There’s no fresher crab than the one just pulled from the bay. Executive chef Aaron Bedard has worked at The Stephanie Inn in Cannon Beach for more than a decade, and that means over 3,650 days he could have spent crabbing (Bedard even takes the Inn’s guests on culinary crabbing tours). “My favorite memory of crabbing is when I first moved to Cannon Beach,” Bedard tells Eater. “My friends and I would rent a boat out of Brighton Marina, and we’d get out in the sunshine, drink some cold beer, and just enjoy the outdoors.”
Among Oregon seafood, Dungeness crab makes a strong case as the primary attraction. Huge nuggets of meat can easily be withdrawn from the legs, thanks to their large size. And while they’re found up and down the West Coast, a trip to the Oregon coast reveals a robust crop.
To share the way locals do it, Eater photographer Dina Avila joined chef Bedard and a couple friends for a day of crab fishing in Nehalem Bay followed by a traditional beach-side crab boil.
After baiting and setting the pots, it’s just a matter of time before they can be hauled up full of crab.
Back at dock, the under-sized females are thrown back per government regulations, designed to preserve the crop for years to come. Then it’s time to enjoy the harvest — that is — to get eating.
Bedard says “crab butter” — more or less the crab’s liver and other organs — is a flavorful component often scrapped as waste. He likes to keep it intact while boiling the crab, as the results are more flavorful. True diehard fans can sip it straight from the shell.
Another pro trick is to use the pointy end of a crab claw as an impromptu seafood pick to access meat farther inside the shell. But you can always go the more traditional route. “For first-time crab boils, I recommend crab crackers and pickers, a good appetite, and maybe a plastic bib, because you're going to get messy,” says Bedard.