Crabs, and Crab Cakes in the Mid-Atlantic

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Crab Cake made with Old Bay Crab Cake Classic
Every region of the country or world for that matter, has it’s foods and tastes that are unique to the area. New Orleans is known for Cajun foods, Philadelphia for pretzels and cheesesteak sandwiches. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, one of the regional specialties are Cheasapeake Bay blue crabs. The Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia region is dotted with crab houses. These are restaurants that serve a variety of local seafoods, but specialize on steamed blue crabs.

The blue crabs are steamed and seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning and salt sprinkled over the crabs. Lots and lots of Old Bay is used. Then they are served piping hot with corn on the cob, french fries or hush puppies. Some folks like to have a dish of melted butter, mayonnaise, or vinegar on hand to dip the crab meat in before eating. Eating crabs in shell is a messy, hours long event, usually served with ice cold draft beer. There’s usually lots of newspaper on the table to soak up the juices, and even more paper towels around to wipe ones hands.

The interesting thing about the the seasoned crabs is that seasoning doesn’t make it through the shell of the crab. Instead, the seasoning transfers to your hands while you are opening the crabs, and transfers to the meat as you pick the meat from the shell. You have to be careful as you open the crabs not to get cut on the shells, otherwise the seasoning will get into the cut and hurt like the dickens. Usually, one does get a few scrapes, and all in all it’s just part of the crab eating experience.

Maryland Crab Cakes
Some folks are more squeamish, or don’t like the messiness of eating steamed crabs in shell. For these folks, they like it when someone else has done all of the work for them and picked the meat. We’re not meaning here that a friend will pick the meat for you. Instead we’re talking about professional crab meat pickers that will pick the cooked crabs, which are then generally sold in 1 pount plastic tubs at different prices depending on where in the crab the meat came from. Lump back fin crab meat usually has the highest cost is the most prized meat. Claw meat usually has the lowest prices, with machine picked claw meat being the lowest quality and having the lowest prices.

So for those that like the social scene of the crab feast, like the taste of crabs, but don’t want to break the crabs apart and pick out the meat there is nothing like a well made Maryland Crab Cake. These are cakes of crab meat about 3 – 3 1/2 inches in diameter that are either broiled or fried in canola oil. Since blue crabs already have some fat in them, we recommend broiling them to reduce the fat in your diet. However the fried crab cakes are delicious and have a different texture.

The easiest, and guaranteed way to great crab cakes is to use Old Bay Crab Cake Classic mix. You simply measure the Crab Cake Classic seasoning mix, blend with real* mayonnaise, mix well, form into crab cakes, and cook. There many other ways to make crab cakes, including a few others that are listed on the Crab Cake Classic information page. The essential ingredients for a good Delmarva Crab Cake are:

  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • Egg
  • Bread crumbs
  • Milk and/or real mayonnaise
  • Worchestershire Sauce
  • and, of course, crab meat

The Old Bay Seasoning adds the essential Delmarva crab cake taste, while the other ingredients will be the binder that will hold the cakes together after cooking. You don’t want crab cakes with too much bread or bread crumbs. That is, you want a crab cake with just enough bread to bind the meat together and not a cake filled with bread — you want a crab cake. While you might be able to find some quality crab cakes in the frozen food section of your grocery store, the only real way to get a quality Maryland Crab Cake is to make it yourself.

We have a bunch of links to other Crab Cake Recipes.

*You have to use real mayonnaise with eggs in order for the crab cakes made with Old Bay Crab Cake Classic to bind together. The crab cakes will fall apart if you use eggless mayonnaise.

One comment

  1. J Skips Grill says:

    Thank you for this information! We have a food service cart in Richmonnd VA and would like to sell traditional Crab cakes made to order! I was unaware that the spice for boiled crabs did not make it through the shell but it makes perfect sense. I would also like to serve pre picked crab and would like to know if I can use the 1lb can crab and if so how do I get the same affect of the old bay salted shell? Thanks so much and hope to hear back.
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