Classic Steamed Crab Classic Steamed Crab

Classic Steamed Crab | Food styling by Christopher St.Onge | Prop styling by Madeleine Johari Image by: Ronald Tsang

We prefer steaming over boiling because it prevents fresh crab from becoming waterlogged—and adding ingredients such as herbs, garlic and citrus during cooking enhances the crustacean's natural sweetness.

  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Total time 35 minutes
  • Portion size 4 servings



In large stockpot, add enough water to come 2 inches up side; place steamer rack on bottom. Add vinegar, onions, lemons, garlic, thyme and salt; bring to boil over high heat. Add crabs, belly side down; cover and cook for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-high; steam until crabs are cooked, about 15 minutes.

Using tongs, transfer crabs to sinkful of ice water to stop cooking. When cool enough to handle, lay 1 crab belly side up; remove triangular flap (apron). Holding crab belly side down in palm of hand, insert thumb where apron was removed; lift off top shell. Discard shell or rinse and save for stock.

Using fingers, remove gills, mouth and organs; discard. Rinse body; break in half crosswise. Detach legs and claws. Repeat with remaining crabs. Serve with Sweet Chili Butter Sauce and Bagna Cauda Dipping Sauce (see recipes, below).

Tip from The Test Kitchen: Add different items to flavour your steam basket, such as beer, Asian spices or a variety of fresh herbs. To steam more than one crab simultaneously, divide the total weight by the number of crabs. Then, multiply that number by 7 or 8 minutes to determine the batch's cooking time.

Sweet Chili Butter Sauce


In small saucepan, melt 1 cup butter over low heat. Cook until foamy and starting to brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat; skim off foam and discard. Stir in 2 tbsp lemon zest; let stand for 10 minutes to infuse. Strain butter through cheesecloth or fine-mesh sieve into bowl. Stir in 2 tbsp liquid honey, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper and 1/4 tsp salt; serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

Bagna Cauda Dipping Sauce


In food processor, pulse together 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened; 6 oil-packed anchovy fillets; and 3 cloves garlic, minced. With motor running, gradually add 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil in thin steady stream until blended. Scrape into saucepan; cook over low heat, stirring, until butter is melted, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley, 1 tsp grated lemon zest and 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice. Serve warm.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional facts Per serving: about

  • Fibre 0 g
  • Sodium 654 mg
  • Sugars 0 g
  • Protein 39 g
  • Calories 190
  • Total fat 2 g
  • Potassium 706 mg
  • Cholesterol 131 mg
  • Total carbohydrate 2 g


  • Iron 5
  • Folate 33
  • Calcium 9
  • Vitamin A 5
  • Vitamin C 10
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Lunch & Dinner

Classic Steamed Crab