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  #1  
Old 08-23-2003, 02:44 PM
amoamasamat amoamasamat is offline
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Do crab gills-"dead man's fingers," really make you ill if you eat them?

I have always been told that to properly prepare the cooked Maryland Blue
Crab (either hard or softshell), after cracking off the shell the gills must
be removed. These are feathery-looking spongy structures also called "dead
man's fingers" underneath the shell and over the meat. Supposedly, eating
these structures will make you ill. I find it improbable that there is a
poison that could be present in the gills but not in the rest of the crab.
I also can't quite see it as a concentration repository for bacteria (like
shrimp veins, I suppose). What do you know about it? (There is also a
variety of coral called "dead man's fingers" too. No relation.)

(These instructions actually apply to all crab preparation).
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  #2  
Old 08-23-2003, 02:49 PM
Ice Wolf Ice Wolf is offline
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From this page on crab preparation:

Quote:
Pull away the grey gills – or ‘dead man's fingers' – from the crab's body and discard. In spite of the name, these are not actually poisonous, merely tough and indigestible.
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  #3  
Old 08-23-2003, 02:56 PM
Fretful Porpentine Fretful Porpentine is offline
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Nah, pretty much everyone in my family has tried eating them at one time or another. None of us got sick, although I don't know that anybody was particularly eager to repeat the experiment.
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  #4  
Old 08-23-2003, 03:37 PM
BiblioCat BiblioCat is offline
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They don't taste very good, either. We have steamed crabs all the time, and I've gotten them in my mouth by accident several times. They're a very odd texture and taste really nasty. I just spit it out and keep going after the meat.

I got food poisoning from crabs once, and while my MIL was convinced it was from accidentally eating a piece of the gill, I'm pretty sure it was from eating one that was already dead when it was steamed. That will make you sick as a dog.
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  #5  
Old 08-23-2003, 05:17 PM
SoulSearching SoulSearching is offline
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You have to cook a LIVE crab or else you'll get sick???
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  #6  
Old 08-23-2003, 05:29 PM
BiblioCat BiblioCat is offline
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Yes, when you steam them, they must be alive. Any that are dead should be thrown out.

If they're dead when you steam them, you'll get sick.
The bacteria multiplies very quickly.
Here and here. At the secind link, you need to scroll down to the "important note."
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  #7  
Old 03-06-2016, 05:53 PM
tsmall07 tsmall07 is offline
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So, I know this is digging up a really old thread, but this popped up on my search results and I wanted to correct something above. You absolutely can cook dead crabs as long as YOU know HOW LONG they've been dead. If you're crabbing and you have your catch on ice in a cooler, you can cook them all even if some of them die. Eating a crab that you find dead and don't know how long it's been dead is very dangerous. The reason crabbers have to throw away "dead loss" is because they're out for weeks at a time and there's no way to know how long the crab has been dead.
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  #8  
Old 03-06-2016, 06:55 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsmall07 View Post
The reason crabbers have to throw away "dead loss" is because they're out for weeks at a time and there's no way to know how long the crab has been dead.

Where are crabbers out for "weeks at a time?"
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  #9  
Old 03-06-2016, 07:04 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem View Post
Where are crabbers out for "weeks at a time?"
The Bering sea, for one place.
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  #10  
Old 03-06-2016, 07:28 PM
cochrane cochrane is offline
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Yup, they can be out at sea for up to four weeks, especially if they have trouble making their quotas. They won't come back to port unless their holds are full. Their strings of pots run for miles and they can be setting on grounds where the crabs aren't all that plentiful. So they end up pulling pots, rebaiting them, and resetting them over and over again. Also, they can only keep mature male crabs, so they can end up throwing five or six crabs back into the sea for every one they can keep.

