Crabs may not be the loveliest creatures on Earth; indeed, the closer you look the more “outer space monster” they appear. But don’t be deceived! While it’s true they seem some of the unlikeliest looking things you would ever want to eat, they are some of the best tasting seafood you can buy. Sweet, succulent and delicious, they come with a boat load of health benefits as well. Let’s go crabbing with Robert DiGregorgio, FultonFishMarket.com’s Head of Quality Control
Red King Crab
Let’s begin with red king crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus), one of the largest and most impressive crabs in the world. These huge crabs have an interesting ancestry, and are now believed to be related to hermit crabs, of all things.
They are caught off the Alaskan coast in the Fall and early Winter, and as anybody who has ever seen The Deadliest Catch knows, that time of year can have the worst storms and most dangerous weather. Owing to a very limited quota and short fishing season, these boats are forced to take dangerous risks, and coupled with very high consumer demand makes Red King Crab some of the most extravagant and expensive crabs in the world.
The flavor is sweet, moist, rich and succulent. They have a beautiful look as well, the flesh is snow white with streaks of pink and with a delicate texture.
Snow Crab (Chionoecetes opilio) are smaller than the king crab, and sometimes referred to as Queen Crab. The best quality, most sought after “opies” are from Canada, and these are found on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. While there is an American Snow Crab fishery in Alaska, most Snow Crab consumed in the U.S. is from Canada.
It is a highly regulated fishery, in part to meet American concerns but also to maintain the biomass. Snow Crabs have a much longer season compared to King Crab, starting in late Fall and can last months, making them more available and less expensive than King Crab. The quality is no less caliber, however. These crabs also have snow white meat, a sweet taste and a somewhat firmer texture than King Crab. Snow crab are also much easier to eat, thanks to their thinner, smoother shells which can be easily cracked with your hands, and the meat easily shredded.
Pasteurized Crab MeatPasteurized Crab Meat (Portunus armatus) is made with the beautiful Blue Swimmer Crab, a species of crab not unlike our own Blue Claw Crab found here on the East Coast. These crabs have a beautiful blue color with white spots and are an important food supply all through the Indo-Pacific region. They are mainly processed in Indonesia, India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and The Philippines. The meat is very white, with a firm texture and a mild delicate flavor. Because this product is pasteurized, it can remain unopened in your refrigerator for weeks and can be used at your convenience.
Fresh, Wild Crabmeat U.S.A. - Lump and Jumbo Lump Crabmeat
Fresh, Wild Crabmeat (Callinectes sapidus) comes from blue claw crab. This crab, whether sold as live product or in containers of crabmeat, is generally regarded as the sweetest, most favorable crab of them all. The crabmeat has a beautiful, fresh, crabby smell as well. This species of crab is found all along the East Coast, and when we were kids my brothers and I used to spend summers catching bushels of these beauties.
At FultonFishMarket.com we offer two sizes, or grades, of fresh U.S. crabmeat: Lump and Jumbo Lump. The Jumbo Lump is taken from the rear swimming legs of the crab. These must be handled very carefully as they are the most expensive meat taken from the crab. They are large and beautiful pieces of crabmeat and each crab only has two. It takes a lot of crabs to make a one pound container of Jumbo Lump. Because it consists of large, beautiful pieces and has such an impressive appearance, it’s usually used in crab cocktails and other recipes where you’d like to highlight the size as well as the flavor of the crab.
Lump crabmeat is made from broken pieces of jumbo lump as well as the body meat. The pieces are generally smaller with a finer texture. Lump crabmeat is perfect for crab cakes, salads, stuffing and other dishes where the taste alone is the star.
Stone Crab Claws
Stone Crab (Menippe mercenaria) is found all along the east coast of the U.S. from Connecticut to Florida and is widely caught for food, with 99% of all stone claws eaten in this country coming from Florida. This is another very highly regulated and sustainable fishery. The current season is from October 15th to May 15th and only claws of 2 3/4” are allowed to be taken.
The crab is then returned, alive, to the ocean where it will regenerate another claw. In this way, the returning crab has another chance to make baby crabs and there will be crabs to enjoy for years to come. Aside from the size of the claws that may be taken, there are other restrictions as well, for example traps must conform to state regulations, no female crabs with roe may be taken, no harvesting at night, and other measures to insure a healthy crab population.
The claws are sold in generally four sizes, medium, large, jumbo and colossal. They are famous for their sweet taste and very flaky meat.
Cooked Jonah Claws
Cooked Jonah Claws (Cancer borealis) are closely related to the West Coast’s Dungeness Crab, and are delicious in their own right. Smaller but similar in appearance, Jonahs are found in New England waters, mostly Maine to Rhode Island. Once considered a nuisance by-catch by lobstermen, they would either give them away or take them home for dinner. Around 10 years ago, as more and more Jonahs found their way into lobster traps, and more and more people were seeking a less expensive “stone claw”, the result was inevitable. Jonah claws have a sweet taste and a great flaky texture. They can be enjoyed cold with a dipping sauce like Florida Stone Claws or by themselves - try them in a seafood tower or raw bar at home.
Soft Shell Crabs
Soft Shell Crabs (Callinectes sapidus) are blue claw crabs harvested just after they have shed one shell and before the new one hardens. They are a seasonal treat that I wait for every year and have enjoyed since I was a little kid. They start showing up in the Spring and can be available through October, depending on supply and demand. Very little cleaning required, and if you’re uncomfortable doing this yourself, we’ll do it for you, no problem. We have the two most popular sizes available for you: primes (4 1/2 - 5”) and jumbos (5-5 1/2”).
Preparation is simple, and you can make these as fancy or as simple as you want. Soft shell crabs can be fried, sautéed, broiled, eaten hot or eaten cold or as part of a delicious summer salad. A fried soft shell crab sandwich is crunchy and sweet and, for me, is the perfect summer meal. Try out soft shell crab sandwich recipe below.
What are the health benefits of crabs?
Crabs are very high in protein, in fact, twice as much protein as chicken. Rich in vitamins and minerals, low in fat, high in phosphorous and selenium, low in calories, and zero carbs, crabs are a delicious, healthy seafood.
We believe all the varieties of crabs and crab products at FultonFishMarket.com offer something special, and it will be hard for you to pick a favorite. From the ease of a container of crabmeat to picking the sweet, chunky meat from king crab legs, all our crabs are exceptional, unique and delicious.