Steamed Dungeness Crabs with Old Bay

It’s the middle of November. In the Bay Area, do you know what that means?

Dungeness Crabs

Dungeness Crabs

That’s right, boys and girls, it’s Dungeness crab season! Dungeness crab, or Cancer majister is a large crab found on the West Coast from Alaska down to California. About one quarter of the crab is sweet, succulent crab meat, making it one of the meatiest crabs around.

Growing up in Hawaii, we used to eat these Dungeness crabs every once in a while. They were already boiled and frozen by the time we got them from the supermarket. Then we boiled them some more to reheat them (little did we know that we were boiling the flavor right out of them!)

Here in the Bay Area, we can get Dungeness crab live in the tank from the Asian grocery stores. They go for about $3 a pound, with the price fluctuating depending on availability and demand. Dungeness crab is a tradition in Bay Area households around Thanksgiving and Christmas, so prices tend to shoot up then.

Put ‘Em to Sleep

First thing that we do after bringing the crabs home is to stick them in the freezer for a few hours. I learned this trick from Alton Brown in the Good Eats lobster episode. The crabs get sleepy and don’t put up much of a fight when you put them in the pot. Trust me on this, you don’t want to be fighting an ornery crab, trying to get it in the pot with a slippery pair of tongs!

Now, we want to cook the Dungeness crabs by steaming them, not boiling. I have a large stock pot with a steamer basket insert that I use for this purpose. Put enough water in the pot to come up just to the level of the basket and get the water boiling.

When the water is about to boil, bring the crabs out of the freezer and rinse them off. Put the Dungeness crabs in the pot kinda sideways – that’ll make it easier to get ‘em out of the pot later. Cover the pot and set the timer for 18 minutes.

Old Bay Seasoning

Old Bay Seasoning

In the past, we’ve not added any flavorings or seasonings to the pot when steaming the crabs. But we just got this can of Old Bay Seasoning, and so decided to use it on our Dungeness crabs. They actually have a recipe on their website for Steamed Dungeness crabs. It calls for adding half water and half vinegar to the pot, then sprinkling a half cup of Old Bay on top of the crabs before steaming.

Sprinkling Old Bay Seasoning on Steaming Dungeness Crabs

Sprinkling Old Bay Seasoning on Steaming Dungeness Crabs

It smelled really good while it was cooking! 18 minutes later, I pulled them out and set them aside to cool.

Steamed Dungeness Crabs with Old Bay Seasoning

Steamed Dungeness Crabs with Old Bay Seasoning

When they were cooled, Annie cleaned the Dungeness crabs by pulling the body away from the shell, removing the gills and guts, and chopping the body section into quarters. Then we brought the chopped crabs to the table and the whole family got down to business. Nothing was heard at the table except shells cracking, lips smacking, and the occasional, “Mmmmm!”

The saltiness of the Old Bay Seasoning accentuated the sweetness of the Dungeness crab meat. I also picked up on the wonderful celery seed and bay leaf flavors which added a new dimension to the crab. Then the black and red peppers gave a really nice heat that left my lips tingling. How come I never thought to use Old Bay on Dungeness crab before?

I’m looking forward to using Old Bay Seasoning in other recipes as well!

Aloha, Nate

34 Comments Post a Comment

    >this post reminds me of snails, which you have to kill just before you cook them, except of course that they don’t put up a fight like the crabs!

  2. Ramya Vijaykumar says:

    >Wow, just a lil work for such an yummy dish… Wish I could try this…

  3. Daniel says:

    >how were the guts?

    mmm have not had crab in a long time…

  4. Robert says:

    >OOO! Love dungeness crab, we go out and catch ‘em in December off the north coast of CA, for Christmas and New Year’s. We eat em steamed, some lemon, shoyu or mayo. One of the real treats of winter.

  5. Food For Tots says:

    >My hubby n I luv crabs a lot. Dungeness crab is new to me. Looks great! Yummy!