Last edited by cochrane; 03-06-2016 at 07:31 PM..
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  #11  
Old 03-06-2016, 08:22 PM
samclem samclem is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tsmall07 View Post
The reason crabbers have to throw away "dead loss" is because they're out for weeks at a time and there's no way to know how long the crab has been dead.
Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem View Post
Where are crabbers out for "weeks at a time?"
Quote:
Originally Posted by Qadgop the Mercotan View Post
The Bering sea, for one place.
Quote:
Originally Posted by cochrane View Post
Yup, they can be out at sea for up to four weeks, especially if they have trouble making their quotas. They won't come back to port unless their holds are full. Their strings of pots run for miles and they can be setting on grounds where the crabs aren't all that plentiful. So they end up pulling pots, rebaiting them, and resetting them over and over again. Also, they can only keep mature male crabs, so they can end up throwing five or six crabs back into the sea for every one they can keep.
This is a thread about Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. Those crabbers are NOT out for weeks at a time-- hardly "days at a time. " At least, not to my knowledge.
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  #12  
Old 03-06-2016, 08:40 PM
donkeyoatey donkeyoatey is offline
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WTF is up with the moderation here lately?
Ever hear of thread drift?
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  #13  
Old 03-06-2016, 08:47 PM
Krav Manga Krav Manga is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem View Post
Where are crabbers out for "weeks at a time?"
Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem
This is a thread about Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. Those crabbers are NOT out for weeks at a time-- hardly "days at a time. " At least, not to my knowledge.
Why did you ask the first question then?
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  #14  
Old 03-06-2016, 09:08 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donkeyoatey View Post
WTF is up with the moderation here lately?
Ever hear of thread drift?
The original question was answered 13 years ago. Do you really think allowing the thread to drift onto an associated topic is a major problem at this stage?
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  #15  
Old 03-06-2016, 09:13 PM
astro astro is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem View Post
This is a thread about Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. Those crabbers are NOT out for weeks at a time-- hardly "days at a time. " At least, not to my knowledge.
I'm on the Eastern Shore od MD. It's not industrial scale crabbing. Most crabbers are back for dinner or within a day or so at most.
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  #16  
Old 03-06-2016, 09:21 PM
Blake Blake is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem View Post
This is a thread about Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. Those crabbers are NOT out for weeks at a time-- hardly "days at a time. " At least, not to my knowledge.
This thread is about whether certain parts of a crab can make you ill.

Somebody made the comment that they did get ill eating crab, but it wasn't from eating that part, it was from cooking a dead crab.

Somebody else, in the spirit of fighting ignorance, corrected that misconception. They noted that cooking fresh dead crab is just fine. They noted that the myth probably started because crabbers who are out for weeks throw out all dead crabs, but they do that because they can't tell which are freshly dead an which have been dead for weeks.

Whether Chesapeake Bay crabbers are out for weeks seems totally irrelevant. The issue of crabbers being out for weeks was raised to explain the source of some popular ignorance posted in this thread. Nobody claimed it was true of Chesapeake Bay crabbers. The only claim was that where it is true, crabbers throw out dead crabs because they don't know how ling t hey have been dead. Not because freshly dead crabs can't be cooked.

Last edited by Blake; 03-06-2016 at 09:22 PM..
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  #17  
Old 03-06-2016, 09:25 PM
cochrane cochrane is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samclem View Post
This is a thread about Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. Those crabbers are NOT out for weeks at a time-- hardly "days at a time. " At least, not to my knowledge.
OK, I missed that in the OP. What I know about crabbing I learned from "Deadliest Catch."

Last edited by cochrane; 03-06-2016 at 09:25 PM..
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  #18  
Old 03-06-2016, 09:36 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is online now
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I have crabbed on the Patuxent river where it enters the Chesapeake bay, and I've watched Deadliest Catch. And I've made crab cakes from scratch. Thus establishing my bona fides to make declarations about crabbing.

My crabbing did not take weeks, but it sure did use up a lot of beer. The most I ever drank before 7 AM. And before 8 AM. And before 9 AM.

What?

