HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Blue crabs - male or female - do you prefer your crabs to have a Y chromosome?

I am a crab fanatic and living in Baltimore crabs are everywhere. My family usually buys male crabs so I have limited experience with females vs males but encountered a very heated debate at work today about personal preferences. Do you have one and why?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I fail to understand why one would care.

    4 Replies
    1. re: aynrandgirl

      I guess my colleagues should get a life.

      1. re: fldhkybnva

        We used to buy blue crabs by the bushel for like $30... Those were the days. We always got females... Why?

        The makes are definitely meatier and bigger. Also cost a lot more. The females however have the awesome eggs that we Asians tend to love. Nothing better than crab meat and roe dipped in a mix of black vinegar and ginger!

        1. re: FattyDumplin

          +1 on female crabs. Love the roe, almost more than the meat.

          1. re: emptybelly

            Illegal to keep egg bearing females in most states.

      1. I'm curious as to what differences you have encountered between the two. I would assume the males (jimmies) are larger? If so, then I would also assume they have more meat and therefore are easier to pick? I can't say that I've really noticed much of a difference myself.

        We have always thrown back females (sooks) with eggs attached...I think that is one reason to "prefer" the males.

        7 Replies
        1. re: carolinadawg

          Given my family's preferences, I've only had males so can't comment on any differences.

          1. re: carolinadawg

            We like the males better, for exactly what carolinadawg says - more meat and easier to pick. When I order a bushel, I always ask how the females are looking, and my fish guy will tell me whether they are a good size, or if I want to pay the extra for a bushel of males. The difference is usually about $30 ($110 I think for females, $140 for males last year)....

            1. re: jeanmarieok

              In Texas females with eggs are very illegal.

              1. re: James Cristinian

                The females with eggs are illegal in North Carolina also!

                1. re: Jeanne

                  I've caught many crabs in North Carolina over the years, and have read the fishing regs in the past, so you had me wondering... nowhere in the NCDMF recreational crab regulations does it mention that taking gravid crabs is prohibited. There is a regulation against taking larger females from September to April, but that is as close as it comes.

                  If I am missing something that says it is illegal, I will gladly stand corrected, and be better informed. And for those of you who mentioned such regulations in other states, I noticed while searching that you are correct, at least in FL, SC, TX. In Maryland at least, recreational harvest of females is prohibited, period

                  Having said that, I don't think that I have ever knowingly kept sooks with visible eggs. Perhaps in the 70's, when I was a teen on vacation and didn't know better. these days, they go right back into the water. But I have found internal roe in some females while eating fresh crabs, and perhaps that is what some here are referring to when they mention their taste for crab roe.

                  1. re: Cheez62

                    Yep, I just read some NCDMF regs, somewhat confusing, but saw nothing against crabs with eggs. Actually the crab part was pretty straightforward, but the commercial fishing was confusing, for instance do they allow commercial redfish and sea trout fishing, as the recreational limits are very restrictive?

            2. re: carolinadawg

              Down here in Florida you have to toss back the egg-bearing females. When I'm running my traps I typically keep the males, and toss back the females.

              As for size differences between the sexes, I've never noticed any appreciable differences.

            3. I grew up in Md... and picked my first crab at the age of five. Plain and simple.... Size and taste have never had ANYTHING to do with the great male/female crab debate. People (in general) don't like to "mess" with the eggs that accompany a female crab. That's why they females are always cheaper. Supply and demand.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Phoebe

                Not true. Male blue crabs grow bigger and therefore contain more meat. Thus they cost more. Females don't always have egg clusters attached and Maryland (and most other states) law prohibits keeping females with eggs.

                1. re: carolinadawg

                  Agree 100 %, the males get much larger, and that backfin on a big male full of meat is the ultimate. I obey the law and throw back females with eggs, anything else is poaching.

