Slay to Gourmet: Maryland Crab Boil


Photo by Matt Lien

As a professional cook who spent his 20s in kitchens from coast to coast, I’ve grown very fond of the nuances of regional cooking traditions. There are the obvious iconic dishes like gumbo in Louisiana, barbecue in Kansas City, and bagels in NYC. But regional favorites can be as simple as ultra-local cheeses, cured meats, and wines, for example. And some of the best are less refined (but no less satisfying) dishes like the Juicy Lucy in Minneapolis or the strange affinity Taylor County, Wisconsin, has with pickled eggs.

What I’m getting at is this: The recipes and cooking methods developed in these places never would have existed without a history of trial and error by people who cared about the quality of what they feed their friends and families. That said, if you’re about to tackle one of these regional dishes and expect it to have any level of authenticity, find someone from the area and ask for their help.

To make a successful crab boil (which is actually more of a crab steam), two people helped guide me through the process. First: Steve Vilinit, the director of marketing and business development for J.J. McDonnell—a Maryland-based seafood wholesaler—and former director of marketing for the Maryland DNR; second, Bill Brooks of J.M. Clayton Seafood Company, who was my point person for obtaining beautiful Maryland blue crabs.

I thought I understood the basic idea of a crab boil, but these guys set me on a path to enlightenment. I took all their advice and tweaked it ever so slightly to fit my needs—mostly so I could use Kramarczuk’s kielbasa. Here are the basics for feeding six hungry people. If you’re looking for crab hammers or other crab supplies, check out Harford Metal Products.

For more cooking tips, follow @TheMinnesotaSpoon on Instagram or Facebook, or go to to see some previous recipes.

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