In the summertime here on the Eastern Shore, it’s rare to go a week without enjoying blue crabs in some way, shape, or form. Crab cakes, crab soup, or crab dip are all shining examples. But, nothing beats a good old-fashioned crab feast in my book! A big tray of freshly steamed crabs, some corn-on-the-cob, and plenty of ice cold beer. It’s just not summer without it!

Now, I know that many of you folks don’t have access to live blue crabs. But, many folks who do buy them already steamed and seasoned. And, that’s just no good! You don’t know how long ago they were cooked, and you usually end up paying more money to have them do it for you.

The steaming instructions listed below apply to any amount of live crabs – whether it be 1 dozen, or one bushel. Quantity does not matter. Bear in mind if you are steaming a whole bushel, you’ll need a very large cooking device. We have an old keg that we’ve converted to a steam-pot, and it’s great! I also recommend cooking outside if possible. A turkey frying rig is wonderful for this purpose. A side burner on a grill can usually do the job as well. I find that when I do steam them inside, it creates a funk smell in the house that lingers for a day or so. Kind of like when you fry something!

Line a table with multiple layers of newspaper, and dump the crabs right into the center of the table. Have wooden mallets and picking knives at the ready. We like to serve melted butter, and cider vinegar that’s been seasoned with plenty of Old Bay.


  1. Posted June 4, 2012 at 4:52 PM | Permalink

    That is just a plate full of beautiful-ness!

  2. Posted June 4, 2012 at 9:01 PM | Permalink

    That stack of crabs look incredible! Yum!

  3. Posted June 5, 2012 at 1:23 AM | Permalink

    Wow! I am imagining my husband’s wide smile, if he sees this waiting for him for dinner. =)

  4. Posted June 5, 2012 at 9:20 AM | Permalink

    Saw this on TasteSpotting and I decided to see who was dishing advice on steaming blue crabs the “Maryland way.” It’s always people who have never set foot in Maryland and have no clue. They look delicious – can’t wait to get my first crabs of the season! Love to meet a fellow Maryland blogger 🙂

  5. Posted June 5, 2012 at 9:42 AM | Permalink


  6. Posted June 5, 2012 at 8:02 PM | Permalink

    Ohmygoodness, thank god!! 😀 This is how my grandma raised us on crabs (I’m not on the eastern shore, I’m on the western shore – hooray Annapolis). We used to catch our own as a kid. Crabs are for serious here. 😉

    Glad to see another Maryland blogger out there!!

  7. Posted June 6, 2012 at 9:04 AM | Permalink

    Natty Boh is the best beer for steaming.

  8. mahuchi
    Posted June 14, 2012 at 10:20 PM | Permalink

    I live in DC and have been cooking crabs for 25 years. I leave the water boiing, add the crabs and steam them for exactly 18 minutes. Perfect every time!

    • Laura
      Posted June 15, 2012 at 7:26 AM | Permalink

      It does vary some on the size of the crab, and we’re usually working with #1’s – largest in size, which require the longest cooking time. They’re cooked at about 20 minutes, but there’s nothing that I can stand worse than a “wet crab”. Cooking them longer encourages evaporation of the excess water found in the crab bodies, leading to crab meat that is easier to pick.

  9. Peter
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 2:36 PM | Permalink

    Anyone have a suggestion for a substitute for the beer in the steaming liquid? I’ve got a few recovering alcoholics where even the smell of it could cause a relapse. Even N/A beer. No joke. Thanks!

    • Laura
      Posted June 15, 2012 at 2:48 PM | Permalink

      Peter – leave the beer out, and add a little more vinegar and water. No problemo!

  10. Linda Wheatley
    Posted June 25, 2012 at 2:10 PM | Permalink

    I lived on Tangier Island for 30 years You have never eaten steamed crabs until you have them the way they do them. They pull the backs off and clean the crab before you cook them. They layer crabs old bay and onions. Then we fry bacon and pour over them then steam them Now they are to die for

    • Cindy
      Posted April 30, 2014 at 11:20 AM | Permalink

      sounds amazing

    • Jeff
      Posted June 4, 2017 at 12:32 AM | Permalink

      I was from South Dorchester County. We called that stewed crabs…Delicious. I miss it!

  11. Theresa
    Posted August 18, 2014 at 7:10 PM | Permalink

    sounds delish
    I need help with how to CLEAN them before you boil them.
    I’m new to MD and am learning all this for the first time.
    Is there something you do BEFORE you steam them that ‘cleanses’ them out? like you would do to crawfish to ‘purge’ them?

    tx so much.

    • Posted August 19, 2014 at 2:28 PM | Permalink

      There is no need to clean them before hand, they don’t live in the mud the way that something like a crawfish or shellfish do.

  12. Tricia.
    Posted August 16, 2017 at 7:52 PM | Permalink

    mmmm I love crabs. I mix a lil black pepper and red pepper in with my old bay!

  13. Posted October 6, 2017 at 1:15 PM | Permalink

    We live in south-central Louisiana and had to pay 15.00 for a dozen. We no longer get crabs at a decent price, but gotta have our boiled crabs. Bon Appetit!

  14. Posted October 6, 2017 at 1:20 PM | Permalink

    What does awaiting moderation mean?

    • Posted October 7, 2017 at 10:51 AM | Permalink

      It just means I have to approve the comment before it goes up in the comments. Enjoy those crabs!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.