Unfortunately, even in some of the “finer” seafood restaurants, if you order a Soft Shell Crab Sandwich you get a small, fried, mostly battered crab with a “crunchy” sensation between two pieces of bread with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. And you probably paid dearly for this disappointing experience of eating a soft crab.
We assure you that your experience eating a Soft Crab from Cravin’ Crabs will be a very memorable, immensely enjoyable event. One that will have you craving for soft crabs even more than craving for hard crabs. If you continue reading, you will know why we can provide you with the experience you deserve; and you will understand How to Prepare, Clean and Cook a Soft Crab.
First you have to understand that all crustaceans, such as the Blue Crab, have to molt (or ecdysis) their hard outer shells as they grow. This is frequently referred to as “sloughing” their shells. Typically the crab that emerges from a molted shell will be about 1/3 larger than the old shell. A female crab will average about 18 to 20 molts during its life; a male crab about 21 to 23. A very young crab will molt about every 10 to 15 days; a mature “legal” size crab will molt between every 30 to 50 days.
It can take up to four hours for a mature crab to complete the exhausting molting process. During this time and for a few hours after the molt, the crab is very vulnerable from predators, and even from other crabs. Most commercial facilities have separate areas in their specially designed holding bins for crabs to complete the molting process by being protected and undisturbed. The bins must have a constant flow of the right type of water at the right speed to simulate the water and current of the crab’s natural habitat. If the bins do not have the correct simulated conditions, the crab will use more energy, and lose more meat, as it struggles to free itself of its old shell.
A molted crab that stays in the water will start converting its soft shell into a hard shell as soon as possible for preservation. The crab pumps water into its body as part of this process. Within just a couple of hours you will be able to notice the shell becoming hard; and only 12 hours after molting the “soft” crab has already become what is known as having a “paper” shell. Within 2 to 4 days, the shell will be completely hard.
The key to having a good soft crab is in its harvesting and packaging. The veteran watermen at Cravin’ Crabs understand the molting process. This is why the crabs in the molting bins are constantly being checked (day and night) for the moment the crab emerges from the old shell. The crab is removed from the water as soon as it is judged to be strong enough. Once removed from the water, the crab loses its ability to continue to harden its shell. (This also prevents the crab from pumping water into its body which is important as you want to enjoy eating the crab meat, not something filled with water.) The crab is taken to a clean indoor facility and packaged for delivery to the Crab House. Some crabs are immediately frozen; soft crabs can safely remain frozen for up to three months. Some crabs are packed live.
You do need to clean the Soft Crabs just prior to cooking, i.e. they are not cleaned prior to being frozen or packaged live. Cleaning a live soft crab would kill it; and cleaning a crab to be frozen would allow some of the juices to run out, and thus some of the flavoring. When you purchase soft crabs from Cravin’ Crabs, you will be getting the best possible soft crabs; however you will have to do your part by cleaning them just prior to cooking.
To properly clean a soft crab, use a pair of sanitized scissors to make a “V” cut to remove the area containing the crabs eyes and mouth. Then flip up each side of the top covering, and remove the “devil”. This stringy, bitter tasting, chewy substance is actually the crab’s lungs. It is a myth that eating the “devil” will make you sick; it is just that the lungs have an unpleasant taste.
Finally, flip the crab over and open the crab’s “apron”; scrape and cut out any attached material. (Some people prefer to remove the apron entirely, but that is a personal choice.)
There are several alternatives. Most people prefer to dip the crab into a plate of all purpose flour mixed with about a teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning; then dip the crab into an Egg Wash (an egg mixed with a bit of water); then a final dip into the flour mix.
For a crispier coating, some prefer to use Corn Meal rather than the all purpose flour.
For those wishing a Gluten Free meal, just dip the Soft Crab into the Egg Wash.
Once the preferred coating has been applied, the Soft Crab is placed in a buttered pan (an oiled pan can be used as well) and cooked on medium-high heat until the crab is lightly golden brown (about five minutes).
Most people prefer eating a Soft Crab on Italian bread with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Use salt and pepper to taste. Of course, for those wishing a Gluten Free meal, you will have to skip the bread or use a Gluten Free bread.
We assure you that the care and dedication Cravin’ Crabs uses to harvest and package Soft Crabs is the difference. While others may provide you with a crunchy crab with watery meat, Cravin’ Crabs will allow you to enjoy eating a mouthwatering delicious delicacy only the Bay and experienced dedicated watermen can provide. Just be sure you read the above to know how to properly Prepare, Clean and Cook Soft Crabs to perfection!
The Cravin’ Crabs carryout Crab House, owned and operated by veteran crabbers who live on the water and who attend to the molting crabs 24/7, provide the best soft crabs in the Baltimore area. Try them today and you will often be Craving for Soft Crabs from Cravin’ Crabs.
When you think “Steamed Crabs Baltimore” — think Cravin’ Crabs!