There are not only many different types of crab, but each type may have sub categories in their species. For example, did you know that there are many types of King Crab, and that each type has a different flavor and texture? Knowing these small differences will not only save your dinner from misfortune, but it can also keep you from spending too much money on an inferior product by accident.
Unless they are alive, all frozen crab will be sold pre-cooked. This is because raw crab does not hold out too well in a deep freeze. But even with this it is still recommended to heat up your crab even if you plan to serve them cold. That being said you need to be aware as to whether the processor cooked the crab in seawater, or added salt when they originally cooked them. If the crabs were cooked in salty water originally, then any salt you add to your water will only amplify the saltiness. This can lead to your crab tasting far too over-salted and inedible. The same goes for your butter, as salted butter can increase the sense of saltiness in your crab.
Most people will go for a very simple recipe of boiled or grilled crabs with melted butter. But is that enough? Most crab connoisseurs will tell you absolutely not. Don’t just throw a stick of butter in the microwave, but make some infused butter to boost your flavor. Throw that stick of butter in a sauce-pan and add some garlic, rosemary, or any other herbs that you wish to infuse into the butter. If you are feeling fancy you can even add some truffles to the mix. Just don’t over do it! You don’t want so much flavor that it masks over the natural flavor of the crab.
Some types of crabs are sold by just the legs or the claws, while others are sold by whole clusters. When you get the clusters you should make sure you are not throwing away a healthy portion of tasty crab-meat! I am not trying to tell you how to eat Dungeness crab, but if you are skipping the body section, then you are skipping a ton of meat! Also make sure you are not skipping the knuckles. Crab knuckles have a small amount of meat, but if you want to get all the meat out, then the knuckles are essential.
Are you buying tiny crabs? Did you know that buying smaller size crabs just to save a couple bucks is usually not worth the money? If you buy small and skinny crab legs you will often discover that you end up paying more money for shell than you do for meat. The bigger size grade legs and clusters will usually have more meat per pound than the little guys, and not to mention it is easier to un-shell the big legs than to crack open a bunch of small legs.
Crabs like other crustaceans shed their shells every so often when they grow. Over time the crab inside the shell will grow so large that it won’t fit inside its shell, so they will molt their old shell and grow a new, larger shell. If you catch a crab right as it is planning on shedding its shell, then you are more likely to get more meat per pound. But if you catch a crab after it has grown a new shell, then you may find it to be somewhat empty inside, and that you have paid for almost nothing but shell weight. Each species of crab usually molt their shells during a specific time of year, so make sure that the crab you are buying was caught right before molting season.
Some places sell unshelled crab meat in a tub or a can. Though this may help you skip a step or two in the cooking process, this method may be far more expensive than buying a crab shell intact. Always do your research as to the average usable weight of a crab is, otherwise you may end up paying twice the price for crab meat just because someone else removed the shell for you. One alternative can be to buy crabs that have scored shells that help you crack them open. The price can be a little higher, but not nearly as much as the convenience fee of cleaned crab meat.
All crabs should be held in the freezer until shortly before they will be cooked and consumed. Even in the fridge crab meat can quickly go bad, and listeria from spoiled crabs is no joke. But even if it doesn’t go that far, crabs will last longer in the freezer and keep their freshness longer when frozen. When you are ready to eat them it is suggested you thaw the crabs in the refrigerator to ensure that you preserve the quality up until you eat the crab.
If you ask most people how they eat king crab legs they will tell you that they use the basic melted butter method. But there are so many other ways to enjoy your crab! You can use crab legs in a tasty cioppino or take out the meat and turn it into crab cakes. The list really goes on as to ways to prepare your crab. Do your research and you may find crab recipes that will completely change your perspective on shellfish.
A good friend once told me that a fine bottle of wine is only as good as the company with which you share it. Crab can be a great food to share with friends or family! Invite people over for dinner and have king crab leg battles or bring out the hammers for some smashing fun! We can assure you that it will be a night you remember.
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