The most important etiquette rules on how to serve and eat crab with grace. Tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest at the dining table.


What crab etiquette is

Crab etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and eat crab. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect your hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow crab etiquette to serve it to your guests appropriately.

If you are a guest, respect crab etiquette rules to properly eat and enjoy it.

What you should know about crab

Crabs are a family of crustaceans.

Their shell is hard and of various colors. Their meat is firm, white in color, and sweet in flavor. The delicate flavor of their meat makes them one of the most appreciated seafood. 

How To Serve And Eat Crab: The Top 6 Etiquette rules

Etiquette rules to serve and eat crab

1) How to store crab

It is best to eat crab right away.  

You can store fresh crab meat in your fridge for 1 or 2 days. 

Alternatively, you can store crab in the freezer. It can last for up to 2-3 months. Do not store cooked crab meat, due to the risk of bacteria.

2) How to clean crab

Serving crab whole

If you serve crab whole, you do not need to clean it first. Do not place the crab in freshwater. It will kill the crab. It also causes distress to the animal, so it qualifies as animal cruelty. 

The most humane way to kill a crab is to freeze it or kill it instantly.

Put the live crab in the freezer for at least 2 hours. The crab will become unconscious, then die. However, this method is considered humane only when done at a temperature below -15°C.

Serving crab meat

If you do not serve the crab whole, you need to remove its inedible parts.

Kill the crab first. Then, remove its grey inedible parts and the small legs.

Keep the meat from inside the shell and the two largest claws.

3) How to cook crab

There are several ways to cook crab. Boil, steam, or grill. Alternatively, you can use crab meat in recipes such as salads or crab cakes.

Be aware that guests may refuse to eat crab for ethical reasons. Several ways to kill crabs qualify as animal cruelty. One of them is the traditional method of placing the crab into boiling water. Such methods may be illegal in some countries or regions. 

4) How to serve & present crab

Serve crabs cracked or intact. You can serve the big claws cracked, but it is more common to serve them intact. 

If you serve crab intact, provide your guests with the appropriate utensils and tableware to eat it.

  • Crab crackers to crack the claws and the shell.
  • A small pick for shellfish to extract the meat.
  • A small bowl of water and lemon to wash the fingers. 

5) Foods and beverages to pair crab with

Crabs go well with raw, roasted, or steamed vegetables. Artichokes, avocado, brussels sprouts, or zucchini. Mashed or roasted potatoes, or french fries. 

Serving crab with other fish or seafood is not usual and is not recommended. Do not pair it with meat. 

The ideal dips for crab are garlic or lemon-flavored sauces, mayonnaise, or melted butter. 

Pair crab with white wine. Unoaked Chardonnay wines such as Chablis, Sauvignon Blanc, Albariño, Riesling, or Pinot Gris. Avoid red wines. 

6) How to eat crab

When the crab is served cracked, eat it with a fork and knife. 

If the crab is intact, crack it with a dedicated cracker. Hold the body or one of the claws with your hand. Use the other hand to crack the shell with the cracker. Apply a firm, but gentle and gradual pressure to avoid making a mess. Press the body on the belly, as it is the softest spot.

Then, pull out and eat the meat normally with your fork or with a special small pick for shellfish. 

Do not discard a whole claw. Try to eat at least part of it. Do not put too much effort, as you may make a mess or look greedy. Aim for a middle ground. 

On formal occasions, do not suck the meat and juice from the claws. In informal venues, this may be allowed.

crab etiquette mistakes

Crab etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the worst crab etiquette mistakes. 

  • 10/10. Killing a crab in an unethical way.
  • 7/10. Pairing crab with strong flavors
  • 7/10. Pairing crab with red wine.
  • 6/10. Sucking juice from the claws.
  • 4/10. Discarding a whole claw.

Additional information for properly serving crab

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and to correctly plan a menu.

Crab contains 97 calories per 100 grams. The calories per serving vary based on the dimension of the crab.

How to buy the best crab

A crucial factor in crab etiquette is to serve the best product possible to your guests.

Season and availability 

Crabs are available all year round. Their fishing seasons depend on the region. Usually, peak seasons are between July and August, or between October and January. 

Choose the best

Fresh crab feels heavy and “solid”. If you move it, it should not feel as if the inside is moving.

Alternatives to crab

A substitute for crab must have a comparable texture and delicate flavor. The most popular options are lobster or crayfish. Surimi is often used as a substitute, but it is not elegant to serve it as it is a processed food made of cheap fish pieces.


Which part of the crab is edible? The meat in the main body and in the big claws. The internal organs are edible, but they are not common to eat.

What part of a crab can’t you eat? The internal organs, the shell, and the small legs.

Can you eat crab raw? No. You should cook the crab.

Do you eat the crab head? No. It is best to discard it.

What is the green stuff in crabs? It’s the tomalley, which is a digestive organ of the crab. It is best to discard it and not eat it.