Guide to Blue Crab Picking and 5 Must Haves

The Blue Crab (Chesapeake Bay variety, that is) is what started the whole concept of The Good Stuff Unlimited.  Growing up in Virginia, seafood, especially the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab, was a part of life in the Summer.  The Blue Crab perfectly represents the Good Stuff – family, friends, fun and all of the other rewards this life has to offer.   But, as with picking crabs, the Good Stuff comes after some work.  As our beautiful daughter coined it while enjoying a mess of steamed crabs and Old Bay seasoning covering both hands, “To get the good stuff, sometimes you’ve gotta get a little dirty”.  What a great way to sum it up!

We hope this Good Stuff Guide will provide you some insights on crab picking and what you'll need. 

Now, when it comes down to how to pick a good crab, there are a lot of variations but not necessarily a “right way”.   This link at Chesapeake Living includes several instructional “how to” videos showing you just a few examples.  We use a technique closer to how the professional in this video, Joyce Fitchett, does it and has been doing it her whole life: 

Regardless of your technique, just be sure you don’t leave any meat in the shell!!

Below is our Guide to what you need to pick crabs.

1. Two coolers – one to keep the crabs in and one for your “cold drinks” – for many adults, beer is the preferred choice and for others, your favorite soda will do nicely. Keeping drinks cool is obvious but what might not be so obvious are the benefits of having a cooler for the crabs.  For starters, they will stay warmer longer (assuming they are freshly steamed) and will stay cool and away from the elements after they cool down.  A tip – put them in a sturdy lawn/garbage bag before placing in the cooler and add some ice around the bag when you want to keep the leftovers for a day or two afterwards.  As for what coolers to use, a few good options include:

    • Yeti – One of our favorite brands and the Tundra 45 Cooler is a nice lighter weight option.
    • Coleman has an array of options to include the classic Steel Belted Cooler.
    • RTIC – Another Good Stuff favorite is a solid competitor to Yeti at a lower price point.
2. Your favorite beer! For those beer drinking adults, check out the Untapped app to find a highly rated beer that will go with your freshly steamed crabs.  For me, a good Corona Light with a lime is hard to beat but I have also grown to like a few session IPAs to include Dogfish Head’s Slightly Mighty IPA and Two Hearted Ale’s Light Hearted IPA.
3. Tools and accouterments. You need a few crab tools to get the job done to include:
  • The Crab Place has a great assortment of good knives, mallets, bucket, and serving trays. They also deliver steamed crabs!  Of course, you can always find a lot of options at Amazon for all you'll need.  
  • Newspaper or thick craft paper – ideally, you can enjoy the crabs outside on a picnic table but whether inside or out, you’ll want to cover your table with paper to protect the table and help in the cleanup.
  • Paper towel
  • Lemon – I recommend having sliced lemons handy for cleaning your hands. Once you clean the gook off, a good squeeze of lemons will significantly cut the smell on your hands. 
4. The right condiments:
  • Old Bay Seasoning! This is a must – a perfect blend of herbs and spices that creates an unmistakable flavor not only for crabs but all seafood
  • For us at the Good Stuff Unlimited, another essential condiment is real butter! Don’t skip this and we promise you won’t be disappointed. 
  • Some also like vinegar (like my Grandmother who grew up on Eastern Shore).
5. Additional things you'll need:
  • Proper attire – you can opt for a bib but honestly no self respecting crab picker ever wears one. Just be sure not to wear your favorite shirt and you’ll be fine. 
  • Your favorite tunes - we're partial to Country as the genre of choice while picking but really anything in your "chill" mix will do.  Just bring your favorite portable speaker (see our favorites here) and Spotify playlist.
  • Friends and family - crabs are one of our favorite foods but they are just that, food, if not enjoyed the way the Lord intended ~ with those you love and enjoy.  In the end, picking crabs is as much about the experience, conversation and laughter as it is about the crab!


    We thought we’d also add a crab-pickers glossary so you can toss out a few terms to impress your friends or you can learn more by clicking here:

    • Apron – the thin or fat “flap” like back piece that indicates the sex of the crab.
    • Jimmy – Male crab; indicated by a thin Apron
    • Jenny or "Sook" – Female crab; indicated by a thick, “fat” Apron. Note:  ideally you won’t be served Jenny crabs since they are critically important to a vibrant, growing population and are traditionally kept in the Bay. 
    • Mustard - yellow “gook” or “guts” that you see once you remove the shell.  For some, it’s just gross but for many (like us) it’s a tasty part of the crab.
    • Dead Man’s Fingers – the gills/lungs of the crab. Do not eat these!
    • Crab Cut – the tiny cut you may get when picking. Like a paper cut, it’s not big but stings like crazy when you get Old Bay in it!  Like we say, The Good Stuff takes effort and sometimes sacrifice!!   

    So, when you find yourself in an area near the East Coast (especially near the Chesapeake Bay), search out a good local provider of steamed crabs and enjoy!

    If you have additional ideas on what we should add to this guide, please let us know.  Until next time, here's to finding time for your Good Stuff!

    Dave @ TGSU

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