Culinary and Species Info
Bairdi crab has a sweet pronounced crab flavor with a mild saline aroma reminiscent of the Alaska waters where they come from. The meat from the legs and claws is slightly fibrous yet tender and easy to remove with just your hands or with the help of scissors or a snap of their shells. The shell colors vary between bright red and pale pink, but the meat inside is all of the same quality.
Bairdi crab arrives at your door fully cooked and only needs a gentle steam or quick boil before serving and eating with dipping sauces and side dishes. Alternatively, the crab legs can be stir fried with aromatics, as in Chinese cuisine or split and grilled with butter directly on the meat. Use bairdi in sushi rolls or in lobster roll-style crab sandwiches.
The meat can become rubbery if cooked too long — 5 minutes is long enough if the crab is fully thawed. Save the shells and simmer them with aromatics to create a rich shellfish stock for future use. New to working with bairdi? In this video Sitka Salmon Shares Culinary Director Grace Parisi shows you how to break down this crab into manageable pieces.
Bairdi crab, also known on the market as snow crab or Tanner crab, is a prized crab harvested during Alaska’s cold winter months. Chionoecetes bairdi, the scientific name, means snow (‘chio’) inhabitant (‘iokete’), a reference to the winter harvest season and an explanation for its more common market name, snow crab.
Alaska carefully manages the populations of bairdi by limiting the harvest to the “three S’s” — size, sex, and season. Only male crabs with a carapace (back shell) or “notch-to-notch” length that is dependent on population-specific life history traits are legal to catch, and harvest is only permitted outside of the crab’s reproductive season.
Fishermen fish for bairdi with conical pots or metal traps on a muddy or sandy ocean floor habitat often baited with a previous harvest’s frozen fish, squid, or herring. After the pots soak for a day or two, the gear is hauled up to the boat where live crabs are sorted and stored in a saltwater tank on board the vessel. Back on land, they are processed, cooked, and frozen in brine.
Sometimes the crab meat reacts to the cooking process by producing a dark pigment. There is no health concern related to eating this meat.