HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Oct 28, 2006 01:46 PM

dungeness vs. blue crab

i live in san francisco, and feel very blessed by our local dungeness crab. but i know that people from the east coast are equally passionate about their local blue crabs. i have had the pleasure of sitting over a giant basin full of blue crab and gorging myself sick, but i still prefer our local dungeness. so i'm wondering, for people who have spent a lot of time on both coasts, what do you prefer? and why?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I have eaten and greatly enjoyed dungeness crabs but as a Marylander I am always going to side with locally caught blue crabs. That out of the way I consider the two to be very different.

    I think of dungeness as served steamed and dipped in melted butter with lemon. It is great, sweet crab that I compare more with snow than blue crab.

    Blue on the other hand I have always enjoyed freshly steamed and nicely spiced without the need for butter or lemon. Occasionally I will mix a small bowl of apple cider vinegar with some Old Bay or JO Seasoning as a dip for the claw meat just for a change. Much is made about the "work" of picking a blue crab but the truth is that once you have settled on a method you are comfortable with you can fly through a dozen crabs in no time at all. Plus, the pacing allows for more beer consumption as you progress.

    Blues also make the best crabcakes in the world in addition to blessing us with the ultimate in crab indulgence - the softshell crab. Pan-fried, deep fried or even tempura style - there is nothing quite like eating a freshly prepared softshell or three.

    If I were to find myself in San Fran I would happily devour my share of dungeness and many pints of Anchor Steam and feel happy and satisfied. Were you to be out my way we would spread out the newspaper, crack many crabs and raise our long-necked Budweisers in toast to the great local crabs we both have been blessed with.


    7 Replies
    1. re: CDouglas

      As another native Marylander, the penultimate dining experience is that "crab feast", ideally with a pile of jumbo jimmies spread out on a newspapered table, Old Bay seasoned(JO is too salty), a bucket of cold ones, and a late season Orioles game on somewhere. Crab after delicious crab, talking with friends, and sipping at beer, you break every 20 minutes or so to go at that pile of claws you've been stacking. And our feasts would live on for a few days as we always kept the leftovers for crab soup... Virginia is for lovers. Maryland is for crab-lovers.

      1. re: Silverjay

        Agreed on the jumbo jimmies. JO #2 is used for steaming crabs as it has been premixed with flaked rock salt. JO #1 is the eating variety, more like Old Bay. Most folks who prefer it think it has LESS salt than Old Bay. It is the one you find most often at the waterfront crabhouses around the Bay.

        1. re: Silverjay

          I can only say one thing to this post. No truer words have ever been spoken!
          "the penultimate dining experience is that "crab feast", ideally with a pile of jumbo jimmies spread out on a newspapered table, Old Bay seasoned(JO is too salty), a bucket of cold ones, and a late season Orioles game on somewhere. Crab after delicious crab, talking with friends, and sipping at beer, you break every 20 minutes or so to go at that pile of claws you've been stacking"
          That description right there is the key to my heart! I agree, Maryland blues take the cake!

        2. re: CDouglas

          I thought eating blue crab with vinegar dip was something only my filipino family did. Is it common in Maryland?

          I prefer blue crab over dungeness. My family is from Jersey and Florida, I was the first to be born in CA, and lived here most of my life. I like the sweet meat from the blue crab.

          1. re: Veggietales

            I picked up the habit after crab-feasting at Bethesda crab house while growing up. They always had cider vinegar and extra Old Bay in little plastic cups available. I watched others do it and followed suit. I don't like how it masks the taste of jumbo lump but it adds a nice tang to the claw meat from time to time.

            1. re: CDouglas

              I was born and raised in Maryland and I always remember eating them with vinegar, ever since I was a little crabber!

        3. I prefer Maryland blue crabs for their delicate sweet flavor. Agree that butter isn't needed to enjoy!

          Many restaurants serving crab cakes use blue swimming crab meat from south east Asia. The meat is similar in flavor, but the size of the crab is enormous- about 1 1/2- 2 lbs each. I was in Indonesia a few years ago & had their chili crab. It was served whole with a spicy chili sauce. Very tasty, but extremely difficult to eat! Picking apart a 2 lb crab smothered in a wet chili sauce in a business dinner setting... thankfully, all at the dinner shared my laughter. Many of the Indonesians were surprised I knew how to pick the crab.

          I prefer locally grown/ caught food. So when on the West coast, I will order dungeness. When in MD, I order blue crabs, as long as I know if they are truly caught in the area. I do not buy MD "style" crab cakes outside of Maryland- they are never as good as the real thing. Backfin and fillers do not make a good crab cake.

          1. My main problem with Dungeness is that I'm too lazy to eat enough.

            I like blue crabs because of the soft-shell phase and the tradition of somebody else shelling them for crabcakes.