  6. magpie says:

    >Oh man, now I want crab. I hope I win the contest! I’ve never cooked Dungeness before :)

  7. Jenster says:

    >Our family LOVES Dungeness crab. We still do the old method of boiling them, just for a few minutes until they are just cooked. Then we dip them in melted butter. With some crusty sourdough bread and a nice green salad, it’s a dream meal. On the rare occasion that we have any leftover meat, we add a little Old Bay seasoning and panko flakes and fry them up into tasty little crab cakes.

    Hmmm…maybe we’ll have crab this weekend.

  8. noobcook says:

    >Steaming the crabs is a great idea because it retains a lot of original favour. The marinate rub you used sounds tasty!

  9. CUMI & CIKI says:

    >ah.. so you should steam em! haha.. learnt something new.. im the sort who would probably boil em as well.. hurhur.. nice post.. love the crab pictures!

  10. Vij says:

    >This is my first time here…u have a lovely space!

    Yummmmy dish!

  11. mimid3vils says:

    >Will the seasoning too overpowering the original taste of the crab?

  12. Peppercorn Press says:

    >I love crab! Thanks for sharing the idea of adding the rub – this sounds delicious and a new flavor to try. Mmmmm, craving crab now!

  13. Mrs. says:

    >I wait patiently for the Dungeness Crab season to come to this area. Though I usually just buy it cooked and cracked at one of the local markets. My husband is the mayo guy, I’m the melted butter. It’s not unusual during the season for us to have crab (and usually just that) once a week!

  14. Jo says:

    >I love crab. These are beauties! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Robert says:

    >Mimi, I have had crab boiled in Old Bay seasoning, as well as steamed with it, as long as the crab is whole, it is good. I prefer it without. If you think about chili crab or black bean crab, you can get a sense of how it can complement the taste.

  16. Chef Ben says:

    >Yay, I love crab! Growing up in Hawaii, I never ate them when my mom ordered them at Chinese restaurants because I felt they were so much work to pick and eat. But then I moved here and discovered how meaty and sweet the flesh were, and that made all the work so much worth it! I hope we have a good season this year!

  17. white on rice couple says:

    >Great vid and post guys! We’re gonna indulge in a big crab party in a few weeks, but your post is already making us wish it were sooner!

    $3 a pound is pretty darn good! Wow, i’ve seen it for much more than that down here.

    So, enter us ….please!!! Thanks for such a fun give away!

  18. Katie's blog says:

    >I made soft shell crab a couple of weeks ago and used crab boil with the buttermilk I soaked the crabs in. Old Bay would have worked too.

  19. shavedicesundays says:

    >I love and miss fresh Bay Area dungeness crab. Used to go to Fisherman’s Wharf and grab me one fresh from the ocean. Interesting tip about freezing them. We always just stabbed them before steaming.

  20. Kerrie aka GFShaolin says:

    >I just was initiated into the Old Bay cult last night – made a Low Country Boil. I truely thought that it would overpower the food, but it didn’t. It really brought out the flavors.

  21. New Kid on the Blog says:

    >only for those residing within US?? what about those outside US??? :(

  22. MrOrph says:

    >I know them as blue crab. Get a ton, line the table with newspaper, get a bowl of water, add in a case of beer, and that is an afternoon!

  23. Sam Sotiropoulos says:

    >As Canada is outside the Continental US I will not be able to join your contest… :( But the crab looks and sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

  24. foodhoe says:

    >Ooh yes, I love dungeness crabs! We’re all waiting for the season to start… I like the freezer technique – we’ve picked up some very lively fellows that have pulled legs off each other! I have never had it with Old Bay, sounds delicious.

  25. Cathy - wheresmydamnanswer says:

    >A crab cake is Naked without Old Bay!!! Great pics.

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My Photo Annie is mistress of the kitchen while Nate is the master of the grill and smoker. We cook the homestyle Asian and Hawaiian foods of our younger days while also exploring the wider worlds of Western foods.

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