Baltimore County

Preparing for a genuine Maryland crab feast

Heading to a crab house for a feast is fun, but nothing beats an afternoon of crabs in the backyard. Here are some tips for planning a feast of your own:

Dress the part: Crab feasts are a dirty business; expect to get messy. Jen Harris, an upstate New York native who moved to Baltimore in 2010, learned this the hard way at her first crab feast. "Do not wear a dry clean-only blouse with white jeans," she warns. "Wear clothing you don't care about."

Set the table: Long, outdoor tables are ideal for crab feasting, but any table covered in newspaper or brown paper will do. Set mallets, knives and rolls of paper towels within easy grabbing distance of pickers (experienced pickers will appreciate bowls of water for hand-rinsing, too). Popular condiments include melted butter, white vinegar and extra crab seasoning.

Drink up: Inexpensive light beer is the champagne of crab feasts. "I'm a Miller Lite guy with crabs," says Tony Conrad of Conrad's Crabs in Parkville. "When I go to a bar, I like Guinness or Sierra Nevada, but with crabs, you need something lighter that won't overpower the taste of the crab."

Don't forget sides: Serve the crabs with local vegetables like corn, tomatoes and cucumbers (Conrad recommends dipping the vegetables in crab seasoning), plus extra items like hush puppies, fried chicken and even burgers and hot dogs. "You're never full from eating crabs, even for 11/2 or two hours," Conrad said with a laugh. "For dessert, have a big sloppy hamburger."

Step-by-step guide to picking crabs [Pictures]

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