Maryland offers exceptional crabbing opportunities, attracting enthusiasts to its rich estuaries, especially the Chesapeake Bay. This prime habitat for blue crabs makes Maryland a top destination for both seasoned crabbers and newcomers. The state provides a variety of crabbing charters operated by experienced local guides, ensuring you have a successful trip with useful tips and techniques. Whether you're looking for a family-friendly outing or a more challenging expedition, there's a charter for everyone.

And the best part after a successful day of crabbing - eating them! But, knowing how to pick a crab is essential. If you haven’t yet acquired this skill, it’s time to learn.

My grandfather always told me that his mother would pick a crab so meticulously and with such little waste that an ant would starve if it came across her empty shells. There are countless methods for picking a crab, but ours passed down through five generations of Marylanders, guarantees you won’t miss a morsel!


A steaming, bright orange crab lies before you. Let’s dig in…


Step 1: Grab your tools. You’ll need a knife and a little mallet known as a knocker.


Step 2: Start by detaching the back fins, legs, and claws from the body. Grab each appendage at the bottom where it attaches to the body, snap it off, and pull out slowly. Often, a prime piece of body meat known as “lump” will be dangling from the extremity you just removed. Slide the meat off with your teeth, taking care not to bite down on the cartilage.


Step 3: It’s leg time. While there isn’t much meat in the legs, it is some of the sweetest, so don’t overlook this small but tasty delicacy! You’ll notice that each leg is divided into sections. The one closest to where it was attached to the body is what we’ll be eating. Break the leg where the first section joins a second. Pull slowly, as sometimes the meat will come out still attached to the cartilage. If not, use your fingers to slide it out, as if squeezing out the last little bit of toothpaste from a tube.


Step 4: The backfin is another appendage that many people discard, however there is a small yet bit of tasty meat here, too. There are two, round-shaped sections in the backfin. Break the backfin at the joint between these parts. The larger of the two is where we’ll be extracting the meat. Just like with the legs, use your fingers to squeeze the meat out, and enjoy.


Step 5: Now, onto the claws. There is meat in both sections of the limb, as well as the actual pinchers. Rest the blade of your knife about a quarter-inch from the pinchers, and tap down using the knocker. Stop once the knife is about halfway through the shell, and twist it side-to-side to complete the separation. Holding the pinchers, pull slowly, and the claw meat should slide right out. If it doesn’t, either dig the rest out with your knife, or smash down with the knocker and pull the shards of shell away from the meat. To get into the pinchers, simply grab it like a turkey’s wishbone and pull apart. Use the sharp end of one pincher to scrape the meat out of the other. For the large section of the claw that is closest to where the appendage was attached to the body, repeat the same process as for the portion connected to the pinchers.


Step 6: The body of the crab will yield more meat than any other part. Start by flipping your crab over and locating the apron, the flap that points toward the crab’s face. A male crab will have a more slender apron, reminiscent of a “T,” whereas a female crab’s will be more rounded. Slide your knife under the point of the apron and lift. It should come right up. Now cut the apron away from the body. You’ll be left with a perfect size hole to stick your thumb between the top shell and the main body. Go ahead and pull off that top shell. When you do so, oftentimes the guts will pull right out with the shell. If not, just take your knife and scrape out what’s left. I tend to remove only the white, intestine-looking stuff and leave the yellow “mustard.” The “mustard” is just crab fat, and has lots of flavor. But, if you don’t like its taste, remove that stuff as well. Next, cut the face off, and scrape away the gills (sometimes referred to as “devils”). What remains is a cleaned crab body, ready to be cut into quarters and thoroughly picked. You’ll notice that there is a sort of natural seam that exists where the guts were between your two halves. Place your knife perpendicular to where the crab’s face was and cut down to separate these halves. Now, angle one half upward so that the end with the meat showing is facing you and the closed shell side is on the table. Cut down longways. Repeat with the other side, and now we have quarters. Remove the meat using your fingers and knife.


And that’s it. You’ve just picked a crab like a pro, and you’ll sit down with confidence at your next crab feast.


With abundant crabbing opportunities and a wealth of resources from Fish & Hunt Maryland, there's no better place to experience the joys of crabbing than in Maryland. So grab your gear, hop on a charter, and get ready to savor some of the best crabs you’ll ever taste. 


Optionally, if you don’t have an opportunity to catch your own Chesapeake Bay blue crabs on a charter, be sure to purchase your crabs from one of Maryland’s Best “True Blue” restaurants or crab purveyors.