How to Cook Dungeoness Crab

Shellfish, like crab and lobster, aren’t as daunting to cook as you might think.

We picked up live crab and mussels for a special New Year’s Eve dinner at home and I was surprised to see so many people asking to have their fresh, live crab steamed. Really? By the time you get home you’ll have cooked, cold crab. We thought maybe it’s because people don’t have pots large enough to boil crabs. Or maybe they don’t have time. Or maybe they don’t know how.

We wanted to dispel the fear of cooking live crab with this step by step guide so you can sit down to this:

Easy New Years Eve dinner: steamed crab & mussels

If you’ve ever dreamed of cooking a delicious seafood dinner for a special occasion, it’s time to learn.

Start by prepping some garlic bread

This is, easy, low intensive garlic bread. Sliced up a loaf of sourdough, Italian bread, or a French baguette, leaving the bottom crust intact. Rub some peeled/smashed garlic on the insides. Spray with olive oil.

Wrap it in a clean towel. The oven is set at 200. You’re warming it all the way through. Leave it in the oven until you’re ready to eat.

Steaming crabs & Mussels

We’re actually doing these at the same time, in the same pot.


  • Butter
  • one large shallot, sliced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • lemon juice
  • white wine
  • salt

Start with heating butter in a large pan (big enough to fit 2 crabs and a pound of mussels) on medium heat.

Add shallots and sweat.

Add garlic.

Now it’s time for our sea friends (here we go, in the sauce!).  Once crabs are in the pot, increase heat to high.

Add in a liberal amount of white wine, and (in our case) the mussels, followed by the juice from half a lemon, and another few good slices of butter.

Cover. Wait until it starts steaming, then let it continue to cook for about 3 minutes.

Here are the mussels, plated. Then add the crab on top.

After your shellfish is out, I encourage you to strain the remaining liquid in the pot and use it as a dipping sauce at the table.


Think of this as an alternative to dipping crab in butter. It’s easier on sensitive stomachs that don’t do too well with rich food.

Simply combine:

minced shallots

lemon zest

lemon juice

black pepper

red wine vinegar, and a pinch of salt.

Enjoy your dinner!

Live crabs and mussels from Princeton Seafood Co. in Half Moon Bay, CA.

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