Food & Drink

Barbecued Crabs Recipe

Makes 24 half crabs; serves 4

Get Chef Bryan Caswell’s family recipe for Barbecued Crabs

photo: Laurie Smith


    • 12 live blue crabs

    • 2 tbsp. olive oil

    • 1/4 cup Homemade Zestful Seasoning (recipe below)

    • Glaze (recipe below)

    • Mustard BBQ sauce (recipe below)

  • Homemade Zestful Seasoning

    • 2 tbsp. salt

    • 1 tbsp. celery salt

    • 1 tbsp. ground mustard

    • 2 tbsp. smoked paprika (pimentón)

    • 1/2 tsp. ground mace

    • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

    • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

    • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

    • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom

    • 1/2 tsp. ground bay leaves

    • About 1/2 cup sugar

  • Glaze

    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter

    • 2 cloves garlic, minced

    • 1 jalapeño chile, minced

    • 1/4 cup Homemade Zestful Seasoning (recipe below)

    • 3 tbsp. dark brown sugar

    • 1/2 cup tequila

    • 1/4 cup cider vinegar

    • 1/4 cup dark molasses

    • 1/4 cup soy sauce

    • 1/4 cup orange marmalade

    • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

    • 1 tbsp. Asian sesame oil

    • 2 tsp. kosher salt

    • 1 tsp. dry mustard

    • 1 tsp. white pepper

    • 1 tsp. black pepper

    • Grated zest and juice of 4 lemons

    • Mustard BBQ Sauce, for serving (recipe below)

  • Mustard BBQ Sauce

    • 1 cup sherry vinegar

    • 1/2 cup pepper vinegar

    • 1/2 cup rice vinegar

    • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

    • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

    • 1 cup Dijon mustard

    • 1 tsp. kosher salt

    • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce


  1. Immerse the crabs in ice water for 5 to 10 minutes until they are limp. Put 1 crab, shell side up, on a flat surface. Hold down a flipper on the bottom left side of the crab with the thumb of your nondominant hand and rip off the upper shell from left to right with your dominant hand. Don’t be shy. It takes considerable force to get the shell started. Clean out the exposed guts and gills under running cold water, remove the reproductive organs, then break the crab in half with 1 claw on each half. This will expose the fleshy meat in the middle. Repeat with the remaining crabs.

  2. In a large bowl, toss the crab halves with the olive oil and seasoning, coating evenly. Set aside until the fire is ready.

  3. When ready to grill:

    Prepare a grill for indirect grilling (with the heat on one side only). When the grill is heated evenly, put the halved crabs directly over the fire until they get hot and begin to sizzle. When the shells are hot, move the crabs to the cooler part of the grill grate and brush with the glaze. Grill the crabs, turning them every few minutes and brushing them with more glaze, until a crust begins to form. Move them closer or farther away from the fire to get the desired char. The crabs will be done in 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately with BBQ sauce.

  4. For the seasoning:

    In a large measuring cup, combine the salt, celery salt, mustard, paprika, mace, cayenne, black pepper, red pepper flakes, cardamom, and bay and mix well. (This should measure about ½ cup.) Add an amount of sugar equal to the total amount of spices and mix well. Store in a tightly capped jar or other airtight container for up to 3 months. (Makes about 1 cup)

  5. For the glaze:

    In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Do not allow it to brown. Decrease the heat to medium-low, add the garlic, chile, and seasoning, and cook, stirring often, for 
3 minutes, until the garlic begins to brown.

  6. Add the brown sugar and stir constantly for a few minutes, until the mixture caramelizes.

  7. Add the tequila and scrape up any brown bits from the pan bottom.

  8. Add the vinegar, molasses, soy sauce, marmalade, Worcestershire sauce, sesame oil, salt, mustard, white pepper, and black pepper. Increase the heat to high and cook, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes, until reduced by half.

  9. Stir in the lemon zest and juice, remove from the heat, and let cool.

  10. For the BBQ sauce:

    In a saucepan, stir together all of the ingredients and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring often, for 3 or 4 minutes, until hot and well blended. Use immediately or store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. (Makes about 4 cups)

Recipe from Texas Eats