Soft-shell crabs are eaten whole with the shell intact. They can be broiled, grilled, pan-fried or deep-fried, and they are seasoned with a variety of spices.
Soft-shell crabs are actually hard-shell crabs in the process of shedding their shells, and their bodies are tender. Fishermen capture these crabs before they lose their shells. The crabs are confined in tanks of water, and once they have molted, they are removed from the water and packed in damp straw or seaweed so the shell cannot harden again.
Fresh soft-shell crabs should not be eaten if they have a strong odor. Frozen soft-shell crabs are usually already cleaned. If the crabs are fresh, the shell must be cut behind the eyes, and the gills and the bottom part of the shell also need to be removed. If broiled or fried, the crabs are cooked for four minutes on each side. Crabs are grilled for five minutes on each side. Pan-fried crabs can be lightly floured and cooked in a pan full of butter, olive oil, white wine, lemon juice, a teaspoon of tiny capers, chopped parsley, salt and cracked pepper, which create a seasoned sauce.
Deep-fried crabs can be coated in flour, cornmeal, a small amount of garlic powder, a greater amount of black pepper and a dash of cayenne. They can also be stuffed with mushroom duxelle, which is a mixture of chopped mushrooms, shallots and herbs, and breaded with Parmesan crumbs. To avoid splatter when deep-frying, pins are pushed through the claws and legs. Deep-fried crabs are often served in a sandwich on a toasted roll with lettuce and tomato and either mayonnaise or tartar sauce.