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Dec 19, 2008 05:23 AM

Colossal Pasteurized Crab Meat, a Colossal Mistake?

I impulsively spent big bucks on a large tin of thumb-tip sized chunks of colossal pasteurized crab meat which has been sitting in my fridge (read-taking up a lot of space) for at least a month now because I don't know what to do with it. I've sifted through the CH boards and also Epicurious and other sites to no avail. Does anyone have any tips about what to do with the crabmeat, short of throwing it on salads for thirty consecutive days? Can I make crabcakes with it? (It is already pre-cooked and says it can be eaten straight from the can.)

I have found lots of negative feedback on pasteurized crab meat in general online, but I have to use it, or it will go to waste. Am hoping I haven't made a colossal mistake with my money buying so much of it.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts...

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  1. What type of crab is it and where it's from? Seems a little long to have held on to this. If it's blue crab, there are tons of things you can do (crab cakes, crab imperial, crab dip, etc.). If it's that rubbery stuf from overseas, I would chuck it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bnemes3343

      It is Phillips hand picked crab meat, the can doesn't say anything else, other than "keep refrigerated". All of the crab cake recipes I have call for using raw crab. Would I adjust the cooking time for crab cakes since the meat is already cooked, and if so, how does that affect the egg used to bind them?

      1. re: bnemes3343

        Ok, visited the site Steady Habits recommended and it says "Our meat is hand-picked from the blue swimming crab, Portunus-spp., which is caught in the wild in and around the bountiful rich waters of Southeast Asia."

      2. IF this is canned pasteurized crab, and it has been refrigerated constantly and you have NOT opened the tin yet, it has a keeping life of about six months in the coldest part of your refrigerator.

        Once you open the tin, it's no different than fresh crab and should be discarded if not used within a couple of days. (You may run into a few sites that say three to five days, at the outside, but I think that's pushing it. Personally, I wouldn't go past forty-eight hours. It's seafood, after all.)

        It is freezable, but should be frozen within partially prepared foods for best possible texture, etc.

        In addition to bnemes suggestions, you could make bisques (should be able to freeze them, right?), gumbos, callaloos, spring rolls, Newburgs, Crab Mornay ("straight-up" or florentined), mousses, puffs...

        Here's information from a source whose name anybody who has lived in Maryland east of DC will know. My point being, I trust them as crab experts:

        Make sure you check out the recipes on the site!

        8 Replies
        1. re: Steady Habits

          Thanks Steady Habits, I didn't realize Phillips had a website. I am on the way to check it out! I bought the crab at my local fish market where they keep it in a very cold fridge. I was told by them that it keeps for a year; there is no expiration date on the can. I'm glad to hear I can use it in recipes that call for uncooked crab (i.e. crabcakes) and will try using them for that. I bet they have a delish recipe on the site!

          1. re: ideabaker

            I just bought some pastuerized crab that has a date of maybe a year (but I'm using it Christmas Eve) Wish it was Phillips, they are very well regarded for their quality. No, I just got some cheap Chinese stuff, hope we don't die!! I'm mixing it with some cream cheese etc and putting in artichoke bottoms and baking it for one of many, many fish apps that night. No fresh crab around here, this is one everyone had on sale right now. Now I'm sorry I didn't seek out Phillips!

            1. re: coll

              I had the imitation crabmeat which I used to make a recipe from Phillips. The recipe was put together in the morning and refrigerated. For dinner I baked them and the mixture did not fall apart.

              1. re: coll

                You're not missing anything by not getting Phillips. They don't use blue crab, they use Asian swimmer crabs, which are not the same thing. I'd bet your Chinese crab is the exact same thing.

                I wouldn't use the Asian swimmer crab in anything where I wanted the crab flavor predominant, it's just not there. If you want to make decent crab cakes, seek out domestic blue crab from Maryland (scarce), N. Carolina, Texas or Louisiana.

                Here's a link to the Faidley's crab cake recipe, thought by many people (including me) to be the best in Baltimore:

                Also, here's a link to a fairly long article by Henry Hong that explains in detail the difference between the swimmer crab and the blue crab, including some details on what the despicable Phillips is doing to mislead consumers:

                The Phillips factory is about a mile from my house in South Baltimore, and I raise my middle finger to it every time I pass by. Trust me, there's a clear and present difference between imported and domestic crab.

                1. re: JonParker

                  Thanks for easing my mind! Onward to Christmas Eve, I know nobody is going to be analyzing the food that closely.

