ArrowDownFill 1arrow-small-lineFill 1Cooking Light - EasyCooking Light - FastCooking Light - So GoodCooking Light - How-ToCooking Light - Staff FaveCooking Light Badge - Wow!GroupClose IconEmailEmpty Star IconLike Cooking Light on FacebookFull Star IconShapePage 1 Copy 3Page 1 Copy 2Grid IconHalf Star IconFollow Cooking Light on InstagramList IconMenu IconPrintSearch IconSpeech BubbleFollow Cooking Light on SnapchatFollow Cooking Light on TwitterWatch Cooking Light on YouTubeplay-iconWatch Cooking Light on Youtube

Cracked Crab with Butter and Citrus

Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Nissa Quanstrom
Total time 2 hrs, 30 mins

Serves 4

Chef Jordan Davis of Herringbone Restaurants in Southern California grew up in San Francisco, devouring piles of Dungeness crab every Christmas Eve. He still loves his crab, and like most devotees, he prefers to cook the crustaceans live; the cooking process isn't difficult (see our how-to video on, and the resulting flavor, texture, and freshness cannot be surpassed. "It's so good, I usually just eat it straight, with a little drawn butter and lemon," says Davis. Then he uses the shells, poaching liquid, and any leftover meat to make his superlative Crab Bisque (recipe on


  • 4 live medium Dungeness crabs (about 2 lbs. each) wrapped in paper by a fish shop so they're easier to handle
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Assorted regular lemons, Meyer lemons, and limes, plus flat-leaf parsley sprigs

Nutrition Information

  • calories 426
  • caloriesfromfat 45 %
  • protein 51 g
  • fat 21 g
  • satfat 12 g
  • carbohydrate 2.5 g
  • fiber 0.0 g
  • sodium 1087 mg
  • cholesterol 230 mg

How to Make It

  1. Bring a canning pot filled with water to a boil, about 30 minutes. Using tongs, grasp rear of crab (claws away from you). Lower crab into pot; cover. Repeat with 1 more crab; cover. Bring water back to boiling, then cook 8 minutes for 1 1/2- to 2-lb. crabs, 10 minutes if larger. Or, in a large stockpot, boil 1 crab at a time (5 minutes for the smaller size, 8 for the larger).

  2. In a small saucepan, melt butter with Old Bay over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and skim foam until only clear liquid is left. Stir in lemon juice and salt.

  3. Using tongs, transfer crabs to a colander to drain and cool; meanwhile, cook remaining crabs. Set cooled crabs belly up on a rimmed baking sheet, then clean and crack.

  4. Serve on a platter with citrus, parsley, and the seasoned clarified butter.

Herringbone Restaurants, Southern CA