HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Is the crab called "king Just a Shuck and Jive Bit?

I've only seen "king crab" in two places: COSTCO and in Nevada at casino buffets.

I had it once in a casino and it was stringy and watery. I never touched it again.

Was my experience due to bad quality or too long shelf life? Is "this crab really good when fresh?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I've had great Alaskan king crab legs in Chinese restaurants. Whether it was fresh I don't know. My impression is that it's all frozen.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Robert: But you know what I'm talking about, no? Those watery gigantic legs on buffets....I don't care if it's frozen, I just don't want tasteless and watery.

      How do you get your crab legs in Chinese places? What dishes?

      1. re: oakjoan

        I never go to buffets. I've had them a couple of times off specials menus in HK seafood places. They're steamed and served with a very delicate sauce. Expensive.

    2. Yes it is really good when fresh. Your experience may have been due to being over frozen-hence the build up of ice crystals in the flesh.

      A large percentage of the catch is steamed immediately after being taken off the ships.
      But if you are lucky enough to live near a port that might have access to a live one-its a special treat.

      I am lucky in that I have traveled to Japan where you can buy live king crabs-$300 or so for an 8 pounder.
      Big ones! We are talking about some of the tastiest crab on the planet. Drinking hot sake out of the carapace is a real treat.

      Problem is, they catch those suckers WAY out in the ocean. It is difficult to transport live crab.

      EDIT: you should be able to find live ones in SF, figure $30-40 a pound.

      3 Replies
      1. re: AdamD

        Yes, in Tokyo I've had great king crab (can't remember the Japanese for it other than kani, which is generic). I recall going to a restaurant run by an ex Sumo wrestler (think ex movie star/NFL quarterback for a cultural analogue) that had a huge 20-foot animated crab on the front, the kind of place I would run from quickly in the states, but they had fresh king crab and it was a treat.

        1. re: LAMark

          Terabagani or Tarabagani one of those is how you say it in Japanese.

          1. re: AdamD

            Taraba-gani in Japanese. These are the HUGE crabs.

      2. Some High end Chinese Seafood restaurants, Koi Palace and Hong Kong East Ocean come to mind, Have live ones usually but you need a large party you want to impress to shell out that kind of dough.
        Frozen King Crab Legs are not a good representation.

        Koi Palace Restaurant
        365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015

        3 Replies
        1. re: chefj

          Frozen ones can be good, but you have to defrost, cook slowly, and pat with paper towels-to get the moisture out.
          But if they have been frozen for a year, they still wont taste very good.

          1. re: AdamD

            But like most Shelled sea creatures frozen is not nearly as good as fresh. Too much sweetness and flavor are lost in the process.
            I not saying it is inedible just no where near as good as it gets.

        2. All "King Crab" & "Snow Crab" legs are frozen. They're flash-frozen shortly after catch & definitely before hitting any markets. The key to enjoying good ones is how old they are &/or how they've been handled between point of catch & point of purchase. In addition - how they're prepared also comes into the picture.

          I never bother ordering them in restaurants or eating them from "buffets", because I have no control over how they've been held or how they've been reheated. It's a crap shoot no matter where you order them.

          At home I preheat the oven to 350 & fill a large roasting pan with 1" of water. I then lay the legs in the pan & "roast/steam" them for 20-30 minutes. Assuming they're nice full legs to begin with, they've been absolutely delicious every time. Never stringy (which comes from dry/hot-steaming them, or steaming them early & then letting them sit dry under heat lamps), or water (from letting them sit in water).

          Buy some & try cooking them yourself at home. With some metled lemon butter on the side, they're a terrific & easy meal. Better & cheaper than ordering out.

          1. I have seen live king crab in some of the very big tanks in HK-style seafood places in the San Gabriel Valley; menu just says MARKET PRICE, which I'm sure is more than my entire wardrobe is worth … However, back when I was just a rosy-cheeked young Air Force lad in Anchorage, The Hofbrau on 4th Avenue had a king-crab feast every Friday night. The steamed legs, melted butter and garlic bread were AYCE for $1.50. However, the butter was quite salty, so needless to say they sold many, many gallons of beer.

            1. I visited an old roommate in Kenai in the mid-70s. We went right to a king crab restaurant where she told me the crab was beer battered and I nearly barfed at the thought- what a travesty for the fabulous king crab! Actually, it was fantastic, we went back twice more the week I was there, had half for dinner and the rest for breakfast all three times.
              I wish I'd known what would eventually happen. My friend even had her own crab pot for catching king crab from a small boat around the inlet in the 70s and 80s! Then they became overfished and now you have TV shows about the guys that go out and catch them way the heck out in the Pacific in dangerously deep water because that's the only place where they are any more.

              It's always frozen on board, always- because they go out crab fishing for a long time at a stretch, and I'm surprised nobody mentioned that yet. If it was stringy and watery it was frozen and thawed several times and you shouldn't have gotten it, it's a truly wonderful delight if handled well, just don't think you're ever goiong to get fresh king crab in this day and age.

              10 Replies
              1. re: EWSflash

                Well, that explains a lot. The Hofbrau, just to put this in perspective, was in a block demolished after the Good Friday quake of '64 (yup, I got in on that, too), so we were eating cheap crab caught almost right outside our doors. Probably a miracle that the local fishery for those survived as long as it did, given the world's appetite for those things.