            14 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              too lazy? i'm a total pig when i eat crab. i chuck the utensils and crack them open with my teeth, pulling bits of shell out of my hair at the end of the night. next time i visit my parents in virginia, i'll have to do a study between dungeness and blue. i love the huge chunks of dungeness, and have found picking through the little legs of blues exasperating. maybe i just need to be shown how to do it properly. by the way, what is the season for blues on the east? our crabs come out next month, but i might be in virginia in december. i know nothing about them. is that a good time?

              1. re: augustiner

                In Maryland the commercial season ends December 15. Good crabs can be had until then.

                Check out this link for more info:

                1. re: CDouglas

                  I'm from the MS coast - are our blue crabs the same as yours?
                  Love them, eat them all the time, but we do love Dungeness when we can get it.

                  1. re: bayoucook

                    The Blue Crab is a native species from the Texas coast all through the Gulf and then along the Atlantic Coast as far North as New Jersey. Same crab.

                    Do not let another day pass with out reading the wonderful book "Beautiful Swimmers," by William Warner, a Pulitzer Prize winning story about the Blue Crab and the people whose lives revolve around the culture of catching them.
                    It's actually a page turner...

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      The species is Callinectes (beautiful swimmer) Sapidus (savory). Warner's book is truly a great read for all blue crab and Chesapeake Bay fans.

                      1. re: CDouglas

                        I knew Willie Warner and he truly loved the Chesapeake.
                        Everyone should read his book before they eat another crab. it will give you a new respect, not only for the crab, but for the men who haul them out of the water and the women who pick the meat from them.
                        Sexist? No. Just the way life is on the Bay in a declining life.
                        Food is more than what you put in your mouth. It's time and place, part of the culture. Respect for those who labor to bring it to your table and the seasons of life.

                      2. re: MakingSense

                        I'll have to grab a copy of that. Sounds like a good read.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          I will get the book, it sounds really good. I figured it was the same crab, just not sure. We seem to have a ton of them this year - good eating.

                    2. re: augustiner

                      That is how we eat shellfish. Throw newspapers on the table and go for it. I don't usually order shellfish when I dine out..for that very reason. Dungeness are sweeter than blue crab.

                    3. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I too am surprised you don't get enough from a big dungeness - it takes me a good half hour to pick a big dungeness clean and I am just always so amazed at the huge amount of meat it yields. I will admit to consuming about a half cup of melted butter with same, though. But when I finish I always feel - "Oooh, that was the perfect amount". I do love fried soft shell blue crabs though. But it seems that otherwise the miniscule amount of meat available from one hard shell blue crab is annoyingly skimpy. And I don't really like crab cakes, or maybe just never had a truly wonderful crab cake. When I think of how much labor-intensive nit picking has to go into extracting a viable amount of blue crab meat it creeps me out. When I was growing up on Long Island we caught huge crabs the size of big dungeness in Great South Bay as they cruised over the bottom (from our outboard), or from the docks. I would love it if someone could tell me what species they are, definitely not blue crabs.

                      1. re: niki rothman

                        If I weren't so lazy one Dungeness would be a lot.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I guess I see picking a steamed dungeness as the quintessential relaxed, extended social meal. It just seems a perfect thing to do with a bunch of friends, so you chat and pick and eat and laugh. So the picking out of the morsels and the dipping in the butter seems all part of the lazy (talk about "lazy") pleasure of being with good friends you really enjoy and stuffing your mouth with the most delicious thing you've ever coaxed onto your fork. Too often I just wolf down my own food and the actual process is just mechanical. Gosh! I wish I could do that social crab picking party a lot more often than I do. I would prefer to eat a nice big dungeness and melted butter more than any other thing I could put in my mouth. But then, as I mentioned, I've never had a big steamed lobster - might be even better.

                        2. re: niki rothman

                          You may have been catching rock crabs. Usually only the claws of these guys are eaten. It could also be a Jonah crab but I think they tend to be in deeper water. Were they good eats?

                          1. re: CDouglas

                            I think you are right about the rock crabs - I seem to remember these guys were absolutely nothing to compare to my now beloved dungeness - that is, despite their huge size they were really not that meaty at all.

                      2. All I've ever eaten at home is Dungeness and I love it. We always have a Christmas tree decorating party and crab feed. And often do it over again on New Year's Eve. Can't wait. I've had plenty of crab cakes in restaurants, too, even though they're almost never as good as I hope they will be. What kind of crab is used on the West Coast?

                        1. I've had both and prefer blue over dungeness--the flavor and texture seems much more delicate to me--but... I also really like the European velvet swimming crab (which I've had before in Spain with a light vinegar broth--very nice).