There are over 4,400 varieties of crabs, as mentioned in the accompanying article.
Check this handy reference chart for a visual and text description of the most
common edible types along with other crab terms
you may come across in your culinary endeavors.
Its latin name, Calinectes sapidus,
means "beautiful swimmer," and it is indeed a beautiful blue-green color.
The most prolific species on the East Coast of the US, this is the crab
which also gives us soft-shell
crabs. They range in size from 3-1/2 inches up to 5-1/2 inches or more on
the market. These crabs do turn the traditional reddish color when
Latin name Cancer
magister, this crab is found in coastal waters from Alaska, US to
Baja, Mexico. This large crab usually weighs in from 1-3/4 to 4 pounds,
and is brown to purple in color. It is named for the former small town of
on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state, US, which first began
commercially-harvesting the delicacy. Law requires the crab to be at least
6-1/4 inches long to be harvested, and only males can be taken. Prime
season is in the winter months. The pink flesh is succulent and
Latin name Limulus
polyphemus, this crab is named for its resemblance in shape to a
horseshoe. It is considered a living fossil, tracing its roots back some
500 million years. It is found along the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia
to the Yucatan and along Asian coasts from Japan and the Philippines to
India. And yes, they are indeed edible, although the ratio of meat to
shell is small.
Latin name Paralithodes camtschaticus,
this giant crab is also often called "Alaskan King crab," "Japanese crab,"
and "Russian crab" due to its size, which can reach up to 25 pounds and
measuring up to 10 feet. It may be large, but only about one-fourth is
edible, primarily the legs and claws. Only males are harvested. The
delicately-flavored meat is snowy white with a bright red outer edge.
These are Maine rock
or sand crabs which were pretty much a throwaway by-product of lobster
fishing before a brilliant marketing move changed their name to
"peekytoes" around 1997. They are classified as Cancer irroratus,
also known as bay crab and rock crab. You'll find full background
information on this interesting and popular crab here.
Latin name Cancer quanbumi, it
is found along the East coast of the US, living among rocks and in deep
water. Its spindly legs make it resemble a spider, and is also known as
"spider crab." "Snow crab," (Chionoecetes opilio) "tanner," and "queen
crab" are also known as spider crabs.
Latin name Menippe mercenaria, it is
also called "moro" or "morro" crab. It has large, very hard claws that are
prized for their meat. Most of the harvest comes from Florida, US, where
it is a prized delicacy harvested from October 15 to May 15. Only the
claws are eaten, so fishermen twist off one claw from crabs and toss them
back to grow a new one. Crabs will regenerate their claws within 18
months. They are left with one claw to defend themselves. The law requires
these claws to be boiled for 7 minutes and then either put on ice or
frozen. The freezing process seems to remove an unpleasant iodine taste
which is often noticed in the meat. To determine which claws have the most
meat, they are floated in a tank of water, with the less meaty claws
rising and being sold as "lights." To serve, the claws are cracked with a
mallet and served cold with dipping sauces. Minimum size for claws is
2-2.75 ounces. The meat has a firm texture and a sweet, succulent flavor.
Here's a glossary of other crab terms you should be aware of
when cooking crabs.
|Back fin or Backfin
|Meat from the breast of the blue crab.
|A female blue crab carrying eggs, also known as "bally" or
|A blue crab whose new shell has begun to harden too much, also known
as "buckram," "papershell," and "buckler."
|A blue crab in the process of shedding its shell, also known as
|A blue crab getting fat and ready to shed its shell.
|A packaged mixture of herbs and spices added to water in which crab is
cooked. The blend usually includes mustard seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves,
whole allspice, whole cloves, dried ginger pieces and red chiles.
|This is the white-yellow fat inside the back of the shell of a large
crab. It is considered a delicacy and is often added to dressings and
sauces served with crab.
|A mixture of crab, spices and binders flattened into patties and
fried, originating in Maryland.
|An American favorite, this is a mixture of crabmeat covered with a
white sauce, spooned into blue-crab shells, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese
and/or bread crumbs and baked until golden brown.
|Crab Louie or Louis
|A crabmeat salad made with hard-boiled eggs and lettuce topped with a
dressing, whose origin is credited to numerous sources.
|A male blue crab.
|Small pieces of light and dark meat from the body and claws of the
|Whole pieces of white meat from the body of the crab.
|A blue crab one to three days before it sheds its shell, particularly
prized by chefs.
|The eggs of the crab, a delicacy required in some soups.
|A female crab.
|A blue crab that has shed its shell, before it has grown a new shell.
The crab periodically sheds its shell to grow a larger one. Soft-shell
crabs are in their prime from April to September. They are normally cooked
whole and have no waste.
|A female blue crab carrying eggs. Also called "punk" and "sook."