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How to Choose Good Meaty Crab – Step by Step Guide

meaty crab

Choosing the right mud crab for cooking is important. I used to buy mud crab (aka. Scylla Serrata) in wet market near my house. Over the years, i have learned some tricks on how to choose fresh and meaty crab.

Delicious crabs are fresh crabs cooking with the right sauce. Here i list out ways to choose the meaty crab based on my experience.

Check its eyes and body movement

Fresh crab are crab still alive and looks aggressive when you get hold of it. The legs of the crab should be moving, the body is solid and firm.

Another way is crab eyes, make sure they are intact and still moving. This is because the eyes for mud crab is like a pulse for humans. Usually, mosquito like to bite the crab eyes or it was bump into some object during packing or sorting. If the eyes are not moving or look inactive, that mean the crab is weak and may die very soon.

Crab Elbow

Another way to check the freshness of the meaty crab is by pressing the crab elbow. If you press the elbow, it will swell again; it mean inside is solid and meaty.


When choosing meaty crabs, ignore the tendency to choose bright, shiny crabs. Instead, choose crabs with shells that are dull and scratched. You see, the dull and scratched shell shows the crabs are ready to replace the skin (molting to become soft shell crab)  and have dense meat. Normally the crab will feed themselves a lot before molting – Crabs (and other crustaceans) cannot grow in a linear fashion like most animals. Because they have a hard outer shell (the exoskeleton) that does not grow, they must shed their shells, a process called molting. Just as we outgrow our clothing, crabs outgrow their shells. Prior to molting, a crab reabsorbs some of the calcium carbonate from the old exoskeleton, then secretes enzymes to separate the old shell from the underlying skin (or epidermis). Then, the epidermis secretes a new, soft, paper-like shell beneath the old one. This process can take several weeks.


Meaty Crab


Water Crab

Check the claws

Crab has large claws. Check whether the claws are cracked or still sturdy.

Don’t be tempted to choose bright and shiny crabs. Instead crabs with dull shell colors indicate the crabs have solid meat.

Check the right claws that are used to destroy prey, whether blunt or flat toothed. If the toothed is flat, that mean the crab just molted and inside the body is full of water. Looked for blunt toothed – as it use the right claws to crush and destroy prey. It mean the crab has been actively feeding himself and the meat will be solid and full.

Meaty Crab Claw
Empty Crab Claw

Check the bottom

Checking the underside or abdomen of the crab – can determine whether a crab is female or male. When the abdomen shows the grooves forming triangles and spikes, the crabs are males. When tended to be round, then she is a female. You can press the abdomen to test the firmness of the shell. If the crab show blue tinge and the abdomen is soft. It indicates the meat is not full.

Male Crab
Female Crab

Another way to test the crab whether is meaty or not is by pressing the center of the flap with your finger. The meaty crab has a firm, prominent and yellowish stomach. While less meaty crab will have mild stomach with a little blue and bright color.

The meaty crabs are generally heavier if lifted.


Fresh crabs do not emit scents. You shouldn’t buy the crab when it has an unpleasant aroma, even too fishy. Also avoid crab that have ammonia smells.

Fresh crabs have no smell. Avoid ammonia-smelling crabs.

Crabs that smell of taste like ammonia are the result of being older crabs not whether they are a good crab or bad crab. We’re honestly not sure why this is, but that it just can be when dealing with older crabs.

In our own experience with catching and dealing with Mangrove Crab we have come across those ammonia tasting and smelling crabs and found that we just get used to them! It’s not “real ammonia” you are dealing with, but just the smells and tastes of. The best way to tow it down is to deal with them in the boiling process. We steamed the crab for 15 minutes and add minced onion and other herbs as well as the Sea Salts to aide in over riding the smells and flavors of ammonia.


When shopping for crabs, choose crabs that are placed in a dry place. When the crab is stored in a container filled with water, the crabs will move more, and the possibility of the meat inside is not too dense.

Choose crabs that are stored in a dry place. The crabs in the water tank use more energy and lose meat faster. Ask the seller when the meaty crab is caught. Ideally the crabs must be cooked within two days after catching.