                  1. re: JonParker

                    I don't know about crab, but along the same lines as your frustration re that, it drives me crazy that's it like a scavenger hunt to buy American shrimp now.

                    No offense to Thailand, but I don't want frozen Thai tiger shrimp.

                    I want plump fresh shrimp that my fellow citizens have pulled out of the bayous of the Gulf and off the shores of the Carolinas.

                    My favorite supermarket is the one supermarket I've been in that sells *really* good fish, and prides itself on it. But even it has like three long freezer cases of the farmed stuff from g-dknowswhere in Asia for, like, 3.50 a pound. Ugh. They have a little stash of the good stuff, never frozen, for customers who ask, but they don't put it on display "because it doesn't sell". I'm sure it would if people knew it was there.

                    1. re: JonParker

                      Thanks for the information, JonParker. I only see domestic crab for sale when I fly into Baltimore to visit relatives in the area. It's for sale at the airport, along with little chiller bags to keep the crabmeat cold until you get home. I've never seen it here in Long Island (NY). Lucky you to have access to it!

                      That said, I will try out the Faidley's recipe with what I have...

                2. re: Steady Habits

                  I have one that I got at Trader Joe's one can only guess how long ago. It sat in my fridge on the door shelf and I forgot about it. When my son was home for Christmas he spotted it and asked if I'd make crab cakes.

                  The stamp on the top said it was best used by Oct 2007 (that's not a typo 2007!) but I opened it. It smelled fresh so I gave it a whirl. The crab cakes were delicious and nothing's easier -- just give them a rest of 30 min in the fridge when you mix them up and another one of about an hour when you've formed them. That will help the crumbs really draw up moisture and become an effective binder for the crab. You won't even need egg to spoil the flavor of the crab. Then give them one more roll in dry bread crumbs just before frying. They'll fry up brown and delicious.

                3. Crabby Seafood Sausage, Crab and Artichoke Heart and Andouille Paella, Crabcakes, Crab Bisque. Then for dinner....

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: KiltedCook

                    KiltedCook, I already had dinner and now you're getting me hungry again! I love crab dishes and these all sound so wonderful. Especially the sausage. Would love to know how labor intensive that is to make, timewise...

                  2. This is a kooky idea, much as buying an outfit to go with a new pair of shoes. But it is the holidays. Throw a party. Take some/all of that crab and make a crab salad with some mayo, possibly a little dijon, some crunch veggies of choice, flavorings like lemon, dill, caper, pimento (not necessarily together), and start filling endive leaves, cucumber cups, small tomato halves, or miniature bell pepper cups with it.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: sasha1

                      I love that idea, sasha1! 'Tis the season and all. the different veggies with crab salad would create a nice balance of textures and tastes (and would be a feast for the eyes). I certainly bought enough to make at least two or three different kinds of crab salad for stuffing.

                      Unfortunately 95% of my friends are already on their "lose weight in the New Year" kick so few of them would eat something with full-fat mayo in it. The other stuff (low fat, reduced fat, etc.) just tastes yucky IMO and would very possibly ruin the expensive crabmeat. Is there such a thing as a crab salad that doesn't use mayo? (Or uses very little?)

                      1. re: ideabaker

                        You could try dressing it lightly with lemon juice and a tiny bit of good olive oil. I think the ordinary mayo substitutes like yogurt, buttermilk, would overpower the crab with the sour component. The other consideration is that you can't really get more than a tbsp of crab salad into any of these veggie vessels. So even with full fat mayo, the average calories per hors d'oevres can't be that high.

                        1. re: sasha1

                          Good point about the portion size limiting their intake of mayo. I will try the lemon juice/olive oil mixture in some and see which get eaten first (often people say they are on a health food kick, but still choose the mayo when presented with a choice!). Thanks!

                        2. re: ideabaker

                          I'm glad that your pasteurized crab found a new lease on life ;-).

                          In follow-up to what sasha said, I *always* cut the mayo in tuna, chicken, pasta salads, etc. by using half olive oil. Now...I don't eat crab (allergies), so you all will have to tell me whether this is right, but I always hear my friends and family raving about how delicate it is. If it is a delicate taste, you might not want to use first cold-pressed olive oil, since it retains the strongest olive taste. Maybe a general purpose olive oil, but from a high-quality producer or distributor?

