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Sep 28, 2011 11:14 PM

Are King Crab Legs cooked fresh at Alaska restaurants?

They're only available frozen here in the east (at least when I've had them). The crab itself is pretty big, so it wouldn't be served whole like a lobster.

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  1. Thought there used to be a board for Alaska? Guess it got merged with Pacific NW, even though there is an entire country between us and an entirely different food scene. I lived in Anchorage for a few years and can't recall seeing fresh King Crab. Maybe in a port city but the darn critters are so big it would be really difficult to transport and keep them in a tank (like lobster), so they probably process them right away on the boats or as soon as they dock.

    In NW Washington we're mostly eating Dungeness crab. So sweet and delicious! People are catching 'em fresh and cooking 'em up. Or, you can buy them either fresh or cooked and cleaned. They are the BEST!

    15 Replies
    1. re: laurachow

      Although I live in Southern California, I am also curious about King Crab.
      Are they ALWAYS processed right on the boat, or do some lucky Alaskans actually catch them alive and cook them?

        1. re: porker

          Ha! Well, I don't remember that commercial airing here in Southern California -

          1. re: aurora50

            It aired plenty in the NE. The youtube version seems to be abridged, but watching it 24 years later, I realize the guy nonchalantly cracks open a leg barehanded. Me thinks he would be bleeding afterward.
            I remember for years buying Old Milwaukee for crab or lobster boils just because of that commerecial...

            Speaking of processing the crab, does anyone happen to know what is done with the non-leg portions of the crab? Garbage (hard to believe)? Animal feed? Processed Japanese kanimiso?

            1. re: porker

              A buddy of mine from CT managed a crabmeat cannery on Kodiak Island for years, and he indicated the inedible waste was hauled back to sea and dumped. He always brought home nice treats when the plant was shut down in the dead of winter and he had a couple months off. And no, they didn't tire of a diet of crab and salmon. He use to fish for salmon a walk away, not with a rod, but with a baseball bat.

              1. re: porker

                I actually started a thread a while ago about this very subject.
                The consensus seemed to be that what is left of the body portion goes into canned or frozen meat.

                1. re: aurora50

                  What about the tomally and the shell?

                  1. re: porker

                    Um - Don't know!
                    Anyone else out there know?
                    (They probably just get tossed back in the ocean.)

            2. re: porker

              Excellent video! I must have seen it back in the 80s (the "it doesn't get any better than this" beer commercial/s is/are very familiar). I guess they don't do much crab fishing in Milwaukee.

          2. re: laurachow

            Yeah they did something similar to our NY/CT board (split off areas right next door while keeping ones hundreds of miles away). The crabs in the Old Milwaukee commercial don't look that big, but I've heard they average 10 lbs while the lobsters I see in supermarket tanks weigh 1-4 lbs. I always considered king crab to be the northwest equivalent of lobster, but that seems to really be the dungeness, which averages 2-4 lbs.

            1. re: Big_Salad

              I dunno, you get a crab with a body about a foot wide and legs 4-5 feet across, seems plenty big to me. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night with that critter in your bed?!

              There was a crab restaurant in Montreal a few years ago. They did all-u-can eat dungeness, spider, and blue. The guy used to fly-in giant Australian crabs that ran 30lbs like this
              At about $1000 each, I never tried it (although it could feed a dozen to split the cost), but it was impressive. Not so much the bodies, but the claws were the size of footballs.
              I really miss that joint...

            2. re: laurachow

              Alaska used to fall in the 'elsewhere in america' board along with Idaho and Montana. But most posts on the board were for Hawaii.

              The archive is still here:
              Even at that time you were as likely to get an answer to an Alaska question on this PNW board. But splitting off Seattle and Portland has reduced traffic on this board to a trickle.

              Here's an Anchorage based seafood supplier
              "We Ship Live, Fresh and Frozen Alaska King Crab!"

              1. re: paulj

                It makes sense, Maine ships live lobster everywhere. You'd think more restaurants would order air shipments (not Red Lobster or Long John Silver's of course) at least as a special item.

                1. re: paulj

                  Another crab distributor, with an explanation of species and brief bit about processing:
                  Looks like they try to keep the crabs alive in hold of boats, and then process them as soon as the come ashore. Edible parts are immediately cooked and flash frozen. Keeping the crabs alive for the 600 mile journey to Anchorage is probably impractical (whether by sea or air). Live king crabs in Anchorage are probably one of the small species caught nearby, not the largest Bering Sea ones that are processed in Dutch Harbor.

                  1. re: paulj

                    They sound less durable in warmer climates than lobster, Alaska is colder than Maine/Nova Scotia after all.

              2. The original comment has been removed
                1. Video of red king crab being processed in Dutch Harbor (off loaded, broken into clusters, cooked, chilled and packaged), and shipped by air.

                  Crabbroker supplies fresh cooked crab legs. No mention of shipping whole live crabs. Fresh as opposed to frozen is highly seasonal (due to strict quotas in US waters).

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: paulj

                    paulj, I looked on their website, did a little poking around, and there is also a video of them processing whole crabs, but it looks like they kill them by "processing" them (looks like they're taking off their "aprons" and maybe, striking a certain point in the body with a knife)?
                    From there, the whole bodies are more or less cooked/treated like the leg clusters.

                    1. re: aurora50

                      I really enjoyed the vids.
                      Yeah, I was curious about the cooked-whole crabs, however they aren't "whole" as you point out. Seemed to me they washed out the internal organs with a pressure spray then went on to cook them.
                      "more or less cooked/treated like the leg clusters." - I thought the same thing. OK, getting that crab on the table would certainly be impressive, but food wise, seems not much more than 2 clusters. I bet the added weight of the carapace adds to the profit margin though.
                      I'm gonna look into having some of the fresh-cooked, non-frozen clusters shipped. Ifn it pans out, I'll let you guys know.
                      tnx paulj.

                  2. Here's someone that claims to ship cooked and chilled (but not frozen) king crab (for a few dates in mid November)


                    1. 'O'Mei', one of Toronto's best Cantonese Chinese restaurant has huge tanks full of 'live' Alaskan King crabs ( when in season ) and giant lobsters ( as big as >10 lbs ). They prepare them 3 or 4 ways. Steamed with minced garlic and scallions, fried with spicy peppered salt, wok stirred fry with house special Maggi style sauce and fried rice with tomalley.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Charles Yu

                        If you find the right place Chinatown can have excellent shellfish. I'm always hearing about Manhattan and Flushing where you choose your own fresh from the tank.