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May 7, 2009 08:57 AM

Crab Meat: Is Canned Okay?

I used to work at a restaurant where they used canned crabmeat for the crabcakes. Unfortunately, a guest complained that the dish "tasted canned". A pastry chef friend of mine said that her restaurant did the same for their crabcakes. Yet, another industry friend says canned crabmeat is a big no no.
So, the question is:
Is canned okay?
Can you really tell the difference?
How should the meat be packaged?

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  1. For things like crab cakes, use only fresh lump crabmeat. If the recipe is ABOUT crabmeat, do not used canned, unless it's for a dip or something, or is added in with an assortment of other ingredients. My local store has a packaged, refrig. crabmeat that I keep on hand in the freezer for adding to something like shrimp scampi or a stuffing for fish.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bayoucook

      So, how do you feel about restaurants that use canned? Can it still be considered good quality meat?

      1. re: dclovesme

        My choices probably come from my background: I live in South Mississippi on the water, where there is abundant and inexpensive fresh crabmeat - even free, b/c we have crabtraps out on the bayou (caught some huge blue beauties a couple of weeks ago). When I make crabcakes, it's all about the crabmeat, and I personally would never use anything but fresh lump. I use very little binder so when you eat mine you can see and taste huge lumps of crabmeat. Other crabmeat I would use for devilled crabs, gumbos and stews, or in stuffings. I've never bought canned so I have no opinion of it. At a restaurant, it had better be fresh lump, but we don't order it out b/c it's cheaper and much much better made at home. If we're not eating the crabs we catch that day, I pick and freeze the meat, and clean some out, half them and save for gumbo. I hope I never go to a restaurant that would even think of using canned!

    2. I can make crabcakes out of canned crab meat. If I go to a quality restaurant , I better be getting fresh!
      I've tried several canned crabmeats. Trader Joes carries one and Smart and Final carries one. The TJs seemed to be better quality because the one from S&F and a lot of shell bits and was basically inedible.

      1. The whole purpose of coming up with dishes like crab cakes was to use up the lesser crab meats in such a way as to make it appetizing. People didn't used to waste jumbo lump on crab cakes, but just use up the flaked white meat. Canned was perfectly acceptable. But of course, times have changed - some gourmet place says we use only fresh colossal lump from Snow Crabs, (which were probably frozen, so how fresh is that?) - that's not unlike making sausages or hot dogs from filet mignon, if you ask me. Delicious, I'm sure, but I'd rather have the steak (or the whole crab).

        My answer is that I would be happy or not with canned crab meat in recipes depending on how much I paid and where I was. On the Maryland or Washington coast, if a place served crab cakes, I'd expect fresh blue or dungeness, respectively. In Boston, I eat lobster, but I'd be happy with a reasonably priced canned crab crab cake - or a gourmet fresh (from frozen) version at a hoity-toity joint.

        1 Reply
        1. I think it depends on the canned crabmeat. If it is canned like tuna for long-term shelf life, I'd say no. However, my grocery store in Los Angeles used to sell lump crabmeat in a can that was refrigerated, and it can be very good. Costco also sells refrigerated canned crab that is a very good deal and tasty to boot.

          2 Replies
          1. re: DanaB

            Yes, refrigerated canned crabmeat is perfectly fine for crabcakes. Just watch out for the Phillips brand "blue swimming crab" meat. The swimming crab is a completey different species than our blue crab. they are harvested in southeast asia. The meat is very pretty but has no taste.

            1. re: DanaB

              Yes, my grocery store sells the refrigerated lump crabmeat and I think it's very good too. Of course, nothing is going to beat fresh lump crabmeat, but I very rarely see it.

            2. When not in freash crab land I like a refigerated crab that is sold in a can in a black colored can. It is lump crab. You still have to pick through it, but the meat is pretty and it tastes really good. I would have zero problem having that in a cake, dip or stuffing. I do not see eating it as a cocktail since the pieces are generally small. But I live in dungeness land so I am spoiled.

              Anyone know the brand with the black can?

              4 Replies
              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                I think that is Byrd. It gets good reviews. TJs has one called Captian Joes (I think). I liked it better than the Byrd.

                1. re: Sal Vanilla

                  But I can get live crabs in Little Saigon, so I shy away from the canned stuff.

                  1. re: Sal Vanilla

                    I think that may be Phillip's. Our Costco here sells it. It is good - I've used it for appetizer sized jalapeno crab cakes - very good.

                    I also live in the land of blue crab (NC) - but I will use the Phillip's brand on occasion.

                    1. re: Jeanne

                      The Phillips's crab that Costco has carried in the past in the black can is imported blue swimming crab.That product is now in plastic tubs but itis the same product and brand. It's a totally different beast than American (MD) Blue Crab. It doesn't have much flavor.
                      Do I have a problem with that?
                      At home not really but the unfortunate thing is that many folks don't know they are getting a totally inferior product. Kind of like buying surimi and thinking you have King Crab.
                      I have a major bone to pick with restaurants that utilize imported "blue" swimming crab and then try to pass it off as " MD blue crab". This product is a good example of marketing gone wrong for the consumer.
                      At X-mas many Costco's carry the imported "blue swimmer" crab in "jumbo lump". If you have ever handled a fresh blue crab you may get a kick out of that product as some of the chunks are 1/4 the size of an average MD blue crab.