For home crab feast, simplicity is key

Nothing says summer in the mid-Atlantic quite like a paper-covered table, piled high with steamed and seasoned crabs.

Toss in a few beers, a few friends, and maybe a few sides and you have yourself a legitimate party — because really, simplicity is key when it comes to throwing a crab feast.

Eric Wood knows his way around the cherished crustacean. He started working at his father’s Glen Burnie, Maryland, crab carryout, Seaside Seafood, when he was 12. Now he runs it and helps others throw their own at-home crab feasts, one bushel at a time.

Wood said very few things are needed when it comes to pulling off a classic Maryland crab party. Brown craft paper or newspaper are especially useful for keeping the mess contained, because cracking crabs does get messy.

When it comes to sides, he prefers to keep it simple with steamed corn on the cob — especially when it’s peak season — or a simple corn salad, mixed with avocado and tomato.

How many crabs do you need for a crab party? That depends on your appetite, but Wood recommends accounting for four to six crabs per person (larger crabs have more meat than the smaller ones, so keep that in mind when ordering). Most places steam and season the crabs for pickup, meaning all you need to do is open the bag and dump them on the table.

[New to eating crabs? Watch our tutorial on how to pick a crab.]

Cold beers are a must, and so are some basic tools, such as knives and mallets — the latter being more festive, the former winning points for precision. Some prefer drawn butter for dipping, and it never hurts to have a dish or two of extra seasoning for the spice enthusiasts.

While gathering a group of friends is a must for feasting, Wood said there’s no need to force an outdoor party during the height of summer heat. Maryland crab season runs through October, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy the regional favorite.

Stuck with leftovers? Wood likes to use up remaining crab meat by making crabcakes, Maryland crab soup or cream of crab soup. Here are a few other ideas for cooking with crab meat, plus a few side dishes that pair perfectly with a crab feast:

In this image taken on July 16, 2012, chef Elizabeth Karmel’s recipe of cooked shrimp and crab in a light, chilled summer cerviche served with tortilla chips is shown in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
Summer ceviche with shrimp and crab  This recipe uses cooked shellfish, not raw, making it a great go-to for leftover crab meat. Find the recipe here. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead) (AP/Matthew Mead)
This March 3, 2014, photo shows zucchini crab cakes with lime aioli in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
Zucchini crabcakes with lime aioli Sixteen ounces of lump crab meat with leave you with 10 crabs cakes. Find the recipe here. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead) (AP/Matthew Mead)
This Mar. 31, 2014 photo shows spring crab and shrimp cakes with double radish sauce in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
Spring crab and shrimp cakes with double radish sauce  Pair your leftover crab with some cooked shrimp for a whole new dish. Find the recipe here. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead) (AP/Matthew Mead)
This May 2, 2011 photo shows angel hair pasta with crabmeat, jalapeno and mint in Concord, N.H. Chef Jonathan Waxman, of the New York restaurant Barbuto, says freshly cooked crab is essential for this recipe.   (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
Angel hair pasta with crab meat, jalapeño and mint Fresh, not frozen, crab works best in this dish. Find the recipe here. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Matthew Mead)
This Aug. 22, 2011 photo shows grapefruit & crab salad in Concord, N.H. For AP’s 20 Salads of Summer series, chef Todd English offered this recipe for grapefruit and crab salad from his forthcoming book, "Cooking in Everyday English."    (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
Grapefruit and crab salad For a lighter lunch, post-feast, try this grapefruit and crab salad from chef Todd English. Find the recipe here. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead) (ASSOCIATED PRESS/Matthew Mead)
This July 29, 2013 photo shows prosciutto, cantaloupe, and orecchiette salad in Concord, N.H. A pasta salad should be easy. It should be a just-throw-the-ingredients-in-a-bowl kind of summer food that doesn't require too much messing around. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
Prosciutto, cantaloupe and orecchiette salad  This summer pasta salad doesn’t require too much time. Find the recipe here. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead) (AP/Matthew Mead)
This July 29, 2013 photo shows grilled Mexican street corn salad in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
Grilled Mexican street corn salad If you prefer your corn off the cob, try a grilled corn salad. Find the recipe here. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead) (AP/Matthew Mead)
This undated photo provided by America's Test Kitchen in May 2018 shows creamy buttermilk coleslaw in Brookline, Mass. This recipe appears in the cookbook “Complete Make-Ahead.” (Steve Klise/America's Test Kitchen via AP)
Creamy buttermilk coleslaw  A creamy coleslaw is always welcome on any summer spread. Find the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen here. (Steve Klise/America’s Test Kitchen via AP) (AP/Steve Klise)
This undated photo provided by America's Test Kitchen in April 2019 shows a French Potato Salad with Dijon in Brookline, Mass. This recipe appears in the cookbook "Revolutionary Recipes." (Carl Tremblay/America's Test Kitchen via AP)
French potato salad with Dijon  The same goes for potato salad. Find the recipe here. (Carl Tremblay/America’s Test Kitchen via AP) (AP/Carl Tremblay)
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In this image taken on July 16, 2012, chef Elizabeth Karmel’s recipe of cooked shrimp and crab in a light, chilled summer cerviche served with tortilla chips is shown in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
This March 3, 2014, photo shows zucchini crab cakes with lime aioli in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
This Mar. 31, 2014 photo shows spring crab and shrimp cakes with double radish sauce in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
This May 2, 2011 photo shows angel hair pasta with crabmeat, jalapeno and mint in Concord, N.H. Chef Jonathan Waxman, of the New York restaurant Barbuto, says freshly cooked crab is essential for this recipe.   (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
This Aug. 22, 2011 photo shows grapefruit & crab salad in Concord, N.H. For AP’s 20 Salads of Summer series, chef Todd English offered this recipe for grapefruit and crab salad from his forthcoming book, "Cooking in Everyday English."    (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
This July 29, 2013 photo shows prosciutto, cantaloupe, and orecchiette salad in Concord, N.H. A pasta salad should be easy. It should be a just-throw-the-ingredients-in-a-bowl kind of summer food that doesn't require too much messing around. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
This July 29, 2013 photo shows grilled Mexican street corn salad in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
This undated photo provided by America's Test Kitchen in May 2018 shows creamy buttermilk coleslaw in Brookline, Mass. This recipe appears in the cookbook “Complete Make-Ahead.” (Steve Klise/America's Test Kitchen via AP)
This undated photo provided by America's Test Kitchen in April 2019 shows a French Potato Salad with Dijon in Brookline, Mass. This recipe appears in the cookbook "Revolutionary Recipes." (Carl Tremblay/America's Test Kitchen via AP)

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