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Dec 21, 2007 03:30 PM

Talkin' Crab Meat [Moved from Washington DC & Baltimore Board]

I thought I'd start a new thread because of the some of the misconceptions about crab meat recently discussed on another thread recently.
First of all there are 3 basic ways that crab meat is sold.....frozen ( don't EVER buy this!), "fresh", and pasteurized ) which is fresh crab meat usually packed in a can which, under refrigeration can last up to a year. "Fresh" crab which has not been pasteurized has a relatively short shelf lif of only about a week ( This is from source to consumption).

Over the past 10 years or so, "Maryland-style" crab cakes have become a very popular restaurant entree ALL OVER THE COUNTRY which has increased the demand for crab tremendously. Those of us who grew up in Maryland unfortunately now have to share our culinary contribution to the masses.

Also during this time, mainly beacuse of progressive companies like Phillips have developed
techniques to farm, handle, and ship crab from Indonesia to both keep up with the ever increasing demand of crab and also insure that the product will be SAFE to eat. The crab that comes from INdonesia is a very similar species to the crab which can be found in Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Personally, I feel more comfortable eating pasteurized crab packed under sanitary conditions than "fresh" crab which can spoil very quickly.

Also, someone mentioned that Wegmans sells Maryland "lump" crab for about $22 per pound. Although I don't doubt that the crab was from Maryland, its important to note how crab meat is currently classified:
Colossol Lump......lumps as large as 2 oz.
Jumbo Lump.......lumps usually about 1 oz.
Petite lump.....lumps about 3/4 oz ( this is a new classification)
Super Lump....nice size lumps, but broken
Lump......this USED to be called "backfin"....lump meat broken
Special....this is shredded backfin
Claw....the least expensive, but very sweet....great in soup

Hope this info helps clarufy some misconceptions

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  1. Cheers. Thanks for taking the time to get the info out. I've used Phillips pasteurized crab meat often in dishes when trying to add some extra flavor to impress. I also use it in making my own crabcakes. I've never been dissapointed - though I think I can taste the difference between it and our own blue crabs from the bay.

    Is there any kind of claw meat brand you'd recommend? Preferrably simple to get (I do live fairly near the hunt valley wegmans)? I'm trying to and a little extra to my chowder and the phillip's stuff just kind of blands out when you add it.

    Thanks again.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Wangus

      I've had success with the claw meat they sell at Mars Supermarkets(mostly from Venezuela), just make sure it is fresh and hasn't been frozen.. Works well in crab soup...

    2. <<Over the past 10 years or so, "Maryland-style" crab cakes have become a very popular restaurant entree ALL OVER THE COUNTRY which has increased the demand for crab tremendously. Those of us who grew up in Maryland unfortunately now have to share our culinary contribution to the masses.>>

      Let's not pretend that this just sort of happened naturally. When Phillips found its cash cow (so to speak) of Indonesian and Thai crab, he went out and found a market for it.

      I've had crab in Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia. While I've generally liked the preparation, in no way can the taste compare to the crab we have here. (I was taken to one of the best seafood restaurants in Singapore to try their famous chili crab, and my hosts were a bit miffed that I wasn't totally blown away by their local crustacean.)

      I also am saddened by the fact that people have some frozen Phillips "Maryland style" crabcake in some mall in suburban USA and think they know what MD crabs and crabcakes are all about.

      Give me MD crab any day. I'll risk it!

      1. The original comment has been removed
        1. Maryland can't lay sole claim to the blue crab. The state's annual harvest is equal to that of the state of Virginia with which it shares the Chesapeake Bay. The state line runs through a large part of the middle of the Bay and the crabs have no idea where it is. Each state now harvests less than 25 million pounds per year, so together they total less than North Carolina's 60 million pounds. There's crabbing in Delaware and New Jersey as well. The blue crab ranges down the East Coast to Florida and all along the Gulf Coast.
          The Chesapeake has been hard hit by declining crab populations for years and many of the watermen have given up the trade. Those that remain and the industry as a whole has been hard hit by the cheap imported crabmeat.
          Away from Blue Crab Country, where we know what the good stuff tastes like, people are satisfied with the Asian product and more than happy with the lower price. It has hurt the domestic industry in the same way that farm-raised imported fish and shellfish have.
          There is nothing like the taste of fresh, or even pasteurized blue crab. But if you've never had the real thing, how would you know? You still think it's a great crabcake.

          Once the inexpensive imports became easily available and were promoted throughout the US, the demand snowballed. Even people in areas of the country with easy access to real blue crab often shop for price rather than quality and it's hurting the industry.
          This is not a question of food safety. It's a question of quality product. If consumers buy inferior goods, the real thing will become more rare.