What To Look Out For When Buying The Best Canned Crab

Whether it's snow crab, blue crab, or the luxurious king crab, crab meat is a favorite among seafood lovers. Just pass the butter and lemon, or shred some for a cheesy crab dip. But crab meat can also be expensive and harder to come by if you don't live in a coastal town. Fortunately, many grocery stores sell canned crab meat, and no, we're not talking about imitation crab meat, which isn't actually crab at all. Canned crab is harvested from real crabs, and if you're shopping, here's what to look for. 

There are a couple of things you should consider when buying crab meat. For one, you will want to check the ingredients list for additives. While additives aren't necessarily bad, those like sodium tripolyphosphate can affect the overall quality of your seafood products. You should buy canned crab meat that's been sourced sustainably. Sustainability is important to the future health of the world's oceans and helps to prevent overfishing, which can lead to population declines. According to Seafood Watch, consumers should avoid buying canned crab meat from Indonesia, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines due to sustainability concerns. Instead, buy crab meat from Mexico, Sri Lanka, or Australia and look for cans from companies committed to a sustainably sourced product.

Finally, consider the grade of the meat based on what part of the crab it's sourced from. Crab meat is classified by desirability starting with lump meat, then backfin meat, special meat, and claw meat being the lowest quality. 

Consider the quality of the meat

Lump meat is the most expensive crab meat, classified as either colossal or jumbo based on the crab's size. Canned lump meat can sell for upwards of $80. The meat comes from the muscles of a crab, making it more of a delicacy since crabs have so few. As far as taste goes, lump meat is more tender and delicate than other varieties. Less expensive lump meat is typically shredded down and combined with meat from the body. This combination is called backfin meat and sells around the $30 range. It's not as delicate as lump meat but has a good texture. Special meat comes from the crab's body cavity. This variety isn't typically the star of the show and works best in soups or dips. Finally, you have crab claw meat, which packs the most seafood flavor but is generally of a lesser quality.

So, you may wonder what are some of the best crab meat brands you can buy. You can't go wrong with a brand like Handy, which lists its various crab meat grades and ratios in each can; that transparency is key. Likewise, you can also consider North Coast Seafoods Culinary Reserve. While located in Indonesia, the company sources its crab ethically and has six categories of crab meat, all low in sodium. Phillips, meanwhile, handles its crabs by hand and meticulously checks the meat at every stage of its journey from catch to can.

How to use canned crab

Unlike fresh crab, canned crab isn't typically eaten by itself, so you may want to shelve that butter and lemon. Instead, many use canned crab as an ingredient in recipes such as crab cakes, crab dip, and even pasta dishes or soups. Whether you're making a hot crab dip or a chilled crab dip, substituting canned crab for fresh crab will save you money and is also more convenient. You won't have to visit a fish market and worry about shelling the crab. Instead, all you have to do is pop the top of the can and it's ready to use. Fresh crab meat requires you to cook it, and it also only lasts a few days in the fridge. Canned crab is already cooked and, when stored correctly, canned crab is good for as long as 18 months, but should be consumed within a couple of days of opening.

To make crab dip, all you'll need is your canned crab, mayonnaise, cream cheese, and your choice of sauces like Worcestershire sauce for flavoring. Canned crab can also be used to make impressive crab cakes as well. For the dish, you would combine canned crab with other traditional elements like mayonnaise, eggs, crushed crackers, and onions. Crab cakes are shaped into patties and fried on the stovetop. You can even substitute canned crab for fresh crab in a linguine or pasta. Your dinner guests won't notice the difference.