Wednesday, 19 November 2008 | Tags: ,

You may have to work a bit to get at its delectable sweet taste, but crab can make for an enjoyable dining experience. With so many options when it comes to type and price, we get cracking with a closer look.

The Basics

  • For guaranteed freshness, buy live crab. Within the first 24 hours after it’s dead, the crab will begin to develop an ammonia smell, which is not very appealing.

  • Buy crab in season for the best price and freshest choice. Ask your local fishmonger when the crab in your area is in season.

  • To pick your live crab:

    • Choose the liveliest crab in the tank.

    • Press on the legs to make sure they’re firm.

    • Pick one that’s heavy for its size.

    • Smell it for freshness and sweetness.

  • There are many species of crab to choose from:

    • Dungeness are the most popular, especially in the Pacific region. They are known for their sweet-tasting meat. They are medium-sized with delicate pink flesh, with a high meat-to-shell ratio. Available whole (live, frozen or fresh-cooked) or as leg and body meat (fresh, frozen or canned.)

    • Snow crab are found in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and are often sold in leg portions, either single or in clusters, with some body meat.

    • King crab, typically more expensive, is caught mostly in the Gulf of Alaska. Its large legs are full of delicate, sweet white meat. Red King Crab is the most popular and sweetest, golden has less meat but is more affordable, and blue is also delicate and sweet, and has an extraordinarily large right claw.

    • Blue crab, common near the Atlantic Ocean, is smaller and has flaky white meat, not as sweet as other types.

    • Imitation crab is an economical option made from Alaskan Pollock, and works well as a substitute in recipes. On its own, it doesn’t come close to the real thing.

  • Avoid crabs with soft shells or that feel light weight. They have likely been harvested too early and their shells aren’t full of meat.

  • A live crab should have a purplish-brown shell. Cooked crabs have a bright red shell. Don’t be put off if the shell has a brownish or black patch. This is simply a sign of age, and doesn’t affect the taste of the sweet, fresh meat.

  • After you buy, a live crab should be kept in a cool, damp environment, and be cooked soon after it’s purchased, while still ‘alive’.

  • Don’t store crabs in fresh water. They need oxygenated salt water to survive.

Other Considerations

  • On the West Coast, only male crabs are harvested in order to preserve the females for breeding.


Along with a group of testers, wesat down to a feast of these three different varieties of crab:

  • Snow Crab: $7-$9 per lb
  • Dungeness Crab: $12–$20 per lb
  • King Crab: $15–$25 per lb

Our tests and results include:

Blind Taste Test

  • Most people found the snow crab too fishy tasting.

  • The king crab had a rich taste.

  • The Dungeness crab had an abundance of meat that was very flavourful, though it proved to be the most work to get the meat out.


Over 75% of our testers preferred the Dungeness crab, and though it required a little elbow grease, it was worth the challenge!

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