How to Crack Stone Crab Claws Like a Pro

If you are dining out at a restaurant that serves this yummy delicacy, then the crab usually arrives at your table already cracked and ready to be pulled apart and dipped into yummy butter or mustard sauce.  You love the sweet, delicate flavor, but perhaps you have avoided preparing at home for one simple reason:  How do you crack those claws open?

What is a Stone Crab Anyway?

Stone Crabs, also known as Florida Stone Crabs are found in the Western North Atlantic from Connecticut to Belize.  The claws are harvested by crabbers who leave one claw intact.  The crab is returned to the water, where it will regenerate another claw.  They have a firm yet flaky meat, that is sweet like lobster, but milder.  Some say the flavor is similar to a cross between lobster and crab.  The claws have a hard outer armor and black tips.

How to Prepare

Stone crab is prepared in one of three different ways, similar to lobster preparation.  Though preparation is easy enough, timing is paramount.  You can boil, steam, or bake stone crab claws, being careful not to overcook, making the meat tough.

How the Pros Do It

Most restaurants that serve stone crabs have an apparatus in the kitchen specifically designed for cracking the hard shell open.  It mounts onto a counter and uses a crushing bar to crack the shell.  While it cracks the shell, the delicate meat is left un-crushed.  But if you really can't justify this kitchen appliance, there are other ways to crack a stone crab shell.

How Most People (try to) Do It

Most people, when attempting to crack a stone crab's shell, will try it with the trusty nutcracker or crab cracker.  However, the stone crab claw is tougher and harder than cracking open normal crab legs or lobster.  Sometimes this works.  Most of the time, however, this leads to frustration and broken shell in the meat.  (Warning:  Broken shell can cause multiple visits to the dentist! Thus, the name, stone crab.)  It is best to use a method that will leave the claw cracked but not crushed; broken but not shattered. 

Keep It Simple

Sometimes the easiest way, is the best way.  Using utensils that you have on hand may yield the best results.  Here are three methods of breaking the shell:

Use a large, heavy chef's or French knife and tap firmly on the top of all three of the joints.  The largest joint that has the claw attached will yield the most meat and should be tapped on both sides.  It may take more than one tap to completely break through.  Do all three knuckles in the same manner, holding the claw flat on a table or cutting board.  Try not to drive the shell into the meat.  Peel like you would a hard-boiled egg.

With a regular hammer, tap firmly onto the surface of the claw.  Again, all three knuckles should be cracked so that they can easily expose the meat.  Be careful not to hit too hard, breaking the shell into tiny pieces.  It is much better to crack into larger more manageable pieces.

Perhaps the easiest and safest way to crack a stone claw is to wrap the claw in a dish towel or bar towel.  Place the towel in your hand, then the claw, and then cover with the towel again.  The towel will protect your hands, and will keep any pieces of claw from flying into your face or eyes.  Smack firmly and sharply with a large flatware spoon.  Repeat on all sides of all knuckles. 

Peel and eat!

Taking the mystery out of cracking stone crab claws makes it so much easier to serve to your family or guests.  Now you can prepare and enjoy this delicacy with confidence!

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