It’s the height of blue crab season and tickets have just gone on sale for the third annual Hammer & Claws, New York’s only authentic (or so they say) all-you-can-eat Maryland-style blue crab feast — September 21 & 22. At the two-day extravaganza, guests crack and devour thousands of Old Bay–steamed crabs along with all the traditional sides, washed down with all-you-can-drink beer from Abita Brewing Company.

We spoke to Hammer & Claws founder and Maryland native, Joshua Morgan about the tradition.

“Maryland crabs are caught in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, a region known for large quantities of blue crabs in the summer and fall. The Maryland economy still thrives on this fishing and the tourism surrounding it.”

What sets a traditional Maryland crab feast apart?

“At an authentic Maryland crab feast, the male-only crabs are steamed, never boiled as may be common in other feasts. They are traditionally served with Old Bay seasoning, which originated in Baltimore for the purpose of eating with the local crabs and shrimp,” says Morgan.

Here are his expert tips for how to master the messy, often intimidating, but delectable seasonal specialty. Here is the easiest way to break down and eat a crab.

Click on a photo for the slideshow