It’s taken me a year, but I finally had a Maryland right of initiation. I finally ate Maryland steamed crabs, also known as “picking crabs.” You see, there’s a big argument in the US about how to cook crabs. In 49 states, you boil them—just like you would a lobster. But in Maryland, you steam the crabs. Marylanders claim the meat is sweeter from the steaming. I must say, the blue crabs I ate did have some pretty sweet, delicious lumps of meat.
While most people will pick up crabs and take them home to eat in the back yard or on the deck with cold beer, I didn’t really want to deal with the mess in my apartment. I chose an eat-in crab house for my cousin and I to experience this rite of passage. And I’m so glad we did! When our dozen of crabs came to the table they were caked in Old Bay, also known as the salt of Maryland. (Marylanders also take Old Bay seriously. To all you Marylanders, I mean no offense.) While I grew up adding Old Bay to the water I boiled the shellfish in, steaming the crabs doesn’t allow for spicing the water to infuse flavor. By smearing the crabs with Old Bay, the spice is transferred to the meat via your fingers from cracking open the crabs and picking out the meat.
While I would have preferred less Old Bay seasoning, I can see why Marylanders love their steamed crabs. A long, social activity filled with good fun, picking crabs is a must do for anyone living or visiting Maryland. And if you want to avoid the mess in your own home, I highly recommend Crackpot Seafood Restaurant in Towson if it’s too chilly to enjoy them outside at the harbor. (I also highly recommend their crab pretzel!)