood market in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland over the weekend.  The place was there twenty years ago when we biked through town en route to Huntingfields, the farm where my parents lived for many years.  I was pleasantly surprised to see they sold soft shell crabs for $5.00 each.  In Potomac, Maryland, they were selling for $9.99 each. What a difference. I immediately bought some.

When I opened the package at home, excited to begin to bread and sauté them, I noticed the claws were wiggling. Ahhh!!  I had two choices. Ditch and order carry out. Kill, clean and prepare.

You will be happy to know that while I am an animal lover – I chose to embrace my complete chef persona, I apologized and praised the crab for the feast we’d soon have and looked on Google for how to clean soft shells.  Dumb me.  Not every seafood market offers to clean them for you (as mine did – and priced midway between the $5 and $10 range).

So here’s what to do.  First, flip the crab over.  Gently lift the shell and remove the fibrous gills on each side.  You’ll need to scrape away any yellow goo mustard fat that appears in the underbelly. Then, there is an area I call the “key” in the middle of the bottom side of the crab, flip that up and cut it off.   Finally cut off the eyes and mouth.  Do it quickly so you don’t have to think about it too much. That’s what I did. Be sure the rinse it off and put on ice while you do the others. Keep on ice and refrigerate if you aren’t using them right away.

Now you can begin to cook the soft shells any way that suits you.  I simply put about a half cup of flour and added 3 tablespoons of Cajun seasonings to a plastic baggie; then I added the 3 crabs.  Increase if you have more.  Meanwhile, I heated ¼ to ½ cup of oil in a pan and waited until it was hot but not burning.  I added the crabs, cooking for several minutes on each side.  When they turn a nice orange caramel color they are done.  Drizzle with chopped scallions and parsley.

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