QtM, who now crabs soberly.
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  #19  
Old 03-06-2016, 10:07 PM
tsmall07 tsmall07 is offline
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My crabbing involves a string, some chicken necks and a dip net. I'm barely gone hours. The fact remains that as long as you know how long a crab has been dead and you've had it iced, there's no reason why you shouldn't cook it and eat it.
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  #20  
Old 03-06-2016, 10:08 PM
tsmall07 tsmall07 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake View Post
This thread is about whether certain parts of a crab can make you ill.

Somebody made the comment that they did get ill eating crab, but it wasn't from eating that part, it was from cooking a dead crab.

Somebody else, in the spirit of fighting ignorance, corrected that misconception. They noted that cooking fresh dead crab is just fine. They noted that the myth probably started because crabbers who are out for weeks throw out all dead crabs, but they do that because they can't tell which are freshly dead an which have been dead for weeks.

Whether Chesapeake Bay crabbers are out for weeks seems totally irrelevant. The issue of crabbers being out for weeks was raised to explain the source of some popular ignorance posted in this thread. Nobody claimed it was true of Chesapeake Bay crabbers. The only claim was that where it is true, crabbers throw out dead crabs because they don't know how ling t hey have been dead. Not because freshly dead crabs can't be cooked.
Well said. Thanks.
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  #21  
Old 03-06-2016, 10:16 PM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SoulSearching View Post
You have to cook a LIVE crab or else you'll get sick???
Quote:
Originally Posted by BiblioCat View Post
Yes, when you steam them, they must be alive. Any that are dead should be thrown out.
All of my crabs are dead when I boil them.

But I eat Dungeness crabs, and I kill them and clean them immediately before cooking them.
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  #22  
Old 03-07-2016, 08:40 AM
Redfishhunter930 Redfishhunter930 is offline
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To add more than likely not from Maryland

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/..._is_a_lie.html
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  #23  
Old 03-07-2016, 09:13 AM
Philster Philster is offline
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I grew up crabbing the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays and their estuaries.

Kept wet and shaded, the Blue Claw Crabs will live for hours. You need to move them to ice temporarily or permanently after a few hours. Dead crabs go limp. You'll know them quickly; you'll discard them. Healthy ones stay for hours in bushels... and are often transported a hundred miles inland and sold live. It's common to buy live, road-side Blue Claws 100 miles in-land in summer.

That speaks to their durability. Some won't make it. You toss them.

For pros, their crabs are kept in pots, and they harvest the pots/crabs, but in bushels, moist and shaded, you have hours to go.

For really long durations, you drop the crabs you caught back into the water, in buckets, lidded with holes drilled in it. Now you can burn 12 hours without concern, then you haul them in and have several more hours out of water before they're dead.

You can freeze crabs if time is running out and you opt to not cook them.

40+ years of crabbing with trot lines, pots, boats, piers, etc. (Heck, I'm 48. Been crabbing since I was 4... so I've been crabbing... too long!)

.

Last edited by Philster; 03-07-2016 at 09:15 AM..
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  #24  
Old 03-07-2016, 10:00 AM
naita naita is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donkeyoatey View Post
WTF is up with the moderation here lately?
Ever hear of thread drift?
There's been no moderation in this thread. And unless someone decides to report some posts, there won't be.

Now back to discussing parts of crabs you shouldn't eat. I vote for all of them, but I suppose that doesn't really meet GQ requirements.
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  #25  
Old 03-07-2016, 10:43 AM
dasmoocher dasmoocher is offline
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One question is whether to eat the Blue Crab mustard. This webpage has info, but seems out of date:

Quote:
Q: What is the yellow stuff inside a cooked crab? Some people call it "mustard." Is it fat?

A: Contrary to popular belief, the "mustard" (or the "green gland" or "tomalley") is not fat, it's actually the crab's hepatopancreas, a main component of the crab's digestive system.

