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How to cook a brown Crab

Buey de mar

One of the most popular dishes on the starter sections of our restaurants menus is brown crab, which we prepare either stuffed or in its natural state. This crustacean is one of the most flavourful in Mediterranean cuisine provided that you know how to cook a brown crab to perfection.

As is customary with all seafood, precise cooking is crucial to avoid overcooking the crab meat and prevent it from losing its taste and texture properties.

The positive part of this is that cooking a brown crab is not complicated; you just need to follow a series of tips to master everything related to its cooking and successfully prepare this dish at home. The chefs at Chao Pescao have shared all their secrets on how to cook a brown crab as they do in the kitchens of our restaurants.

Everything you need to cook a brown Crab

The elements for preparing brown crab at home are not complicated or hard to find. Anyone who cooks regularly will have everything they need in their kitchen.

It’s worth noting that boiling a brown crab is the basic preparation of it. Afterwards, it can be eaten as it is or used in more elaborate recipes, such as the stuffed brown crab one featured on our menu, or as an essential part of a good seafood salad, croquettes, or even stews.

Therefore, the cooking method is the key to opening the doors to a wide range of recipes related to this marine treasure. Here are the elements and ingredients you need to boil a brown crab like a true professional chef:

  • A good sized brown crab, fresh and preferably recently caught and alive.
  • Water
  • Ice
  • Sea salt
  • Bay leaves
  • A large pot

As is commonly said in professional kitchens, simplicity is often the key to getting the most out of ingredients. In the case of the brown crab, this certainly holds true.

How to cook a brown crab correctly

If the list of ingredients is taken from the basic pantry of any kitchen, the process of boiling a brown crab follows those same parameters: by just understanding the proportions, temperatures, and times, you can achieve an exquisite cooked crab in terms of texture and flavour.

The first step is to weigh the brown crab. The weight on the scale will give us some crucial information: the cooking time. Crustaceans with a larger volume will need a few more minutes in the boiling water, while smaller ones will need the cook to reduce their cooking time to avoid overcooking and the meat becoming tough and chewy.

From cold water to hot water

To begin the cooking process, the first recommendation from seafood chefs is to immerse the brown crab in iced water for 30 minutes. This is done to ensure that the animal dies, especially if starting with a live specimen.

The goal is to prevent the crab from detaching its legs when placing it in the boiling water, which would otherwise cause the meat to come out of its shell. If the brown crab is already dead, you can skip this step.

Beyond that, it’s interesting to start with a pot of water at room temperature. The crab should be placed in the pot with its legs facing upwards. It should be completely submerged in the liquid, which will be brought to a boil by setting the heat to its maximum level.

Preparing the Water

The water used to boil the brown crab should be salted. A recommended ratio is 70 grammes of salt per litre of fresh water. However, if possible, it’s most interesting to work with seawater and directly boil the crab in it.

To this water, a couple of bay leaves are usually added to add some flavour to the broth and make the crab meat even more delicious.

The Cooking Times

As we’ve mentioned, the cooking time will vary depending on the size of the crabs. It doesn’t matter if you boil more than one brown crab; the individual weight of each will provide the key to how long it should be in the water.

By the way, this time is counted from the moment the liquid starts to boil. The time before that is not taken into account, even if the crustacean has been in the water from the beginning.

  • From 1/2 to 1 kilo: 17 minutes.
  • From 1 kilo to 1.6 kilos: 20 minutes.
  • From 1.6 kilos to 2.5 kilos: 25 minutes.


Allowing the brown crab to rest off the heat is key for the flavours to develop: tasting it hot and taken fresh from the pot is not the same as a few hours later, when it will undoubtedly be more delicious.

The resting time can extend to up to 12 hours, and it is recommended to leave the brown crab upside down (legs facing upwards) on a plate to cool at room temperature.

Afterwards, it can be enjoyed directly or its meat can be extracted for other recipes.

These are the main steps typically followed in the world of both professional and home cooking to prepare this crustacean, a highly valued part of our gastronomy. With the help of our chefs, we’ve cleared up all the doubts on how to cook a brown crab so that you can prepare it at home like a true chef.

Fish counter where you can buy fresh seafood in Barcelona to taste immediately. Chao Pescao Seafood.

If you want to experience a perfectly cooked brown crab, you can always visit one of our seafood restaurants to try it. Remember that enjoying a seafood feast in Barcelona doesn’t have to be too expensive and break the bank; there are options for affordable, high quality seafood, just like in our Chao Pescao Restaurant.

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