Succulent and Versatile
Crabmeat is one of the most succulent and delicious of all types of flesh. In fact, it’s near the very top of my list, and I’ve spent years catching and cooking the shelled critters! I’ve come up with some great crab recipes, too. Many of us in the South, who live near the coast, make the cooking and eating of crabs sort of a ritual in some of our Southern food feasts. We get together often for crab boils and crab roasts whenever someone returns from the beach with a cooler full of jimmies and sooks—“crab speak” for male and female blue crabs. An immature female is called a “sally.”
Crabs are much more versatile than most people realize. They can be steamed or boiled of course, or made into crab cakes. However, they’re also great in soups, chowders, stews, casseroles, and other wonderful dishes. Soft-shell crabs can be battered and fried whole, and crabs and crab legs on sale in amazing on the grill, too.
Crabs are high in protein and are also a good source of niacin, vitamin B12, chromium, selenium, iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Crabmeat is very low in saturated fat, but it’s high in cholesterol.
With all the crab varieties on the market, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what to buy. Which variety is best? Should you buy live crabs, crab legs, crab claws, or crabmeat? Below is some information that might help!
Blue crabs are in the Atlantic Ocean, from Maine to Florida, and in the Gulf of Mexico. They’re caught with dredges, traps, and bottom trawls, and also as a by-catch on shrimp boats. These crabs are incredibly sweet—and many aficionados prefer them to any other type of crab. They’re sold live, cooked whole, frozen, and as picked meat. Blue crab claws are also available.
Soft-shell crabs are blue crabs that have molted. In order to grow larger, crabs have to shed their old shell and form a new one. During this process, the crabs are without their hard covering for only a few days, and they’re only truly soft-shells for a few hours. Soft-shell crabs are a delicacy and are eaten whole after minimal cleaning.
These delicious crabs are found in the Pacific, from Alaska to central California. They’re caught in nets, traps, pots, and on hook and line. Only adult males are kept. Dungeness crabs are very meaty. They’re sold live, as whole cooked crabs, and as picked meat.
The Jonah crab is the Atlantic’s answer to the Dungeness. They’re found off the coast of North Carolina, up to Maine, and are caught with traps, pots, hook and line, and bottom trawls. The meat is sweet and flaky, and the claws are very meaty. They’re sold in clusters, as legs only, and as claws.
King crabs are caught in Alaskan waters with trawls, traps, and nets. The average crab harvested weighs about six pounds, but they can grow much larger. King crab is sold in legs and claws. The flesh is delicate and deteriorates quickly. If you purchase it frozen, keep it frozen until ready to cook.
Snow crabs are found in the coastal waters of Alaska and Maine and are harvested with the use of traps and pots. They have a sweet and delicate flavor. Snow crab is typically sold in leg and claw clusters, with some meat from their body attached to it.