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Please clue me into stone crabs - moved from Florida board

A recent transplant, I have been eyeing the stone crab in the cases. But it is expensive and I have no idea how to cook, serve or eat it. Help! Thanks.

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  1. Any stone crab I have ever bought was already cooked. That being said I like the crabs at Joe's which I have found on my last visit(last Mar) was far more reasonably priced than any of those dumps on lincoln road.

    Just do like they do there. Crack em, put em on a plate or ice and serve with the dijon/horseradish/mayo sauce....good stuff

    1. I learned about stone crab (claws, in particular) because the little crabs are attracted by the same bait as are lobsters, and end up in the traps as a bonus. We had a local couple, the Toths, who ran something called Fresh Catch Express. They had a contract to buy the day catch from a commercial fisherman in Boston. It was flown alive and kicking from Logan to Detroit Metro Airport and thence to their eager customers here in Ann Arbor. I could get a half-pound of steamed stone crab claws for just a few dollars. I would buy a couple of pounds, and always finished the first container before I ever made it to my house. So, that's suggestion number one. Sorry they are charging a lot of money for them down there - my guess is they are the same bonus crop that they are Back East.

       
      5 Replies
      1. re: Etsweiler

        Etsweiler - I suspect you're talking about a different critter. Florida stone crabs are not little, and to my knowledge are not found in northern climes. In addition, Florida stone crabs could not be "flown alive and kicking" b/c they are only harvested for one claw at a time (they regenerate their claws). and are immediately cooked and iced.

        Responding to OP - stone crabs are only sold pre-cooked, chilled, and (usually) cracked. Nothing to it other than pulling off the shell and eating the meat (there is a piece of cartilage that runs up the middle of the large part of the claw - don't eat that). Sometimes you may need to do a litle work on the shell if they've not been cracked well. Don't forget the "knuckles", they're the best part. Traditionally served with mustard sauce or drawn butter. Almost never served warm because heat causes them to release a strong iodine flavor.

        1. re: Frodnesor

          Mustard is much better than drawn butter for stone crabs...

          1. re: tpigeon

            My concoction of mayo and Bajan chili ginger sauce is even better.

        2. re: Etsweiler

          There aren't any stone crabs here in the northeast. Definitely something else.

          1. re: Etsweiler

            I hope your talking about Blue Crabs and not Stone Crabs.

          2. joe's is easy access and good, but a bit more expensive
            i feel like i've had decent stone crab for less from other places like casablanca fish market
            i usually get the select along with mustard sauce...
            the cheapest stone crab i've had was in the keys (marathon)
            for $11/lb medium select
            from what i was told, the broken off claws have to be cooked right away so the meat doesn't stick to the inside of the claw

            1. Stone crab is expensive, there's no way around it. Costco occassionally has for $15 a lb. Casablanca downtown and Capt. Jim's in Miami Shores have good prices too. You've got great suggestions above on how to prepare (or how not to prepare). If you don't get them pre-cracked (which is what I do) take them home and when ready to eat place the claw between a couple of kitchen towels and whack each section (claw and 2 knuckles) with the handle of a butter knife whacking the main claw part harder than the knuckles.

              1 Reply
              1. re: lax2mia

                Instead of beating up your crab between a towel here's a very simple way to crack them.
                Put one on each hand, holding them by your fingers so you can swing them and and lightly smack the two claws together. One will crack nicely with out damaging the meat or making a huge mess. Of course you still have to crack your last one but once you discover that they crack like porcelain when smacked into each other you will never struggle to crack stone crabs again.
                I have had Colossals that you would never, ever crack them with a butter knife. ;)

              2. I have heard that seafood in warm waters lacks the flavor of their cold water cousins. What's your experience? I've had only the New England version, so I can't speak to the rest, apart from Tilapia from, I guess, Florida.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Etsweiler

                  Florida's warmer waters are great for different fish than the colder waters, and I've eaten in both places. No lack of flavor with yellowtail, tripletail, pompano, dolphin (mahi-mahi) wahoo, grouper, and dozens of others. WE do not have the Northern delights such as cod or walleye. Tilapia is farm raised and has little taste-it's from S. America-not native to Florida.

                  I've had those say that the Maine lobster is better than the Florida "lobster", which lacks the two large claws, has panful spines if you wrstle with it, and and looks like a crawfish on steroids. I've steamed tails of both, plucked from the shells, then set them before all knowing "Mainiacs", and they couldn't tell the difference. (Yes, i could only serve tails in the comparison.) That said, there's boatloads of Maine lobsters consumed in Florida.

                  Stone crabs are, as Frodnesor noted, a local treat, I've not heard of them even as far north as mid-Florida. And yes, only one claw is harvested, which is alawys cooked before you get it at the store-whether "fresh" or frozen. Appalachicola oysters are quite tasty, and compare favorable to those "up north". They seem less salty overall than some of the Pacific oysters.