                  1. re: carolinadawg

                    Males crabs may grow bigger... But, at what stage in their size are they plucked from the waters to be eaten? How close to their potential size did they reach? I'm also speaking of generalizations from OVER 30 to 40 years ago. (I'm sure regulations were much different back then too!) People used to avoid female crabs because of the "extra" mess involved. Has always been the case.....

                    1. re: Phoebe

                      I'm not sure the weight range of adult male crabs, but my dozen of jumbo last week were each 8 oz.

                      1. re: Phoebe

                        Um, you said the size of the crab had nothing to do with the gender. Males get bigger, crabs are sorted by size, and the larger crabs (males) sell for more. That's why some people like them better. Nothing else is really pertinent, today or 30 years ago.

                        1. re: carolinadawg

                          Phoebe, I've been crabbing Texas waters over 40 years and I don't think regulations have changed at all. Females with eggs were illegal back then as they are now, that's why we threw them back. Size length hasn't changed, nor possession, all you can catch recreationally. Now about 30 years ago we were having a big day, but catching a lot of females with eggs, big brother and I tossed them back, but veterinarian friend kept everything, saying he would break out his vet badge and say it was an experiment, bottom line one 48 quart ice chest mostly males, another 48'er females with eggs.

                          1. re: carolinadawg

                            Where did I say the size of the crab has nothing to do with gender? I'm just simply stating from MY OWN personal experience, and the many years of living in MD, females were always thought of as inferior. (I never said whether this was a correct assumption or not.) Size or taste had NOTHING to do with this opinion. It was always the "extra" mess involved with females. This is some 25+ years I'm talking about. I never attended a crab feast where "mixed" bushels were served, or females alone.

                            The point I was trying to make about size was that you could have a pile of females, much larger than males, and the males would still have been preferred, over the females. (Taste was NOT the reason!) I was only speaking from my OWN personal experience.

                            1. re: Phoebe

                              You wrote: "size and taste have never had anything to do with the great male/female crab debate". My point is that that is not correct. Larger crabs are preferred, and the males get larger, thus a general preference for males exists.

                    2. I think my Korean parents would gasp in horror if I ever passed up a female crab for a male. I don't think any Asian would pass up that delicious orange roe! My mom loves marinating them raw in soy sauce and we eat the salty sweet flesh and roe mixed with hot white rice. Heaven!

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: hauckpdx

                        Does heaven include crabs? If you eat all the egg bearing females, there won't be any left...

                        1. re: carolinadawg

                          That's why they allow the harvest of SOME egg bearing females per season and not ALL. They can be safely harvested without killing off all crabs obviously. The ones sold in the seafood markets in Korea are part of the alloted quota, it's pretty highly regulated to maintain levels.

                          1. re: hauckpdx

                            Regulated by whom? The ones in Korea don't come from the Gulf or the Atlantic, and the quota for Texas and Florida is zero.

                            1. re: hauckpdx

                              Not sure who "they" are, but many (all?) states on the eastern seaboard prohibit the harvesting of egg bearing females.

                              1. re: carolinadawg

                                has that always been the case? i know growing up, we used to go to the italian market in philly (this is 20 - 25 years ago) and we'd buy the female bushels. we'd always buy them during hte mating season so the females would be chock full of the roe. it always seemed legit, but who knows...

                        2. Female.

                          That's just the way I roll.

                          1. Average male to female ratio at one fishmonger is 10 to 1.

                            I try to score the occasional female for the internal roe.

                            1. Now I'm curious - how did "she-crab soup" evolve, and what makes it special?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Veggo

                                Don't know if it;s right wrong or in between but at least it's a staring point...

                                "According the local legend, William Howard Taft (1857-1930), 27th president of the United States, was being "wined and dined" by Mayor R. Goodwyn Rhett (1862-1939), mayor of Charleston from 1903 to 1911 residence – the home of one of the original signers of the United States Constitution, John Rutledge. Rhett's most prominent guest was William Howard Taft, who visited Charleston in 1909 and again in 1910. Supposedly, the Rhetts' asked their butler to "dress up" the pale crab soup they usually served. The butler added orange-hued crab eggs to give color and improve the flavor, thus inventing the Charleston delicacy know as She Crab Soup."


