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.
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: