Cocks (males) contain more white meat than hens (females) and are preferred by chefs. To identify them, cocks have larger claws and their tail flap is narrower and more pointed. Cocks range in size from 1kg to 2kg, with an approximate 35% yield, and more white meat than brown.
There are other crabs to look out for such as the spider crab, snow crab and blue crab, which all have similar tasting meat. Also available is the blue swimming crab, found around the Pacific Rim. Whole frozen blue swimmers are imported, but the main demand is for the 454g tubs containing large lumps of succulent meat, which is pasteurised and chilled, giving it a six month shelf life.
Brown crab is superb for crab cakes, chowders, salads and pasta. Before cooking live crabs, the RSPCA recommend you first place them in a freezer for two hours, which renders them unconscious. Another method is to insert a pointed rod (kebab skewer) just above the mouth and push to the back of the shell.
You can then plunge them into heavily salted (40g per litre) boiling water and simmer for 15 minutes for 500g, adding 2 minutes per additional 100g. Then remove and allow to cool. Alternatively the claws and body meat can be removed and steamed or stir-fried.
Text by Seafish