                1. re: EWSflash

                  It is not always frozen on board, How could we have live ones for sale here in California?

                  1. re: chefj

                    Exactly. And if you watch the deadliest catch, they go into live tanks and are offloaded live.
                    Id guess that 98% of them are frozen though. But you can find live king crab.

                    1. re: AdamD

                      Actually, yes - it is true that you can find live King Crab. But only on the west coast close to the ports. And that's a limited source.

                      I'd be interested to know how they sell them, because if they're sold whole by the pound live-weight, I can't imagine who would be buying them because you only eat the legs - the body is tossed (although some cultures do eat them) so you're paying for garbage. Also - the longer those poor things sit in those tanks, the more the meat starts wasting away since the crabs aren't feeding & thus drawing reserves from their body flesh.

                      Fresh flash-frozen legs are still your best bet.

                      1. re: Breezychow

                        It would be a prestigious gesture for someone to buy a king crab for his table, ESPECIALLY if it were known that everything but the legs would be discarded (though I'd expect any decent kitchen would at least keep the body for soup!). Lots of folks who patronize these places are likely to do that sort of thing.

                        1. re: Breezychow

                          Breezy: The bodies have meat--like all crabs--you just have to crack it out. And the bodies don't sell (or pack) as well as legs because we Americans are squeamish about the "butter".

                          For all that dislike long-frozen king crab legs, snows and Tanners tend to freeze, pack, ship better, and last longer, than kings. While I like both, if I have a choice, I'll take snows every time.

                          1. re: kaleokahu

                            No, I don't think it has anything whatsoever to do with "Americans being squeamish about the butter". How presumtious. Blue Claw Crabs are chock full of "butter" & you'd be hard put to find many "Americans" not diving into them with gusto. And yes, I do realize that the bodies of the spider crab genus do have some edible parts - but it's not economcally feasible to access.

                            The problem is that the whole crabs 1) don't ship well & are difficult to store live, 2) the bodies don't contain enough meat to make them economically feasible to sell, 3) the crab innards go bad VERY quickly, & thus aren't conducive to shipping.

                            1. re: Breezychow

                              Breezy: LOL. Sorry for being so "presumtious [sic]".

                              IMO Americans generally ARE squeamish about the butter, which is everything inside the body except the gills and meat--the entrails and feces, aka Devilmeat. Likewise Americans are generally squeamish about eating tripe and offal. No insult, but an accurate generalization.

                              And it IS "economcally [sic] feasible to access" the body meat, and process and ship it, once the animal is killed and cleaned. Crab bodies often are cleaned, rolled, and the meat extracted and sold to market, not trashed as "garbage" as you claimed in a prior post. See, http://www.crabbroker.com/alaska-king...

                          2. re: Breezychow

                            we actually have live king crab on the east coast in various chinatowns up and down the coast.

                          3. re: AdamD

                            Interesting! I didn't know you could get king crab live, period. I don't guess i'll ever see it here in Tucson, but I'm glad somebody's getting the really fresh stuff. I'm green with envy over that.

                      2. I know what you mean. I grew up wondering what the big deal was with king crab, since I'd only had it at buffets--where it was bland or overly salty. The first time I had fresh king crab--from the tank, at a Chinese seafood restaurant in Vancouver--it was a total revelation. Now, thankfully, it's not difficult anymore to find king crab at HK style seafood restaurants here in the Bay Area.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: PegS

                          King Crab season in Vancouver starts in late Feb and goes for about six weeks. The prices will dip to about $8 a lb (often below) due to competition between the hundred of Cantonese seafood restaurants here. Out of season, the prices can be north of $30/lb. Frozen just does not compare to live crabs for sure. If you are in Vancouver around that time of year, a King Crab feast is a "must."

                          What is the going rate for King Crab during the season in the Bay Area?

                          1. re: fmed

                            The one meal I have notes about was in 2006 at Best Panda in SF (at that time a good but very competitively priced HK seafood place), it was $18 a pound.

                        2. Here's a chowdown report for a live king crab dinner.

                          Wish I could find the old posting for one chowhound's first encounter with one at a Chinese restaurant in Vancouver. Iirc, it tapped him on the shoulder before being whisked off to the kitchen.

                          1. Oh, you had bad crab. It can be fabulous - certainly not stringy and watery. Even frozen, it can be excellent, prepared carefully. I've got a source for frozen from right off the boat. It's good stuff.

                            1. Ah King crab. One of the best foods in the entire universe period! If it was watery ii either wasn't handled properly or prepared properly. Incidentally, I just saw in the ad for my local Safeway that they are $9.99/ lb right now. I am soooo gonna get 2-3 pounds and gobble 'em up for the 4th!

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: LorenM

                                Even though Maine is my home state, I must agree. We bought king crab live in the Seoul fish market. You take it downstairs and they cook it for you. Can't get too much fresher or delicious.
                                ps Oakie, I wonder if you didn't have snow crab. I've had them a lot in Vegas and your description fits. A real snow job.

                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                  I guess someone who is not too familiar with Alaskan crab could get confused. From my observation a large snow could get as big as a small king but snow (opilio) have relatively smooth shells while king crab have large bumps and nodules on them with much thicker shells. The meat is slightly different also. I don't know but it is pretty obvious to me which is which.

                                  1. re: LorenM

                                    Not to mention that King's have 8 appendages opposed to the 10 that Snow Crabs have.