Gabriel Woods
Published by Gabriel Woods
Last Updated On: May 22, 2023

As a seafood lover, I’m greatly fond of crab meat because it makes for an unbelievably tasty starter or entrée. Crab meat chunks, fresh herbs, and citrus juice are the perfect combo topping for my fresh veggie salad, toast pieces, and pastry shells.

Today I'll share the best way to cook and prepare crab meat and my tips for buying fresh, high-quality crab meat.

Let's get started.

Quick Summary

  • Crab meat is derived from a crab and can be either white or brown.
  • Different types of crab meat originate from different parts of the animal.
  • Cooked crab meat is best combined with tomato, cucumber, and mackerel.

What Is Crab Meat?

An image of steamed crab on top of a black slate

Crab meat, often known as crab marrow, is found within a crab. It is highly regarded for its soft, delicate, and sweet flavor and is used in various cuisines worldwide.

Crab meat can be either white or brown. The white flesh is paler and more delicate than the brown meat, which has a more robust flavor.

Here are the four types of crab meat you probably didn't know about:

  • Jumbo lump: This crab flesh originates from a very specialized portion of the crab– the muscle for the swimmer fins. Jumbo lump has a firm texture and a sweeter taste. However, I recommend it as a salad and pasta garnish because it is readily overwhelmed by the spices in different crab recipes.
  • Lump crab: This flesh is obtained from the crab's body. It has smaller crab bits than the jumbo lump, but it still offers a substantial serving.
  • Backfin crab: This meat is a mixture of fractured lump crab flesh and tiny chunks of body meat from the crab's body. Backfin is frequently flaky and fine, making it ideal for crab cakes.
  • Claw crab: This flesh is made from the crab's claws. It is darker and less sweet. Because it has a stronger overall flavor, I love using it for my soups when I want the crab flavor to bold out.

Also Read: What Is Imitation Crab Meat?

4 Steps to Cook Crab Meat

Follow these four steps to cook crab meat properly:

  1. Turn the whole crab over and lift the little pointy flap to reveal a tiny opening. Insert a solid knife or screwdriver through the hole with some pressure until it touches the other end of the shell. Turn the crab over and strain the fluid that has accumulated.
  2. Boil a large pot of salted water (30g of salt per liter).
  3. Cook the crab in boiling water for 8 to 12 minutes for a 1kg crab.
  4. Take the whole crab out of the water and set it aside/refrigerate to cool completely before cooking. Do not immerse the crab in freezing water since it will get soggy.

The Best Way to Prepare Crab Meat

An image of extracted cooked crab meat from its shell

After your crab has cooled completely, follow these steps to prepare the meat so you can enjoy it with your favorite recipe.

  1. If you refrigerate it, use a steam basket to thaw frozen crab legs and shells.
  2. Set the crab on its back and twist off the claws and legs.
  3. Push down on the crab with the palm of your hand. Pull your fingers upwards through the opening where the body meets the shell.
  4. Disconnect the crab body from the shell by pulling hard - it will come out in one chunk.
  5. Carefully remove and discard the feathery gills surrounding the main body and within the shell.
  6. Scoop the brown flesh from the shell with a spoon and place it in a bowl. Cut the main body in half using a big chef's knife.
  7. Using a skewer, remove the white flesh from the cavities in the body and place it in the bowl.
  8. Break the claws and legs open with a quick tap with a kitchen mallet.
  9. Remove the meat with care using a lobster pick, then inspect the bowl for any stray shell and remove it. You're ready to use your crab meat to make your favorite crab cakes, salads, or potted crabs. If you’re not planning to eat the meat right away, cover it with aluminum foil and store it for up to two days.

I always eat my crab meat with ranch dressing, lemon juice, and bread and butter. Dressed crab is a great recipe, and it’s also delicious in salads and sandwiches.

White meat crab is fluffy, sweet, and delicious, and I love how it pairs well with a variety of fresh spring/summertime flavorful veggie recipes like tomato, cucumber, and mackerel.

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Things to Look For When Buying Crab

An image of a fresh and live crab that you should consider when buying crab

Buying the right crab can be confusing if you're trying seafood for the first time. Luckily, here's a detailed buyer's guide to help you out.

1. Liveness Test

I recommend purchasing crab that is either alive or cooked. When purchasing live crabs, touch them to see if they move or react in any way. If it doesn't move, avoid it altogether.

"Never buy dead uncooked crab because enzymes within the body quickly render the meat very mushy."
- Richard Stavis, Owner of Stavis Seafoods

2. Pasteurized Crab Meat

Pasteurized or canned crab meat has been boiled and chilled in a controlled environment to kill hazardous microorganisms and stored in a vacuum-sealed bag [1].

When purchasing canned crab meat, ensure you read the "best by" date and buy one that is not expired.

Also Read: Vacuum-Sealed Meat Shelf Life

3. Size

Select the biggest store-bought frozen crab legs and claws from the display. In my experience, the more giant the crab legs look, the meatier it is, and vice versa.

4. Smell

If you can, smell the crabs before buying. If they smell like ammonia, it indicates signs of rancidity, so don't buy them. Fresh crabs don't have any strong odor.


How Long Do You Cook Crab Meat?

You cook crab meat for about 8-12 minutes for one kg of meat. If you have larger meat, then it will take longer.

Can You Pan-Fry Crab Meat?

Yes, you can pan-fry crab meat either in oil or butter for better flavor.

How Do You Know if Crab Meat is Cooked?

You know crab meat is cooked by looking at the color of the shell and claws, which should be a bright orange or red. Note that raw crab meat is greenish-brown, so it’s easy to tell when it’s cooked.

Cooking Crab Meat the Right Way

Crab meat is one of the most versatile seafood used around the world. You can boil the meat and then use it to make crab cakes, soups, or a salad topping.

But to enjoy successful and delicious crab meat recipes, you need to start with fresh, high-quality crab meat. For the past two years, I’ve been ordering mine from authentic companies, but most often from ButcherBox.

As my #1 meat delivery company, ButcherBox offers sustainable seafood, plus GMO and antibiotic-free meat and organic free-range poultry.

They are dedicated to sustainable practices and offer free shipping with your subscription, which is an added bonus.


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