                          1. re: Steady Habits

                            Steady Habits... I've never tried cutting mayo with anything, do you whisk the oil and the mayo in a bowl until they emulsify, then use with the crab? Or just mix half the mayo into the crab then drizzle in oil until it is just the right consistency? Would canola oil work just as well (no olive taste at all)?

                            p.s. My condolences on the crab allergies. I hope it doesn't extend to all shellfish! (Though the allergies may be saving you big bucks over a lifetime :-).)

                            1. re: ideabaker

                              No, when I'm making tuna or chicken salad, I don't mess around with emulsifying (though maybe I should). But I'm just making it for us, here at home, for sandwiches or cold salads, so I'm a little lax, maybe. ;-)

                              Either way. Speaking of when I do want to emulsify, when an acid is involved, I always find a even a small amount (even a teaspoon) of a tasty prepared mustard guarantees success. I don't know if mustard is too strong a flavor for crab, but if a small bit is okay, that's a low-fat ingredient you could add to help cut down on the mayo.

                              Yes, any mild-flavored, healthful oil would be just fine.

                              I also cook often with walnut, sesame and Chili oils, but I think from what I hear, they would be too strong for crabmeat.

                              I can eat and love shrimp. I'm probably pushing it and will develop an allergy to them, which will make me a blue crabby. :-)

                              1. re: Steady Habits

                                Mustard is pretty standard in crab cakes, so that would work. I wouldn't go with a lot or a really strong one though. A mild dijon would work fine.

                              2. re: ideabaker

                                Mayo is already an emulsion. If it's a prepared mayo, you should be able to whisk in the olive oil. If it's a homemade mayo, you could just use olive oil from the start.

                                Btw, I find that a food processor not only makes quick work of making mayo but the emulsion is almost foolproof.

                                That said I like sasha1's idea of using lemon and olive oil.

                        3. I buy this at my butcher's place. I don't have a fresh alternative for crab, and this is highly satisfactory for me. I use it in stuffing (stuffed flounder, sole, etc.), crabcakes, topping for soups, everything I would use jumbo lump crabmeat in ... if I could get it.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: k_d

                            I was wondering if this would be good for stuffing fish... If I buy "crab" stuffed shrimp or fish around here it is usually stuffed with surimi which tastes foul to me. Real crabmeat would be 100% better. What do you put in your stuffing, other than the crab?

                            1. re: ideabaker

                              The Phillips crabmeat is an economical way to use real crabmeat in stuffings for fish and some other dishes.
                              Often there are other strong ingredient, such as enough aromatics (onions, celery, spices,etc.), breadcrumbs, cream cheese, sour cream, whatever, that the crabmeat itself isn't front and center.
                              It's a waste of money to buy top price crabmeat for dips. You're going to mush them up anyway.
                              Why cook more expensive crabmeat into shreds in gumbo when you can barely taste it among the spices?
                              By the time a cook makes a simple stuffing with breadcrumbs, onions, celery, and a few herbs, the flavor of the crabmeat is only a part of the orchestra. Phillips will do fine.

                              1. re: MakingSense

                                MakingSense; Good point about mushing up the crabmeat. Especially because the pieces I had were impressively huge.

                                I just may go pick up another can and try crabcakes with them... they would create big chunks of crab between the minimal binding agents... stay tuned for the update :-).

                                1. re: ideabaker

                                  I know I live in Baltimore and am kind of a purist on these things, but no way would I use Phillips to make a crab cake. Please, I beg you, search out some blue crab and use that.

                                  1. re: JonParker

                                    Ooooh, JonParker, there's no need to be so strict.
                                    Fresh blue crab isn't available - even in Summer - in most of the US.
                                    Even if it is, a lot of crab cake recipes put so much stuff in there, that's it hard to taste the difference in the crabmeat anyway.

                                    The big Acme grocery over in Easton, MD, usually stocks several grades of Phillips and some local hand-picked. Sometimes they offer the Phillips on sale as low as $7.99 or so. That's close to the price of canned albacore!
                                    We can have that for Tuesday night supper. I'm not going to spend $20 for a weeknight supper!

                                    No, it's not the 4-Star restaurant experience, but it makes great crabcake sandwiches with some slaw.
                                    Same thing as when the ladies at the picking sheds sold off the backfin to the brokers and made their own dinner from the clawmeat and the rest of the crab.
                                    Not fancy but damned good eating. Crabcakes were bar food back then.
                                    Long, long before they ever showed up on the menus of frou-frou restaurants.