                  1. re: Etsweiler

                    1. There are no stone crabs in the Northeast, hence no comparison is possible.

                    2. There are stone crabs in East Central Florida. They're not very abundant but you can find them in the Banana River east of Merritt Island. They are a by-catch for crabbers going after blue crabs (crabbers eat very, very well) and because their numbers are small, if you want fresh stone claws, you need to buddy up with a crabber.

                    3. I thinks you have it backwards; Oysters from "up north" compare favorably with the species found in the gulf :)

                    1. re: bkhuna

                      bkhuna,

                      Do check your geography, you may have it backwards. Apalachicola was still in the Gulf, unless someone moved the town and oyster beds! Their oysters are arguable Florida's Gulf's best.

                      They hold their own to any other oysters nationwide- Do try some, and learn of Florida's Gulf treasures! We really do agree on points 1 and 3.

                      Good to know stone crabs can be found in mid Florida. Even as by-catch, perhaps some can get a taste for them, and maybe the crabbers will grow a market there.

                      Can you recommend some good casual restaurants for great seafood on the East Coast, from Jacksonville to Merritt?

                      Thank you!

                      1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

                        That's what I not so precisely said. By "up north" I was referring to oysters from places like Washington, Canada, etc. They are indeed yummy, and compare favorably with Apalachicola oysters which are, to me at least, the crème de la crème.

                        As a native Floridian, oyster eater and foodie traveler, I've consumed wheelbarrow loads of the wonderful bivalves in and around The Forgotten Coast.

                        Glad we got that straightened out. Now we have to hear from the "up north" crowd on why they think theirs are the best, a discussion of which there will be no consensus I'm sure.

                        1. re: bkhuna

                          see my profile pic for Apalachicola oysters ; )

                  2. They will be out of season as one can only harvest them Oct 15 thru May 15. I had some delicuos ones at catfish dewey's in Ft. lauderdale last night. $27.95 for all you can eat mediums! http://www.catfishdeweys.com/

                    1. I've caught Stone crabs in South Carolina, so they do occur further north, but I doubt you can find them in Boston. I've crabbed in the Chesapeake and Jersey and never heard of Stones being caught in either place.
                      The Gulf Stream shoots off to the North East Atlantic (towards Iceland) around N Car so the warm water goes that way, so I'd imagine that NC would be about as far north as they would be found.
                      If you find Stoners sold on the cheap (usually road side stands, flea markets, small seafood stores) they're probably "floaters". It's a crab that has recently molted and the muscle hasn't filled in the shell. The claw looks big, but you'll be disappointed when it's cracked open. You're still buying by the pound, but you're getting more shell in that weight than meat.
                      As for oysters...
                      Apalachicola's are a good, no strike that, great everyday oyster. Far, far better than anything else I've had from the Gulf. Sorry LA and TX, but those oysters are just nasty.
                      The Appies are even better than the Chesapeake's and even the Blue Points of the North East US (for the most part), but nothing and I mean nothing beats the Chincoteagues of coastal VA on the DelMarVa peninsula.
                      I knew of a biologist who had a home on the water in Chincoteague, he'd buy Chessies and 'plant them' in the water off of his home, by the end of a year they were just as good as the Chinc's. i don't know, never had them.
                      To bad but from what I understand there are no more Chinc's outside of the county. If you ever get a chance try them, they're worth the price!

                      13 Replies
                      1. re: BobCo

                        "You're still buying by the pound, but you're getting more shell in that weight than meat."

                        Sorry, BobCo, but I just have to comment on your otherwise excellent post. Stone crabs that have molted into their new shell have a very thin, very light shell. Yes, it's roomy because they haven't grown into it yet, but ounce for ounce they actually have more meat ratio.

                        How do I know this? I have owned a seafood market for 26 years, and my supplier and I were discussing this issue. He told me that once he did an informal study - weighed several pounds of floaters and several pounds of nice regular claws. Then he picked all the meat from both - and - surprise! - the floaters yielded slightly more meat! Makes sense when you think about it.

                        But I know, I know, that goes against everything we've all heard over the years. Food for thought!
                        (by the way, I don't stock floaters, as my supplier pulls them for himself!).

                        1. re: joan

                          But the meat in floaters is often undeveloped mush, and most floaters have breaks in their shell (that's how they are identified), which allows very unfriendly bacteria to rush in. I am first to seek a good value, but I have been so sick from floaters so many times, I will forever forward pay full price for hard shell. Today the season ended, but I have 4 colossals on ice for tomorrow.
                          There will be 2-3 days of fresh/ never frozen in the pipeline, but after Monday, May 18, all have been frozen. That's when they get stringy, stick to the shell, and have no flavor. Wait 'til October 15, and find other fun along the way. Red grouper now is fantastic.

                          1. re: Veggo

                            Nonsense. A floater is identified by that fact that it ...floats!.. when in the cookpot (due to the extra roomy air inside). A broken shell indicates a mishandled crab, nothing more.

                            I am glad tho, that you survived your many sicknesses incurred from eating stone crabs...