The hepatopancreas is a gland made up of very small branched tubes (ramified tubules) located on both sides of the mid-gut in the main body cavity directly under the top shell and functions as both liver and pancreas. It is involved in producing digestive enzymes and is responsible for filtering impurities from the crab's blood.

The "mustard" has a strong taste and is eaten by many people who consider it a delicacy.

Caution: Research shows that chemical contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin, mercury, and poison-inhalation hazards (PIHs) accumulate in the crab's fatty tissues and concentrate in the hepatopancreas. The contaminants, which are colorless, odorless and tasteless, and can increase one's chance of developing cancer, neurological impairments and miscarriage. Women of child-bearing age and children under the age of 5 are at particular risk.

Crabs caught in advisory areas may contain high levels of these contaminants. If you catch crabs in these areas, it is highly recommended that you eat no more than six blue crabs per week and do not consume the "mustard" or cooking liquid.

Eating, selling or harvesting blue crabs from the Newark Bay Complex (Newark Bay, Hackensack River, Passaic River, Arthur Kill and Kill Van Kull, and all tributaries to these waterbodies) is prohibited!

In Maryland, blue crabs were sampled in several areas back in 1994-95, including the Chester, Bush and Gunpowder Rivers, Baltimore Harbor, Colgate Creek, Ft. Armistead, Old Road Bay, and Curtis Bay, and the Patapsco River. With the exception of the Middle and Northwest Branches of the Patapsco River, blue crabs were found to be generally low in contaminants. However, "generally low" is not the same as zero. When it comes to your health, it is strongly recommend that you avoid the "mustard".
I love the stuff, but I only get the chance to eat crabs rarely nowadays.

Last edited by dasmoocher; 03-07-2016 at 10:44 AM..
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  #26  
Old 03-07-2016, 01:15 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donkeyoatey View Post
WTF is up with the moderation here lately?
Ever hear of thread drift?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake View Post
The original question was answered 13 years ago. Do you really think allowing the thread to drift onto an associated topic is a major problem at this stage?
I read this as a whoosh, FWIW.
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  #27  
Old 03-07-2016, 01:19 PM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is online now
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There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them.
There on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
Clamb'ring to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook.
Always wondered what the shepherds called them.
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  #28  
Old 03-07-2016, 01:58 PM
JR Brown JR Brown is offline
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<off topic>

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leo Bloom View Post
Always wondered what the shepherds called them.
Well, here's a hint: the plant in question is widely regarded as most likely being Orchis mascula, the early-purple orchid, whose scientific name translates as "virile testicles" (probably because of the shape of the root). According to this guy, common names over the centuries have included "dogstones" (where stones = rocks = balls), "dog's cods" (think cod as in codpiece), "cullions" (Merriam-Webster: "from Latin coleus, scrotum") and "fool's ballocks". I don't think anyone knows which of these Shakespeare had in mind, but any of them would suit his sense of humor to a T...

</off topic>

Freshly dead crab may be perfectly fine from a health perspective, but in my (admittedly limited) experience it seems that crabs/lobster/crayfish/etc that were kept on ice postmortem for a couple of hours are never quite as good in flavor or texture as those that met their maker just before dinner. Might be psychological, though...
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  #29  
Old 03-07-2016, 03:07 PM
Dallas Jones Dallas Jones is offline
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My experience is with West coast Dungeness crab. Both as a sport crabber and a former employee of a reduction plant that used to process crab shells and waste.

Crabs tend to ammoniate very quickly once they are dead. By ammoniate I mean putting off a level of ammonia that smells like mom mopping the kitchen floor. Hours, not days. This is what kills the other crabs on shows like the Deadliest Catch. A dead crab left in the hold will ammoniate and kill the other live crabs. We aren't talking about a similar seafood product that is dead but has been held on ice. Fish are fine, crabs destroy themselves internally, very quickly.

I would never cook a "recently dead" crab, only those that are alive when I cook them.
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