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Aug 28, 2006 09:41 PM

crab cakes

What kind of crab meat should I use?

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  1. Blue crab if you can get your hands on them. They're a pain in the patooty to pick but have the best flavor. I just picked some for gumbo and I think you'd need three medium sized crabs to make one crab cake.

    If you can't find blue crabs or really don't want to spend all day picking crab meat, I've made do with Dungeness as well. Dungeness are my favorite crab for eating plain, but the flavors aren't intense enough to really stand up to the seasoning and frying required to make crab cakes.

    1. It's very easy to buy blue crab already picked...for crabcakes, you can use the grade labeled "special white" or "lump white" rather than the oh-so-expensive jumbo lump. And if you can find it, the brown-shaded claw meat (already separated from the featherbone) is just as delicious and a fair sight cheaper. Right now, jumbo lump is $16/pound bought directly from a seafood processor (retail, not wholesale) in south Louisiana, and I can only imagine how expensive it is several links down the supply chain.

      1. I've only made them once - used jumbo lump which was fantastic, though pricey.

        1. I typically use a combination of backfin and jumbo lump from blue crabs, but I've made them with backfin only and been happy. Now, as suggested, the very best thing would be to buy live crabs, clean and cook them and then pick them yourself. Frankly I don't have the knack or the patience!

          When buying picked crabmeat, I think there's a significant difference between fresh and pasteurized. But I will buy pasteurized if fresh is not available. Fresh can be hard to get unless you place a special order or are close to an actual processor!

          So while the quality of the crab is important the size/type of the meat is probably secondary to your recipe. I typically offer crab cakes at a large holiday party we host each year and I've spent lots of time developing a method that is baked (I made hundreds, there's no way I could pan fry them all!) has very very little filler and is well spiced. Provided that you choose a recipe that doesn't include a lot of filler you will get great crab flavor whether there are large lumps of meat in your cakes or not!

          Now you certainly could use dungeness but I don't think that any other type of large crab, king or snow, would do well in a traditional crabcake recipe.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Kater

            Any chance you'd be willing to share the recipe for baked crab cakes? I loooove crab cakes and am always looking for a tasty version that isn't fried.

            1. re: charmedgirl

              Absolutely willing, but possibly not able! I used a recipe as a jumping off point but really make them intuitively. I can tell you what I do but amounts may be difficult. Also, though I typically make more than one batch for the holiday party, the batches themselves are larger than what you would typically want to make.

              I hope this is helpful and I apologize if it isn't!

              First sautee a very fine dice of shallot, celery and red pepper in butter. For one pound of crab, you'll want about half a large shallot, 1/4 of a pepper and one stalk of celery.

              Let this cool completely then add it to a large mixing bowl. Add a pound of crab (fresh is best, use backfin or jumbo or a combo if you double the recipe) along with a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise, a teaspoon of Coleman's mustard, a dash of Worcestershire, and a scant half cup of fresh breadcrumbs. Using a flavorful bread like sourdough will improve the result. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon zest, a tiny bit of fresh thyme, celery seed and snipped chives. Mix gently and chill thoroughly.

              Next form the chilled mixture into cakes ( I like to do miniatures) and roll them in panko crumbs. Place on a parchment lined tray and chill again before baking. Drizzle the crab cakes with melted butter then bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes depending on your oven and the size of the crab cakes. In fact if you make them very large you may need more than 15 minutes!

              The seasonings are a matter of taste but I'm very happy with the combination! Sometimes I throw in chopped capers, which is very nice. Also you can use Old Bay in place of the cayenne, celery seed and thyme - but I like to be able to control the proportions. I think the lemon zest is the most important seasoning. If the crab is not particularly sweet I'll often grate in a tiny bit of nutmeg.

              OK, now I'm really hungry for crabcakes!!

              One last note, rolling this wet mixture in panko is a labor of love - in other words, it's a real pain. You can drop scoops of the mixture onto the parchment and then sprinkle the panko on top, which is easier. But if you choose this method then the cakes will really need to be eaten with a plate and fork which is not ideal for some types of gatherings! If you take the time to coat them (or trick your SO in doing it!!!) I think you'll be happier with the result. : )

              1. re: Kater

                Thanks for the recipe! I have never made my crabcakes with sauteed veggies before; I am intrigued and definitely eager to try. As a born and raised Baltimorean, I would probably be inclined to use Old Bay rather than separate spices though. And I definitely hear you about the difficulties in rolling the cakes in the crumbs. I sometimes use that tactic when looking for a good crust, and I know first hand what a pain it can be!

              2. re: charmedgirl

                There's a great recipe on Epicurious for a lighter/more delicate crabcake. They're coated in seasoned panko and then baked. One of my favorite recipes, because there's almost no filler -- just a lot of crab, some mayo, lemon juice, mustard and chives, and then the crispy panko.

                1. re: Amuse Bouches

                  I would love to check it out too, do you remember the name of the dish, or can you post a link??

                  1. re: Kater

                    Here's the recipe. These aren't the super spicy Maryland style crabcakes but I love them. I usually make a sauce of sriracha and mayonnaise, but the avocado sauce is good too.


            2. Widely described as the best crabcakes anywhere, and the best I've had, are crabcakes made by Faidley's in Baltimore's Lexington Market. I have an incredible hunger for one whenever I think about it. One menu choice is the lump backfin crab ball, probably baseball size but more like a softball in my memory. You can find Faidley's recipe's on the web, not sure if any is authentic/authorized.