HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Canned crabmeat

I was reading on the chains board about canned crabmeat. I always see it on food network, but why would people buy crabmeat from a can? How much crab do you really get for such a high price?

Last week, I went to the supermarket (asian) and live dungeness crabs were on sale for 2.99/lb. Of course, normally they are more expensive, but still under $9/lb. Couldn't this be steamed, cracked, and frozen and be 100x better than canned crabmeat?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. If you live away from the coast (and not in a major city) - crabmeat, as with most other coastal seafood (particularly shellfish, which needs to be kept alive or frozen 'cause they go bad fast), are much more expensive and perhaps even unavailable in non-canned form.

    And canned crabmeat can be more convenient - something that keeps in the pantry and to have on-hand for recipes that only call for a little bit of crab.

    1. The canned crab meat I usually see is blue crab. The work it takes to get a pound of nice lump crabmeat from blue crabs is tedious. Plus, I haven't figured a way to not eat the crabmeat that I'm picking. It's convenient and the meat is usually pretty good quality. Obviously, it's not as sweet as if you do it yourself but at least my dinner guests will get something to eat.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Porthos

        ...and the canned crabmeat I saw at T,J's for example was refridgerated....

        1. re: Porthos

          Exactly, Picking Crabmeat can be bloody work. Canned works in a pinch when the craving strikes...


        2. Blue crab and Dungeness crabs are different in flavor. For Maryland-style crab cakes, you only use blue crab, which you can't get on the West Coast. When I make crab cakes (which isn't often because it's a pain in the butt) I used the refrigerated canned stuff.

          2 Replies
          1. re: writergirl

            You can buy blue crab on the West Coast. We have bought live blue crabs in Chinatown in Oakland, CA.

            If you use Dungeness crab for crab cakes it isn't a pain. Lots of crab from big sweet perfect crab.

            1. re: writergirl

              One can get fresh blue crabmeat flown in from the East Coast. I think they are sweeter and more delicate than our West Coast Dungeness crab. I like the Dungeness for eating out of the shell but for crabcakes, definitely the East Coast blue crab.

            2. There are some excellent refrigerated fresh crabmeat packed in large cans. Many seafood market sell them loose and expensive. They don't have a long shelf life even refrigerated in an unopened can. I would definitely stay away from the supermarket aisle canned crabmeat. And I've heard that Trader Joe's refrigerated canned is not much better.

              1 Reply
              1. re: PBSF

                Most fresh blue crabmeat packed into cans has been pasteurized...in other words, cooked twice (one before picking/peeling, then after it's in the can). Fresh, non-pasteurized crabmeat sold in plastic containers is FAR superior to the canned product, but I know it's not easy to find away from the coasts & major metro seafood markets.

              2. I buy Phillips or something that looks similar when I see it at Costco or Sam's Club. Although canned, it must still stay refrigerated and has a shelf-life (or refrigerator-shelf-life) of about 6 months or so, if I recall correctly. This type of canned crab is NOT inexpensive, but I find that it gives outstanding results in crab cakes, which is what I generally use crab for. I also agree completely that you should stay away from grocery store canned crab.

                1 Reply
                1. re: kstroble

                  i agree wholeheartedly about phillips. the crabcake recipe on the can is a real winner. it is a bit pricey, but it's solid lump meat through and through.

                2. It's totally about accessibility, price and ease of use. Of course fresh is better. Fresh that you catch yourself is better, too, but unavailable to many of us.

                  I've had two cans from Trader Joe's - origin Vietnam - refrigerated canned and lovely for crabcakes. It was as good (or slightly better) than the Phillips I bought (also refrigerated canned) packed in ice at a fish store. I tried some of the TJ's straight out of the can -- it was light and slightly sweet as crab is, with pretty good texture.
                  It's half the price (or less) than refrigerated not-canned but pre-picked and packed in plastic tubs from North Carolina/Maryland that you can sometimes find in fish stores.

                  Is there a canned crab that stays in the pantry with a long shelf life? Can someone that has tried it report back? I can't imagine THAT would be any good....

                  slightly off-topic, I had a good canned salmon - wild, Alaska, sockeye - called Redhead.

                  1. I have not had it myself, but Byrd's canned refrigerated crab from Trader Joe's came highly recommended to me.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: blue room

                      I just picked up a can yesterday...it's in the fridge...says it's from Thailand...I'll report back later!

                    2. I just reread the OP, and realize I have never had frozen crab. Plenty of fresh, plenty of plastic tub fresh, plenty of fridge canned . . .

                      Anyone care to compare canned to frozen?

                      Is it sold other than those spindly snow crab leg things like they have at chain restaurants? I can't bear those...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: pitu

                        Frozen blue crab (the non-pasteurized kind sold in plastic containers) is widely available in jumbo lump, special white, claw, and cocktail clawfingers, both through seafood shops and mail-order direct from many producers or regional retailers. If I can't get fresh, I'll use frozen, non-pasteurized WAY before the chilled, pasteurized stuff. Except for the clawfingers: freezing makes the crabmeat stick to the featherbone, which makes eating the claws frustrating and fruitless.

                      2. Good quality crabmeat is a godsend in my book. I could spend an hour cleaning a tiny piece of meat out of 100 crabs or I could open a fresh can and get dinner on the table in 30 mins!

                        1. I actually use cheap canned crab meat to top salads and little things like that where the crab isn't the main focus of the meal. If I ever made crab cakes, I'd probably use canned meat as well, because even though I LOOOVE fresh crab, and I've done my fair share of crunching up blue crabs for soup/etc, I'm also a fan of quick and easy. Canned crab isn't the best, and I'd rather fresh any day of the week, but in a pinch, canned is simple and quick.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: DreamCyn

                            I realized I left out what I do most often with canned crab; soup!

                            Canned crab makes a really good Crab and Corn chowder, in a cheesey broth with whatever startchy veggies are on hand.

                            Or a quick seafood soup in a tomato & seafood based broth, with shrimp or fish chunks (or any seafood, really) with wilted greens. Not as good as the chowder, i must say, but still doable.
                            A mock She-Crab soup is an idea as well-- basically a crab bisque-- but if you don't have roe it's not going to be as amazing as the real stuff, but still good.

                            Also, canned crab is a GREAT go-to for crab curry, or korma. Quick and easy to use.

                          2. There's canned... like in tuna section... have never used that. Then there's canned... on ice.

                            Had craving for crab cakes last weekend and splurged on lb of lump crab... about $19/lb. Sounds pricey, but don't really think so. How much crab can ya get (by weight) from a $2.99/lb Dungeness? Bet the math works out to WAY more than $19/lb... and a LOT of work.

                            On "Phillip's" crab meat!?! Know they have a NAME in the Maryland crab. BUT... most of their stuff comes from half way around the world... NOT MD blue claw in most cases.