How to Cook a Live Crab

A guide on cooking a crab humanely.


Before you start to cook a crab…


Make sure that your crab is still alive before cooking it. When a crab dies bacteria will quickly destroy the meat so it is important to either cook the crab while it is still alive or immediately after it has died.

A crab that has limp claws or whose antennae isn’t twitching when you pick it up is close to death and should be cooked immediately.

Getting your crab in advance



It is possible to get a crab in advance of a special occasion but we would advise cooking it when you get it and then keeping the cooked crab in the fridge until it is required.

A cooked crab can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days.



The picture to the right shows the underside of a male brown crab with it’s distinctive ‘V’ marking as shown in the above video. The underside of a female crab is much more rounded.

How to cook your crab humanely


Nobody likes the thought of killing something and many people, including chefs, do not like cooking live crabs. However, this task is made a little easier if you know that a crab, like a lobster, has a very small brain and no central nervous system or cerebral cortex to register stimuli. Therefore a crab is unlikely to feel any pain. Here are a a couple of methods of killing a crab to cook…

  1. Put the crab straight into boiling water which will kill it within 10 seconds. However this method does carry the risk that the crab will ‘shoot’ it’s claws. This is only really a problem if the crab is to be presented whole.
  2. Put the crab in the freezer for an hour which will send it to sleep. (This is our preferred method)

How to Cook a Crab

  • Make sure you have a large enough pan so that the crab will fit into it easily and be fully submerged.
  • Put a large pan of water on the hob and bring to the boil – the water temperature should be 190ºF(80ºC)
  • Pick up the crab by it’s back and place into the water.
  • Cook for the following times:
Imperial  Metric Cooking Time
1 – 1 ¼ lb.  500g 12 – 15 minutes
1 ¼ – 2 lb.  500g-900g 15 – 20 minutes
2-3 lb.  900-1350g 20 – 25 minutes
3-7 lb.  1350-3kg 25 – 30 minutes
Over 7lb  Over 3kg 3 mins per lb / 500g


  • Remove the crab from the water.and leave to cool.

back to top

Download mp3