How to Shell and Shred Crab Meat

Sep 8, 2016

Shredded crab has a variety of uses in recipes, and those that love seafood greatly enjoy the rich flavor and succulent texture of crab. However, if you are new to cooking and serving crab, it can be a confusing process, especially if you are starting with live, frozen or whole crabs that need to be shelled first.

Once you get the basics down, dealing with crab and shredding meat for recipes is well worth the effort for most cooks, and it will save you money over buying packaged crab meat. Here is how you can shell and shred crab meat.

Shelling the crab

Before you can shred cooked crab meat, you need to shell the crab if you are using a whole crab. Start by cracking the body of the crab in half lengthwise with the back of a sharp knife or kitchen mallet so you are left with two halves. Peel the shell back to expose the meat.

Discard the mouth, gills, intestines and stomach, scraping any brown meat away from the white meat with a sharp knife. Twist the claws and tail to remove them – then crack the shell of the claws and tail to remove the meat. Transfer the usable crab meat to a bowl, reserving the shells and liquid for stock if desired.

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Shredding the meat

Once the crab meat has been transferred to a bowl, the shredding process is fairly simple. To shred the crab meat, hold each piece of crab meat in place with the tines of a fork and use a second fork in a vertical motion to shred the crab meat into small, thin pieces, following the grain of the meat. If you are dealing with a large amount of crab, transfer the shredded crab to a second bowl or plate as you go.

Shredding packaged imitation crab meat

Packaged imitation crab meat is often made of fish instead of crab to keep cost down, though it has a similar flavor to real crab meat and is often used in salads and recipes where real crab meat would not be economical.

Imitation crab meat in sticks or in chunks can be placed in a bowl and shredded using the tines of a fork in a downward motion. Imitation crab meat can also be chopped in thin strips to look like it has been shredded, which is a faster method if you are shredding a large quantity.

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Shredded crab meat can be used in a variety of different dishes including cold salads, sandwiches, soups and rice and pasta dishes like risotto, as well as popular ethnic dishes like Salpicon de Jaiba.

Once the crab has been shredded, whether you are using real crab or imitation crab, it should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container and consumed or discarded within 3 to 5 days.