Keeping it simple with crabs
  |  First Published: July 2012

Crunchy, crusty fresh bread, fresh picked crab meat and a dollop of tartare or a smear of homemade seafood dressing is a simple seafood feast. This article will take you through cooking crabs and making homemade mayo with the aim to let the crab’s taste shine through.

Preparing the crabs

If your green crabs are alive, either put them in the fridge for a couple of hours or in the freezer for about half an hour. This will humanely send the crabs to sleep before you pop them into the boiling water to cook.

I use water that has been salted to about the same degree of salinity as sea water. This means adding about 100-150g salt to a litre of water. Bring the water to the boil before adding the salt, this will prevent the salt pitting the pot.

I use a 16.5L stock pot with a see-through lid; even though it fogs up, you can see through it enough to see what is going on. Using a pot with a lid makes the water boil quicker, and is more consistent and energy efficient. For a pot this size I also add a couple of tablespoons of sugar.

When the water is boiling, plunge the crabs into the water and cook for eight minutes. This timing is for approximately a 500g sand crab. If your crabs are bigger than this, such as mud crabs, you may need to adjust the timings.

While the crabs are cooking, fill a container or your kitchen sink with icy cold water. At the end of the cooking time, lift your crabs from the pot and put them into the cold water to stop the cooking process. When the crabs are cool, clean them and then refrigerate until you are ready to pick.

To clean the crab, lift the flap on the underside of the body, and prise off the top shell. Remove the internal organs, the spongy grey fingers and the bony bits at the head. Rinse quickly under cold running water to clean off any remaining ‘mustard’.

To pick the crab, I use my easy-to-use D-Line crab crackers and pickers tools. Use a sharp knife, cut the crab lengthways through the body and then again crossways so that your crab is in four pieces. Using your crackers, crack the large claws and extract the flesh. Use the crab pickers to remove the flesh from the crevices of the body and from the smaller claws and feelers.

Basic Mayonnaise

Homemade mayo is easy to make and has a wonderful flavour. As long as you don’t get overexcited and start to add the olive oil too quickly, you shouldn’t have a problem.


3 egg yolks, at room temperature

Pinch of salt

Juice of one lemon or (white wine vinegar)

300ml olive oil

Freshly ground white pepper


(1) Place a medium-sized glass bowl on a damp cloth (to stop it sliding around when you are beating). Add the egg yolks, salt and one tablespoon lemon juice (or vinegar) to the bowl and start to work it with a wooden spoon until smooth.

(2) Gradually add the oil, a dribble at a time (don’t get over excited and add too much oil at the start), beating the mixture well. After about a third of the olive oil has been added, you can add the rest in a thin steady stream, beating all the while. It helps if you have a third hand or partner to do the oil pouring.

(3) Taste the mayo and add salt, pepper and perhaps a touch more lemon or white wine vinegar to taste.

(4) Store your mayo in the fridge with plastic wrap pressed down on the surface of the mayo (stops a skin forming) until ready to use.


(1) To make blender or food processor mayo, simply add an egg, a good pinch salt, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil to the blender (or food processor). Then mix at low speed for a couple of minutes.

(2) Remove the lid and, with the machine still going, add another 1/4 cup olive oil in a steady stream. Continue to blend for a few seconds. Then turn the machine to a high speed and continue to blend for about five seconds.


To make a tartare sauce add some chopped capers and chopped gherkins to taste to the basic mayo mixture.

For a simple seafood sauce, add a tablespoon of tomato sauce, a teaspoon of curry powder, a dash of Tabasco and some finely chopped shallots.

And for those who wonder what to do with those three or four egg whites that you have left over – try a pavlova for an after crab feast dessert.

If your mayo should curdle, break an egg yolk into another bowl and stir. Now add the curdled mayo, a splodge at a time, stirring vigorously as you go, until the mayo comes together and you can add the rest of the curdled mayo in a steady stream. The new egg yolk absorbs the curdled mass and the result is perfect mayo.

The crabs in this article were supplied by Bay and Ocean Seafoods, 1214 Lytton Road, Hemmant.

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