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What Are the Different Types of Crab Legs?

Types of crab legs

Are you planning an event or you're craving crab legs for your next family dinner? You're not alone–humans have been enjoying them since prehistoric times.

One of the best parts about a meal of crab legs is that once cooked, they're delicious with just a dab of butter. However, with over 4500 species of crab in the world today, you may find that some are tastier than others. They differ in size, taste, texture, and habitat.

Read on to learn about some of the main types of crab legs that you can enjoy today! 

King Crabs

It's important to keep in mind there are three different king crab species caught commonly in Alaska, with the red being the most popular due to its meat:  

  • Red king crab
  • Blue king crab
  • Golden king crab

The name "king" crab makes these, as based on the size they're truly the king of all crabs. They can weigh six to eight pounds while some can weigh up to 20 pounds. They also have a leg span of nearly five feet and bodies that are 11 inches wide.

These massive crabs come with a massive amount of meat, making king crab legs the most expensive of them all. This is also because the meat has a mild and sweet flavor. Serving them with garlic sauce or butter can help bring out the natural flavors to a whole new level. 

Snow Crabs

Snow crabs are also known as the Alaskan snow crab or the rock crab. The name comes from where they're most commonly found on the west coast of Alaska. They can also be found from Greenland to Newfoundland.

These are some of the most common crustaceans found in the United States, with 27.2 million pounds harvested in 2019. Since males can be double the size of females, they're the ones that typically land on your plate. 

If you want to try these crabs soon, their season begins when the ice begins to break in April and ends in November. 

Dungeness 

This crab can grow over 12 inches across, making it one of the largest crabs available with a high meat-to-shell ratio. With a name based on a small fishing village in Washington, this crab is found on the West coast of the United States as well as Canada.

It has sweet, delicate meat that makes it more of a delicacy. If you want to enjoy this crab soon, its peak season starts in November and ends in June. 

Blue Crabs

Also known as the Chesapeake blue crap or the Atlantic blue crab, these crabs have distinctive blue claws that make them easily recognizable. Although they're commonly found throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, they can also be found as far south as Uruguay. 

Growing up to 10 inches, these crabs are far smaller than others, which can make them harder to eat. However, their distinctive flavor and delicate, flaky meat can make the struggle worth it. A little lemon and butter compliments the saltiness of the meat. 

Soft-Shell Crabs

When it comes to different types of crabs, you may have heard the term "soft-shell crab" before. However, they're no different than blue crabs.

The reason for the different names is that soft-shell crabs are blue crabs right after they've molted. This means that while their old shells are shed and gone, their new shells are still developing. 

Because they don't have a hardened shell, this enables you to cook and enjoy the entire crab. They're often battered and fried

Their harvest season begins in May and ends in September. 

Japanese Spider Crab

Spider crabs are easy to recognize–they have long legs reminiscent of spiders. They're also known as some of the largest crabs on the planet and can even live up to 100 years.

Although this crab is known for its deliciously sweet meet, they're also notoriously hard to cook because of their long legs. Chefs first need to steam it and soften it up before trying to break their legs apart.

Along with the difficulty with cooking, this crab is also forbidden to catch during their spring mating season because the species is suffering a population decline. This means that if you do find them for sale at a restaurant, you'll be paying hundreds of dollars.  

Horsehair Crab

These small crabs are covered in hair, giving them their name. Found commonly in Hokkaido, Japan, you won't normally find this crab served in North American restaurants. Instead, the people of Japan often use this crab in miso for more flavor.

It can also be eaten by boiling and eating the meat itself, but it can be harder to eat because they're often smaller than snow crabs and red king crabs. However, the dense, sweet flavor makes it worth it for crab lovers. 

Enjoying Different Types of Crab Legs 

When it comes to the types of crabs to eat, you have a variety of choices in North America. If you want to do less work and want to enjoy a whole crab, try soft-shell crab for all the delicious flavors of crab with less work.

On the other hand, Dungeness crab will give you the most quintessential crab-eating experience where some work gives you lots of payoffs. King crab also gives you a ton of crab meat with a more mild and sweet flavor, but if you're ready to stuff yourself, this can be your best option. 

Regardless of the types of crab legs, crab meat is often best paired with melted butter or garlic sauce in order to bring the salty, sweet flavors to life. 

Ready to enjoy fresh seafood at your doorstep? From lobster roll kits to fresh scallops, we have you covered. Take a look at our options today! 

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