How to kill a crab humanely comes up all the time. There is no real consensus, and everyone has their own methods of killing and cooking crab. One thing is for sure from recent research though – crabs definitely feel pain. The myth that crustaceans do not feel pain is simply untrue. I’ll go through various common methods, and provide input from my own research.
This is probably the most common method of killing a crab. It is often the easiest and least gruesome. You just bring water up to a boil and drop the crabs in. However, the crab does take a few seconds to a minute to die, and is almost sure to feel pain.
Putting Crabs in Fresh Water
Once crabs are put into fresh water, they die over about an hour. They need saltwater to survive, and their bodies are not adapted for surviving in fresh water. This is definitely inhumane, as the crabs have been shown to feel pain throughout this long process.
Removing the Shell from the Body
This is one of the more humane, though gruesome options. There are variations on how to kill the crab this way, but they all involve pulling the body away from the upper shell. One method is to chill the crab in the freezer to render it dormant, and then pulling on the legs to separate the shell. Another method is to grab the legs with both hands and smack the shell against a hard surface to separate the two. These methods kill the crab within seconds.
Piercing the Nerves
This method is also one of the more humane, but gruesome options. There is a nerve below the triangular piece of shell on the crab’s underside. You can peel back the triangular piece of shell, and stab the tip of the triangular area of the crab’s belly. Piercing this nerve should kill the crab instantaneously. This method is a little difficult without practice, as you must pierce it in the correct spot, which can be difficult when the crab is squirming about. I recommend watching some YouTube videos before attempting this option.
Personally, I typically kill my crabs by first chilling them in the freezer for a few minutes. This causes the crabs to become dormant and not move around as much. Next, I’ll either pierce the nerve or remove the shell. This depends on the method I plan on cooking the crab. If you’d like to do a sort of stir fry recipe, it is easier to remove the shell, as you can then cut up the body into pieces before cooking. If you’d like to steam or boil the crab, you can pierce the nerve to keep the crab together for cooking. Either way of killing the crab should be relatively painless.