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Crab Roasted in the Shell

By Mother Nature Network

  • 2 live or cooked Dungeness crabs, 1 1/2 to 2 pounds each
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (black, white, or a combination)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons butter


If using live crabs, fill a good-sized pot with enough water to cover the crabs by a couple of inches. Add 2 tablespoons salt. Put in the crabs, cover, and bring the water almost to a boil over high heat. When the water is just about to boil, turn off the heat, let steep 15 minutes, and then remove the crabs and rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking (or surround them with ice cubes to chill even faster).

Clean the crabs as directed in Stir Fried Crab with Black Bean Sauce, leaving the body whole and the legs intact. Remove any loose organs from the top shells, but leave the fat pockets in the corners intact.

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Combine the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, Sichuan pepper, and garlic powder and sprinkle the mixture well over the crabs, reserving a pinch for the butter.

Place right side up in a shallow roasting pan or rimmed sheet pan. Drain any water from the top shells and put them in the pan upside down. Bake until the shells are slightly browned and brittle, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter on top of the stove with the reserved crab seasonings.

Quarter the roasted crabs and arrange on a platter. Stir up to a tablespoon of the fat from the crab shells into the butter (taste it first; sometimes it can be bitter, in which case skip it), then either drizzle the butter over the crab pieces or pass it separately in ramekins. Add the top shells to the platter for decoration. Serve with Garlic Noodles (recipe follows), with individual shellfish crackers or nutcrackers.

Makes 2 to 4 servings

Good to know
Serving the butter sauce over the crab is more authentic, but I find it a little less messy to serve it in ramekins, steamed lobster style. Either way, this is messy finger food, so provide plenty of napkins and bowls for the crab shells. If you want to be really fancy, pass warm, damp washcloths at the end (you can warm them in a steamer on top of the stove while you are eating).

Which beer should I drink with this?
Pale ale, Pilsner.

1. Roast crab, a whole, crisp-shelled Dungeness crab seasoned with pepper and drizzled with seasoned butter, has been a specialty of the An family's San Francisco restaurants Crustacean and Thanh Long since the early 1970s. Nearly everyone who orders the crab also orders a plate or two of garlic noodles. The recipes for both are closely guarded family secrets — each restaurant has a "secret" kitchen where this and other specialty dishes are prepared — and I don’t claim to be in on the secret. But this version comes pretty close. I learned about the roasting technique from another San Francisco restaurateur, chef Andrea Froncillo of the Crab House on Pier 39.


“Crab Roasted in the Shell”