The Louisiana Blue Crab are revered for their delicate sweet flavor and cooking versatility. The Blue Crab is found abundantly in the bayous, rivers and inlets of Louisiana and is one of the most popular of the more than 4,500 species of crabs found worldwide. Louisiana Crab has become a standard of fine dining.
Blue crabs are harvested in traps year round, for sales across the country, with peak harvest levels coming in the warm summer and fall months. Called “beautiful swimmer,” Callinectes spaidus, because of its back legs flattened into paddles and its handsome blue-green shell. Blue crabs are a traditional Cajun favorite, and have found a wide following nationwide.
Versatile and succulent, the hand-picked meat is adaptable to casseroles, au grautin toppings and as a complement to various finfish and shell fish dishes. It can be formed into balls and fried, added to traditional Cajun gumbos and etouffees and blended with a variety of seasonings for completely different taste combinations.
The meat of the blue crab is rich in nutrients and low in calories. Blue Crab meat has fewer calories than king crab and more iron than either snow crab or dungeness. An average 3.5 ounce portion of blue crab meat has one half the USDA daily allowance of protein, yet contains only 80 calories. Blue crabs remain live until the moment of cooking, so the product is processed fresh and retains its natural flavor.
Louisiana Blue Crab is available live at seafood markets, delis and grocery stores. Retailers also sell fresh-picked crabmeat. It’s simply boiled or steamed, unseasoned and ready-to-eat.
Traditionally there are four kinds of crabmeat: Lump, Special, Claw and Crab Fingers. Live, number-one crabs are male and measure 6.5 inches or larger.
Fresh-picked crabmeat is sold in one pound, tightly-sealed, containers. Check for proper labels: kind of meat (Lump, Special, Claw, Crab Fingers), Date Packaged, weight (16oz.) and country of origin. For the best taste and quality, always choose Louisiana products.
The soft-shell is the blue crab in its molted state. Soft-shell crabs are eaten shell and all. They are sometimes battered and deep-fried, grilled or sauteed. The molting process means an abundant supply of soft crabs from late spring to early fall, with May through September ranking as the most productive months.
- Eating crabs can be messy so prepare the eating area. Covering the surfaces with newspaper or craft paper will make clean up easier.
- Gather your tools. A claw cracker, crab mallet and a dull knife are all handy to have at the ready.
- Remove your crab's legs & claws using a twisting motion. The dull knife can come in handy here. If you see some meat attached to the legs or claws go ahead and EAT IT!
- Place the crab on it's back and slowly separate the body into 2 sections (top & bottom)
- Break bottom half into 2 halves. Use fingers (or knife) to remove all meat from chambers.
- Use claw cracker or mallet to open claws.
Fresh seafood should be well-iced at all times. Store it in the coldest part of your refrigerator and use a thermometer to keep your refrigerator set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Crabmeat can be frozen for up to two months with fair results. Using a thermometer, keep freezer below 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Prechill the crabmeat; package it in small, moisture proof, vapor proof containers; expel air before sealing containers. Spread out in the freezer for rapid freezing. Thaw in the refrigerator for a day.
The shelf life of fresh-picked cooked crabmeat is 10-12 days from the Date Packaged. Once at home, it’s best to use it in one or two days.
Crabmeat should be used in dishes that allow the delicate flavor to come through.
Lump (Jumbo Lump) - chunks of white body meat, the most prized and best used in showy, elegant dishes.
Special (All Lump) - the white flaked body meat best used in crab cakes, crab balls and similar recipes.
Claw - the meat is latte-colored and some say the most flavorful, nice for stuffed eggplants and stuffed crabs.
Crab Fingers (Cocktail Claws) - the pincers themselves, broken to expost the meat and served as appetizers.
Backfin - white body meat consisting of lump and flakes. Pieces are smaller than lump, but can be substituted for lump.
Pasteurized Canned Blue Crabmeat - sold in hermetically sealed cans with no preservatives or additives.
Available year round, the warmer months being more plentiful, the colder months being a little more scarce with March historically being the month crab is least available.