                              2. Throw back the Sooks; keep the Jimmys; can you say "sustainable fishery"?

                                1. I live near Montreal which is a sorry location for a blue-crab lover.
                                  The only places that sell fresh (live) are markets in Chinatown and even then, its a rare occurrance. Toronto, which is 300 miles further from the sea, has more crabs than Montreal (much larger asian population me thinks), but I digress.

                                  I love the roe and thus prefer the females.
                                  I too have heard that it was illegal to harvest egg-bearing females. For the longest time, I could not figure out how the fisherman knew this. Also, if illegal, how come egg bearing females were so abundant (at home and wherever I ate crab - FLA, MD, LA, etc)?

                                  Some years ago, while crabbing in MD, I caught some females with an orange sac attached - then it dawned on me: internal vs external.
                                  I assume its illegal to harvest females with external egg sacs, but internal roe is OK.
                                  Besides, how would you know if the female has internal eggs? Or, do ALL females have these?

                                  Are my assumptions correct?

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: porker

                                    The only internal eggs in a female blue crab are unfertilized ones still in her ovaries, so no, there are no internal egg sacs like those seen on the outside. When are are released and fertilized they form into the external egg sacs. There is no internal fertilized egg sac.

                                    1. re: carolinadawg

                                      I don't want to nitpick, but I never said "internal egg sac", I referred to it as "internal roe". But this apparently confirms my assumptions.

                                      Not being a crab expert, I find it curious how some people say how they like the roe (maybe they wrongly use the term "egg") only to be "reminded" (or chided) that taking egg-bearing females is illegal.

                                      Is it legal to take females with no discernible external eggs? I can appreciate how this may not be the best sustainable practice, but I'm asking about the legality.
                                      I assume it is not illegal as all females I purchase/eat seem to have internal roe...

                                      1. re: porker

                                        If you look at my post and a couple others above, you'll see that the legality varies with the state. It seems that a number of states do not allow taking of females with visible eggs, and Maryland does not allow any taking of females, at least recreationally. Conversely, North Carolina appears to allow the taking of any female, eggs or not, with only a size restriction during certain months. Clear as mud, right?

                                        1. re: porker

                                          Non egg bearing females are generally legal to harvest, and egg bearing females are generally not legal to harvest. But, as Cheex62 points out, regulations vary from state to state, and often include sze restrictions, time restrictions, etc.

                                          I don't know what you mean by "internal roe". Blue crabs have no discernable internal roe.

                                          1. re: carolinadawg

                                            "Blue crabs have no discernable (sic) internal roe."
                                            Are you sure about this?
                                            I've been enjoying crab (and lobster and fish) roe all my life.
                                            This shows a jimmy crab (no internal roe) at the forefront with a female just behind having the clearly visible (to me) internal orange roe.
                                            If'n it ain't roe, please tell me what it is.

                                    2. In SC - purchasing crabs monthly since moving here last year. Male Crabs - $25.00/lb.
                                      Mixed - $17.00/lb
                                      When I buy the crabs for our monthly neighborhood party, I purchase Males.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: six dower

                                        You meant to write "crabmeat" right"? not live crabs?

                                          1. Crabbing is one of my favourite weekend holidays. Where I live, you can only take crabs in the months that include an R in the name. Outside of those months is breeding season.
                                            We have to carry a plastic scale measure and the crab is measured point to point across the back shell. There is a limit of 20 per person per day and heavy fines if you are caught with more.
                                            Now, please don't regard this as racist, but there are always a lot of Asians at the beach where we crab, and they will take anything anytime. No size or bag limits taken notice of, no concerns about females carrying eggs (also highly illegal to take).
                                            I'm wondering if this flagrant disregard of the rules is somehow connected to enjoying the culinary delights of the roe?

                                            1. Off topic a bit ..but my favorite all time Baltimore sign
                                              "Steamed Females $25 a dozen"