Guests often bring up the names of Food Network and Cooking Channel chefs to me at work. The jokes usually go right over my head. People assume that I am somewhat familiar with these chefs because of my job. It is actually quite the opposite. After spending a shift staring into a kitchen wondering if that well-done filet is every going to be plated, the last thing I want to do is watch people cook on television. There is one exception; I love Deadliest Catch.
So does most of America it seems. I receive several good crab questions every week from guests who are perhaps more familiar with crab than any other type of seafood. This has required that I in turn learn more about crab to stay ahead of them. So whether you are a server looking for answers or a guest just curious to know more about the fascinating creatures, this post is for you. I will look at the four main types of crabs on restaurant menus and try to share a few fun facts.
(Note: The most common question floating around the show this season is if Captain Phil Harris died during the shooting or after. The answer can be found here)
Other Names: Queen Crab, Spider Crab, Opilio
Related to: Bairdi (Tanner) Crab
Found: Northern Pacific and Atlantic Oceans
Primary Uses: Crab Legs
Standard Preparation: Steamed of Boiled
Flavor: Clean, Mild
Snow crabs are known on the show as “opies” and are caught in the second half of the later seasons. Snow crabs are smaller than King Crabs. These long legged crabs are also more common and less expensive. Improperly handled snow crab will develop a salty flavor.
Red King Crab
Other Names: Stone Crab
Related to: Scarlet King Crab, Golden King Crab, Blue King Crab
Found: Northern Pacific Ocean and recently Northern Atlantic Ocean
Primary Uses: Crab Legs
Standard Preparation: Steamed or Boiled
Flavor: Clean, Buttery
Red King Crabs are the most valuable shellfish in Alaska. While the number caught is far less than Snow Crab, the overall value is much higher. These crabs can get up to six feet wide. They were introduced into the Barents Sea by the Russians, but rapidly spread to Norwegian waters and are considered an invasive species. King Crab season in Alaska is highly regulated and runs from October to January.
Other Names: Master Crab
Related to: N/A
Found: Pacific Ocean. Central California to Alaska
Primary Uses: Whole or loose meat
Standard Preparation: Steamed or Broiled (whole) Sautéed or fried (meat)
Flavor: Clean, Slightly Sweet
Dungeness have much smaller legs than the crabs already discussed. They are approximately 25% meat, which is mostly found in the body shell. They occasionally reach sizes of ten inches. They are very prolific and sustainable. This is the state crustacean of Oregon.
Other Names: Soft Shells
Related to: Velvet Crab, European Shore Crab
Found: Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico
Primary Uses: Whole (as soft shells or hard) or loose meat
Standard Preparation: Boiled or Steamed (whole) Sautéed or fried (meat) Fried (soft shells)
Flavor: Less Clean, Slightly Nutty
Blue crabs are another short leg big body crab. They are approximately 15% usable meat. They are common to menus of the Northeast, but the demand there is higher than the local supply. Like all crabs, these must molt their shell to grow. During this time they are sold as “soft shell crab” and are far more valuable. Less expensive blue crab is often imported from Asia and Latin America.
That covers your basic species of crab. I hope everyone found it interesting. To read the far more detailed Foodie Friday pieces on Beef and Salmon, click here. Vacation here I come.
Update: for more fun facts about crabs and some fun crab jokes, visit my new post here