Dungeness Crab Death

Spent the night at Stinson Beach and feasted on several fresh Dungeness Crabs. I’m sure this has been covered before, but here goes, anyway. How long does the crab live after being dropped into the boiling water? Does anyone know if a crab feels pain? If so, wouldn’t it be more humane to kill them by other means before submersing them in boiling water?

Scylla responds in an old thread about the same question about lobsters. I personally think he nails it.


According to Alton Brown lobsters live about 15 seconds or so IIRC. I wouldn’t expect crabs to be much different. He did say you could put lobsters in the freezer I believe it was for a while first and that would at least minimize some thrashing around.

They’re dead when I put them in. I lay them on their backs, place a bolo knife along their longitudinal axes, and strike the bolo knife with a mallet. This kills them instantly (unless they move the knife at the last instant – then half will still be alive). I clean them, and then they go into the pot.

I do this for two reasons: It is unlikely that there would be any toxic contamination from a live crab, but any chance is removed if they’re cleaned first. And I can get more crabs in the pot if they’re cleaned, than I can if they are whole.

There is a company that sells an electrical stunner for crustaceans - for those unsure of their ability to clean-kill a crab/lobster with a knife.