When it comes to Maryland cuisine, crab most certainly stands out. With the water so close, each crab is delightfully fresh. The meat is so tender and flavorful that it hardly needs any seasoning, though you’ll find plenty of places that whip up some impressive seasoning and sauce creations.

One of the biggest challenges and draws of eating crab is actually getting to the meat. Some people see it as a hassle, while others see is as part of the experience. Either way, if you’re in Maryland, you have to wield a crab hammer at least once.

Start by ripping the claws off and also the back. Set them aside for a bit, and focus on the body. Once you’ve got the back off, you can rip out the gut stuff that no one really wants to eat and break the crab in half. Now go at it with a knife or your hand to rip out the meat. For the claws, you tear them in half, and attack them with a sharp hit of the hammer so you can get at the juicy meat. It sounds a little complicated, but servers are always willing to show you how it’s done. The crab will taste even more delicious if you make it through this tricky process.

If cracking open shells is not your thing, make the chef do the work for you. One great option is a crab cake, which includes crabmeat, mayonnaise, eggs, and a few other ingredients that vary depending on the chef. The mixture is sometimes breaded and fried as well. You can also order other Maryland crab specialties such as crab dip and crab soup.

Crab is served almost everywhere in Maryland, but I suggest checking out, Cantler’s Riverside Inn in Annapolis. They have excellent all-you-can eat specials and a crab dip that is so amazing that you’ll be tempted to eat it as your entree instead of your appetizer. Sit outside for a great view of the river while you chow down.

If you’re in the Baltimore area, get spiffed up and head over to Rusty Scupper for a fancy crab dinner.  Start out with a cup of their cream of crab soup, and then move onto their house specialty, crab-stuffed shrimp. The prices are steep, but your taste buds will thank you.

Whether you want to crack the crab yourself, have a crab cake, or some other delightful crab-centric dish, you simply must try crab while in Maryland. Just be warned, once you’ve had crab this good, you’ll always compare every crab dish to something you tasted in Maryland.