Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >
Nov 21, 2012 07:16 AM

Appeal of larger sized Maryland crab, considering cost?

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. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. 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

      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

        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?.

    2. 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. 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.

        3 Replies
        1. re: jck

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

          1. re: flavrmeistr

            I have been crabbing for 57 years. Size means very little except in the fall when crabs are heavy. Between June and late August if you are buying crabs by the dozen you will notice if you weigh them when you get them home a dozen mediums will weigh between 4 1/2 to 5 lbs. Large will weigh 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 lbs. Don't get caught up in the size #1, Large, Xlarge, Jumbo, Colossal until the fall. Big crabs are not as full until the fall so you are paying big bucks for empty crabs. If the bottom is white "Withies" these are usually light they just shed. Dirty bottom crabs are the heavy ones.

            1. re: kannacker

              Yes. Fall crabs are where it's at, big or small. Thanks for posting.

        2. 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

            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. 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 Reply
            1. re: drewpbalzac

              Ask. We always ask which Crabs have been heavier lately. Most of the time the recommendation is a good one.
              As stated above Late in the Season the large Crabs are heavy and worth the extra Cash IMO.
              Also for Newbies to picking Crabs the Smalls are pretty frustrating and they end up wasting a lot.