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When trying any new food, whether it be meat, vegetables, or even a new sauce, it can be quite easy to second guess trying it as you have no idea what to expect. Perhaps you are visiting a nice restaurant that is famed for its crab, but you want to double-check that it will suit your palette, thankfully you have arrived at the right article, as today we are going to be answering your question of “what does crab meat taste like?”
Table of Contents
What is crab?
This may seem like an obvious thing to answer, but for you to understand the flavor more, it is necessary. Crabmeat is white meat found within crabs which are shellfish, so you can expect it to be similar to other seafood. There are many types of crab as they are a diverse species. More specifically, crabs are cold-water crustaceans that can be found in both salt and fresh water. Humans have been eating crabs for centuries, although not to the extend crab is consumed nowadays as they have become more and more popular over the years.
Crab is harvested from either the whole crab or by having claws and legs removed and having the meat harvested. Crab is typically sold like livestock and then cooked alive, similar to lobster however it is also common for the crab to be sold either frozen or canned similar to tuna and salmon. Similar to other fish and seafood, crabmeat is insanely high in protein while also being low in fat which makes it ideal for diets that call for this, or if you are looking for something to introduce to your diet when working out and wanting an increase in protein.
How does crab meat taste?
The answer to this is mostly dependent on what type of crab you are cooking and eating, as all the varieties have varying flavors. Crabmeat is known to have a soft and delicate taste yet also sweet and salty. The sweetness found in the crabmeat flavor is more of an aftertaste and is very subtle whereas the saltiness is quite bold, which makes crab pair amazingly with lemon juice or similarly acidic and bitter flavors.
Crab is commonly referred to as having a fishy taste, but it is not an overpowering one. It is delicate and works in tandem with whatever other flavors you may introduce to it. It does not overwhelm all other flavors similar to how some fishy food might. Crab is also commonly compared to other seafood such as prawns, shrimp, and tuna. While they may all share the same sort of flavor profile, crab tastes very different to all of them. It has a sweet yet subtle deep flavor and is very similar to if lobster meat had a slightly sweet taste.
If a crab is not prepared properly or has been left too long it can easily become spoiled. Crab is notorious for being easy to spoil as it must remain refrigerated and fresh before consumption. The smell of gone-off crab is pungent enough for you to tell, however, the flavor will also significantly change for the worse. It will taste terrible and extremely fishy, in a bad way. The flavor of gone-off crab is similar to that of ammonia. This is less of a risk for canned crab, frozen crab, or imitation crab, but is quite a high risk for fresh crab you may buy from a fishmonger.
As mentioned, there are many different types of crab that all have varying tastes and flavor profiles. The main varieties of crab are:
- King crab
- Ocean crab
- Dungeness crab
- Snow crab
- Stone crab
- Coconut crab
What does crab pair well with?
One of the best ways to eat crab is with a dish that complements its flavor profile well. You can simply cook crab and eat it without any additives but that would not show you the full potential of how crab can taste. Obviously,
some foods taste perfect on their own, but if there is a way to elevate any item of food to a higher standard, then it is always best to do so. The flavor profile, as mentioned, is mostly salty with a sweet aftertaste. This is known to pair well with acidity and bitterness, as they balance each other out. A simple dish of crab, with some vegetables in a salad would work great if there was some lemon juice poured on the crab.
As crab is quite a light meal, it can be easily overshadowed if not treated carefully. Because of this, it is best to choose a side that either compliments or enhances the flavor. Roasted or steamed vegetables work well as they taste nice, can be flavored to enhance the crab, and also make the meal healthier and more nutritionally balanced.
Asparagus, carrots, and Brussel sprouts are known to pair well with crab as they complement certain aspects of the flavor profile. Such as the nutty and earthy undertones of the Brussel sprouts working well with the smooth sweetness of the crab.
On the other hand, if you don’t want to pair the crab with something subtle, there are some tasty options that enhance the crabmeat flavor while also adding a whole new flavor to the dish. The best flavor for this would be spice. Adding a spicy sauce, or serving the crab on spicy noodles is sure to elevate the flavor by miles. A personal favorite of mine is crab linguine with a creamy sauce with chopped spicy peppers to garnish.
When eating specialized crabs such as king crab meat or fresh crabmeat, it is best to let the flavors flourish and speak for themselves. If you are eating canned crab meat then the flavor will still be nice, but canned meat is cheaper than fresh crab so it is okay if you experiment and try it in other dishes.
However, if you are eating fresh crab and are wanting to add some flare to your dish, cutting off the crab legs and using them as a garnish on the plate can be a real game-changer while you use the meat from the body.
What alcohol does crab pair with?
Crab is by no means an incredibly expensive dish, but it is quite common for high-end restaurants to have crab dishes. With this in mind, when visiting a fancy restaurant it is custom to have an alcoholic drink with your meal if you drink alcohol of course. The common example for this would be steak and whiskey being a common pairing in high-end establishments. So what alcohol pairs with crab?
For your standard fresh crab meat taste, nothing pairs better than a glass of white rum. This can be served in a cocktail, with a mixer, or served straight on the rocks. It makes sense that a pirate’s favorite drink would pair well with crab but there is also food science behind it. Rum can be quite sweet, especially white rum. Which helps enhance your crabs sweet flavor as they go together so well.
Another pairing would be a nice and classic Chablis wine or a white burgundy. They are a bit more bitter than the rum, and they play off of the crab’s salty flavor by balancing it out. This is mostly for if you are having a crab dish that has fresh served crab. A dish that uses crab in linguine, however, would pair incredibly well with a Sauvignon Blanc as it will add notes of a citrus flavor that work incredibly well with the dish, and it will work even better if the dish is spicy.
How is crab prepared?
Raw crabs are the starting product. And by this, I mean fresh, living crabs that have been caught. After they have been caught there are quite a few options as to what is done with them. They can either be sent away, harvested and canned ready to be sold at supermarkets.
Another option is that they are sent to fishmongers and then killed and prepared to be sold by any means the fishmonger chooses. Finally, they can also be sold to restaurants that specialize in fish. These are the sort of restaurants that have a tank filled with living shellfish which will be chosen by you and then freshly killed right before consumption so that you have the freshest seafood available.
This method may seem unusual and has been frowned upon by people who practice veganism, but having a crab die on the day of consumption ensures that the consumer is given the freshest food possible, which is worth the price alone for anyone who enjoys crab. The same thing is done for killing lobsters at high-end restaurants. Lobster meat is quite similar to crab meat so it can also be prepared the same way. Although, lobster is more expensive than crab so it is less likely to be found in a can on a supermarket shelf.
Some companies may buy fresh crab meat and turn it into goods such as crab cakes which have the delicious crab taste mixed in with other additives such as potato and herbs. Crab cakes are insanely popular as they can be frozen and kept for ages and then heated up and eaten. It is also possible to find imitation crab meat crab cakes that have a very similar flavor but are actually vegan friendly.
To summarize, crab meat can taste different depending on how it is served, how fresh it is, and what variety of crab it is. But it is more often than not going to have a salty taste with a sweet aftertaste. Crabmeat does not taste the same as lobster or other shellfish and has quite a nice and unique flavor.
Does crab have a fishy taste?
Crabmeat does have somewhat of a fishy taste, but that is only because it is primarily a salty flavor. Once the salt is looked past, crab tastes so a lot different compared to other fish or shellfish.