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Appeal of larger sized Maryland crab, considering cost?

caffeination Nov 21, 2012 07:16 AM

Can someone explain the appeal of ordering large or jumbo-sized Maryland crab in crabhouses? I understand that the crabmeat to work/effort ratio is much higher, but the price differential seems prohibitive to me, so I'm wondering if I'm not understanding some more nuanced aspects of the appeal.

I view eating Maryland crab as an activity that will be time-consuming and messy, but yield enjoyment of highly flavorful crabmeat. My favorite place to get crab is the Maine Ave Fish Market in DC, where a few months ago, I purchased 2 dozen of the smallest/cheapest crab for $25 (so $12.50/dozen). Recently, I took a visiting friend to eat crab at a Baltimore crabhouse where 1 dozen small crab cost $30, which was still pretty great for being able to sit near the waterfront & enjoy freshly steamed crab (so the price differential for restaurant vs. market setting was worth it to me). Even more recently, I took another friend to a different crabhouse (still a casual setting, brown paper on tables, etc) where a dozen mediums cost $59 and anything larger was even more expensive. Due to the price, we decided against steamed crab and order crabcakes etc instead. I get the sense that those price ranges for larger sizes are fairly standard for the area.

I've seen a number of posts / reviews where people have been fans of ordering jumbo-sized crab, so I'm guessing it's not an uncommon experience. Is crabmeat from a jumbo crab of better quality than that from a small crab?

Although I've never tried jumbo crab, I don't think that I would gain much more enjoyment from eating them vs. the smaller crab, at least not to point of spending $70-$80+ for a dozen.

Any thoughts?

  1. s
    Sal Gee Nov 26, 2012 10:19 AM

    It's a matter of cost -- not materials, but labor. Quality is the same. How hard do you want to work for the same amount of crabmeat? Is it worth a few extra bucks to save you and your dining partners the work? Maybe you enjoy the meticulous "pick" of the crab? Your call. Enjoy.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Sal Gee
      flavrmeistr Nov 27, 2012 08:43 AM

      I just want a nice, fat, healthy, well-fed crab. Small, medium or large. Makes no difference to me.

      1. re: flavrmeistr
        agarnett100 Nov 27, 2012 08:50 AM

        I don't mind the labor as long as I have beer with my crab I am in heaven

        1. re: agarnett100
          flavrmeistr Nov 27, 2012 01:15 PM


    2. porker Nov 22, 2012 04:54 PM

      Interesting responses.
      Me, I love everything about blue crab - the picking, the flavor, the eggs (female), the color (both live & cooked). Unfortunately, I live near Montreal where crab is scarce and usually small (Toronto, 600 miles more inland has more blue crab because of a larger asian population). So for me, size doesn't matter.
      Sure theres full & empty, but for argument's sake lets compare small full to jumbo full. To me, it doesn't matter, but if I'm on vacation, I'm going to splurge on the jumbos at least once. The rest of the time, I'll likely get mediums only 'cause its a splurge in itself compared to what I get at home.
      Perhaps my value set would be different if I lived in crab country...
      Off-topic, but I cringe when I hear people say things like "I only eat king crab - any other kind is too much work."

      To some, price is no object, and perhaps feel the most expensive is the best.
      Others may not like picking and feel only the jumbos are worth the work.
      I don't understand the comment about inferior meat...I don't think size is an indication of quality.

      2 Replies
      1. re: porker
        drewpbalzac Nov 22, 2012 05:10 PM

        $35 a dozen to $75+ a dozen?

        I would rather have two dozen of the mediums that one dozen large or jumbos.

        1. re: drewpbalzac
          porker Nov 22, 2012 05:30 PM

          I agree to a point:
          gas to Ocean City & back: ~$350
          7 days lodging ~$1200
          Ballpark spending money including meals ~$1400
          Approximate total $3000
          Difference of 1 meal jumbos over mediums $50 (<2%).

          Splurge once 'cause I don't have access to jumbos otherwise (I could (and do) have crab delivered, but its a bit of an event) choose mediums rest of time.

      2. d
        drewpbalzac Nov 22, 2012 03:12 PM

        The folks who are pointing out the the heavyness of the crab is most important are correct. The problem is that you don't know how heavy the crabs are going to be for sure until a dozen of the little critters are dropped off on the table.

        I prefer to opt for the mediums and not risk the frustration of spending a fortune on the big guys and finding that they haven filled out their shells yet.

        Folks who complain about picking the little guys must not be very effective pickers, with a crab knife I can power through the mediums jsut as easily as the jumbos.

        1. d
          dining with doc Nov 21, 2012 04:14 PM

          I can eat at least 12 small crab and maybe more. But I can only eat about 4 jumbo crabs so even though the price is more it kind of evens out and it is hard to beat a huge crab full of lucious back fin and lump crabmeat. And jck is correct that no matter how big they are they better be heavy. I always have said that it would make more sense to sell crabs by the pound rather than by size.

          1 Reply
          1. re: dining with doc
            Vidute Nov 21, 2012 06:04 PM

            I get my crabs from a little shack that winnows out the light crabs and sells them separately from the sized ones. So, if you're getting jumbos, you know they'll be full.

          2. j
            jck Nov 21, 2012 11:39 AM

            Pardon the pun but......size does not matter! The key for blue crabs is how full/heavy they are, not how big they are. Even the smallest legal crab is awesome when it is heavy. Sometimes when people order these mammouth crabs ....... they are beautiful specimens to look at, but when they are opened have little meat. Fall crabs are known to be heavier and the best crabs of the season, regardless of the size.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jck
              flavrmeistr Nov 22, 2012 10:53 AM

              Yup. It ain't the size. It's the weight.

            2. Dennis S Nov 21, 2012 09:50 AM

              There's also the male/female preference. While I used to be way into crab, my wife is not anymore (even though she's a MD native) and so I haven't had shelled crab in a few years.

              1. agarnett100 Nov 21, 2012 09:07 AM

                Its really personal preference - kinda of like the difference between a 16 oz Rib Eye and a 40oz Rib Eyes some ppl believe big is always better

                2 Replies
                1. re: agarnett100
                  curioussheridan Nov 21, 2012 09:43 AM

                  It's more like the difference between a 2 inch thick steak with its moist, juicy interior and a half inch thick steak of the same cut. the little ones are good for soup, but I don't think worth the trouble of picking for their inferior meat

                  1. re: curioussheridan
                    FrankJBN Nov 21, 2012 09:56 AM

                    I don't find the meat in small/meidum to be inferior to the meat of jumbo/colossals. What do you find inferior about it?.

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