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Foodie Friday: Types of Crab

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 as a 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 this popular seafood, this post is for you.  I will look at the four main types of crabs on restaurant menus most likely the ones at Crab House 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)

Snow Crab

Snow Crab


Genus: Chionoecetes

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.

King Crab

Red King Crab


Genus: Paralithodes

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.

Dungeness Crab

Dungeness Crab


Genus: Metacarcinus

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) Sauteed 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.

Blue Crab

Blue Crab


Genus: Callinectes

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

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About David Hayden

David Hayden is the creator of The Hospitality Formula Network, a series of websites dedicated to all aspects of the restaurant industry. He is also the author of the book Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips and Building Your Brand With Facebook.


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