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Boiled or Steamed Crab or Lobster

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Makes 2 to 4 servings 1x

Time 10 minutes



  • Handful of salt (or a big pinch if steaming)
  • 6 to 12 live blue or rock crabs, or 1 or 2 lobsters (about 3 pounds)


  1. Fill the largest pot you have halfway with water if you’re boiling, just an inch or so if you’re steaming (then rig it with a steamer; see below). Salt it and bring to a boil. Using tongs, put the crabs or lobsters in the pot one by one.
  2. Count cooking time from when the water returns to a boil: Cook crabs for about 5 minutes, or until red; lobster for about 8 minutes for its first pound and then an additional 3 to 4 minutes per pound above that. (For example, a 3-pounder should boil for 15 to 20 minutes.) The foolproof way to check doneness—essential with larger lobsters—is to insert an instant-read thermometer into the tail meat by sliding it in between the underside of the body and the tail joint; lobster is done at 140°F.
  3. Drain the seafood in a colander for a few minutes, reserving the liquid for another use if you like, and serve immediately, cool to eat later, or remove the meat from the shells to use for another recipe. If you want to drain the water accumulated in the lobster shell, use a sturdy, thin-bladed knife to poke a hole in the crosshairs right behind the eyes, then drain.

9 Things to Serve with Any Simply Cooked Crab or Lobster
Go basic or go big. Or go nothing. But since people like what they like, it’s best to offer some choices for dipping or drizzling.

  1. Clarified butter or melted butter
  2. Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  3. Some of the cooking broth (strained or spooned out of the pot to avoid grit)
  4. Ginger-Scallion Sauce
  5. Any herb sauce
  6. Soy Dipping Sauce and Marinade
  7. Thai Chile Sauce
  8. Miso Dipping Sauce
  9. Any flavored mayonnaise (best with cold crab or lobster

— Recipe from How to Cook Everything: Completely Revised Twentieth Anniversary Edition