Chris Cosentino's Blacklight Hack For Effortless Crab Shelling

Chef Chris Cosentino holding microphone
Chef Chris Cosentino holding microphone - Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images

One of the biggest reasons why crab meat is popular in restaurants, but not as much at home, is that picking crab meat away from its shells is a ton of work. Even when you think you've gotten it all, chances are there's still a shard waiting in your next bite of homemade crab cakes, and all it takes is one bite of a crunchy shell to put a damper on your dinner.

"Top Chef Masters" winner Chris Cosentino, however, knows a faster way to get the picking done: Turn the lights off and shine a blacklight on the crab meat. Little did you know that there are compounds in crab shells that glow under a blacklight, which makes it super easy to see what's meat and what's shell. So, with just a small investment in a blacklight flashlight, you can make quick work of a container of crab meat, just like a Top Chef.

Read more: 13 Tips To Make Your Shrimp Taste So Much Better

Using A Blacklight To Pick Crab Meat

Ultraviolet flashlight against white background
Ultraviolet flashlight against white background - Claudio Caridi/Shutterstock

Picking crab meat from the shells with a blacklight is so easy that you'll kick yourself for not doing it sooner. If you're cleaning crab meat from whole crabs, separate as much of the meat from the big pieces of shell as you can and then spread the rest out on a clean surface like a sheet pan. If you're looking for shells in a container of store-bought crab meat, simply open it up and spread it out on a clean surface. Now, shut off the lights in the kitchen and make sure that it's very dark in the room by closing any curtains or blinds. Finally, turn on your blacklight and shine it on the crab meat. The pieces of shells will be obvious because they'll glow an eerie blue color.

Chris Cosentino uses a pair of long tweezers to pick all the tiny pieces of shell away from the meat, but you can also use your clean hands. Be sure to move the meat around a few times to make sure you get everything. All that's left after your picking session should be soft, sweet crab meat, which is perfect for a recipe like crab salad Louis, or simply for dunking in some drawn butter and popping in your mouth.

"It's a great trick!" wrote chef Travis Gary Peters in a comment, adding, "Definitely saved me from serving tiny bits of shell more than once!"

Crab Shell Science

A piece of glowing crab shell under a blacklight
A piece of glowing crab shell under a blacklight - SOLAsoho/X, formerly known as Twitter

The main challenge when it comes to picking crab meat is that the meat and the shells are pretty much the same colors, so it's almost impossible to see all the small fragments of shell under regular light. Crabs, however, have UV-reflecting compounds in their exoskeletons, much like other fellow arthropods, including spiders, scorpions, centipedes, crayfish, shrimp, and lobsters. When you follow Chris Cosentino's lead and shine a blacklight on a try of crab meat, the shells gleam with fluorescence. Outside of the kitchen (hopefully), this also works with certain types of spiders and other insects. In fact, many people living in the American Southwest keep a blacklight handy to check for scorpions in their house.

Scientists aren't entirely sure why arthropods evolved to glow in UV light. However, many insects can see UV light, so it may just be a matter of seeing the world with different eyes (people can only see a certain range of light known as the visible light spectrum). This is why bees are attracted to certain types of flowers, for example. Regardless, if you've got a lot of crab meat to pick, a blacklight is your new best friend.

Read the original article on Daily Meal