                          2. re: joan

                            Ok, I'll have to defer to you Joan. Yes, I'd be surprised too, but it makes sense. The shell may appear to be the same strength since we have to use crackers (or hammers), but still it's not at it's strongest.
                            I've caught Blue Crabs and the ones that have recently molted have less meat, I never really checked the strength of their shells. I do know the lighter the color, the lighter the crab. Heck if I ever caught a crab that was brown underneath (chocolates as I called them) I kept them for sure, they were the heaviest and just packed with meat. A dozen of them was way better than 2 doz of the next size up.

                            1. re: BobCo

                              BobCo,

                              I checked on the Smithsonian site, which said: "Stone crabs range from North Carolina south through Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula, including the Bahamas, Cuba and Jamaica."

                              Florida has the biggest commercial industry for the claws.

                              Your mention of the Gulfstream' s path off of N. Carolina's coast, explains their Northern limit- thank you.

                              Veggo-I've had floaters for years, never got sick. They are just "light" in water and float, as Joan says, not damaged as far as my eyes (and my health) can tell, over 30+ years of eating them. I've rarely had a mushy or distasteful crab, be it floater or sinker.

                              1. re: An Insatiable Appetite

                                It could be that the crabbers where I buy mine handle their catch more roughly. The floaters are definitely thin shelled and fragile.
                                I just finished up my final four colossals. I saved the biggest for last and I had to give it a few hard whacks with a standard claw hammer. A bittersweet end of season for 5 months.
                                The stone crabs in the Yucatan have a more pronounced "hook" in the black tip of their claw, and the pincer is a little more sawtoothed. Just an observation, but I wonder why the difference. It's not that far away. Aside from Moro's in Cancun, I hardly see them in the Yucatan, where I spend a lot of time.

                                1. re: Veggo

                                  Have you seen, (I have seen this myself) supermarkets substituting the lookalike Jonah Crab for stone crab? Much cheaper...

                                  Here is an image:

                                  http://www.thefreshlobstercompany.com...

                                  Here is a good blog article - mostly about fake grouper, but the end explains the Jonah substitution issue:

                                  http://sandkeyblog.com/wordpress/?p=178

                                  1. re: joan

                                    I've seen that in stores. They can usually be found next t the frozen poisonous crawfish from china.

                                    1. re: bkhuna

                                      I don't eat anything from China. Period, end of discussion.

                                      I've had the Jonah's they're not that great, I'm sure if they were fresh then it might be different, but they're usually frozen, so as a practice I don't even look at frozen Stoners (not while I live in Tampa).

                                      As for the Grouper fiasco, same thing, I'll take a fried Catfish sandwich when I'm at a cheap eats type place. Reputable restaurants that you know are serving Grouper for sure, then I'll have it, but otherwise, a $5 fried fish sandwich is a fried fish sandwich (except for Sammy's fried fish sandwich at Mazarro's in St Pete).

                                    2. re: joan

                                      I have seen but not tried them. They have sort of square edges rather than smooth roundness of stone crabs. Did you observe them actually being represented as stone crabs? The preponderance of counterfeit grouper is sufficiently alarming, and about to worsten, because Florida imposed a moratorium on long-line commercial grouper fishing as of yesterday.

                                      1. re: Veggo

                                        Sysco got gigged ONLY on their fake grouper in some Florida counties, they can STILL sell it anywhere else with impunity, as that's the legal limitation of of the Florida ruling-only applies to Florida!!. Many folks outside of Florida wouldnl't know the difference with grouper, pompano, yellowtail, etc..

                                        Stopping Sysco must tbe done State by state, juridiction by jurisdiction, to make a dent in Sysco's practice, wihich yields far greater profits than the few hundred K they paid out. Aw shucks, it's just a cost/benefit decision to them. It takes DNA testing of several hundred fish from dozens of restaurants in a locale to make a case, and Sysco knows this. In a recession, spending tens of thousands to make a case against mislabled fish, when no one got sick, and jobs are being lost, is not a priority l

                                        Whenever a $10 a pound grouper sells for less, than say $15 on your plate, then you've been Sysco'd!

                                        I don't just blame Sysco, seafood scams abound. I once asked for crab cakes in Dallas, TX. I asked first if it really was from lump crab, and I was assured it was. When it arrived, it was tubular red surimi! The chef maintained and really believed it was lump crab, till he turned up a frozen box, and crab was number 6 on ingredients, with Pollack as #1. Consumer beware of any seafood you don't see in the whole state-it's easy for a distributer to be fishy on fish fillets..

                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          Re: seeing the Jonah crab sold as stones:

                                          Yes, it was a couple of years ago, they were frozen and in not too good shape, but the sign said stone crabs. That's when I went home and googled because they didn't look quite right. I can't remember which supermarket it was.

                                          1. re: joan

                                            Wow! That is flagrant deception.

                            2. Folks, We've moved this stone crab thread from the Florida board since it was more a general discussion than where in Florida to buy them. Tips for preparing them for serving should be posted on the Home Cooking board. Thanks!