Know Your Fish: Dungeness Crab

Delicious-looking cluster of Dungeness crab claws
Photo by Rachael Martin

Culinary and Species Info

Know Your Fish: Dungeness Crab | Sitka Salmon Shares

Culinary Profile

Our beloved Dungeness crab arrives at your door fully cooked, needing only a gentle steam or a dip into boiling water to reheat. (Meat can become rubbery if cooked too long. 5 minutes is long enough if the crab is fully thawed.) Its meat has a sweet, delicate crab flavor, and a mild, briny aroma reminiscent of the Alaska waters it comes from.

Use a wooden mallet, a nut-cracker, the back of a knife blade, your forefingers and thumb, or a wooden spoon to crack the shells and remove the meat, which is easier to remove if slightly warm. The meat in the claws and legs tends to be firmer than the meat in the body. One cluster yields about ½ cup of tender crabmeat. Don’t forget to save the shells and make a stock that’s ideal as a base for future soups and stews.

Dungeness crab is excellent served after heating with aromatics (think lemon, thyme, and garlic) and a variety of dipping sauces. After the meat is removed, it can be used like lobster in roll-style crab sandwiches, classic bisques, or seafood stews. Wrap the crab, some rice, and your favorite vegetables in nori for wild Alaska sushi rolls.

Looking for ideas? Our Culinary Team is here to help:

Species Info

Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister) is a well-known crab species found up and down the coast of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. In Alaska, the commercial harvest is predominantly focused in Southeast Alaska and in the Gulf of Alaska close to Kodiak. Since Dungeness crabs make their home in relatively shallow waters close to the Alaska coast, fishermen can participate in harvesting Dungeness crab and still stay close to shore. Fishermen who also fish for other species can supplement their fishing income thanks to the timing of Dungeness crab harvest season.

Only male crabs over 6.5 inches “notch to notch” (side to side of their carapace, or back shell) can be harvested legally, and harvest is avoided when the crabs are most vulnerable — when they are molting (shedding their old shell to build a new one) or reproducing.

Don’t be alarmed by dark crab meat from the legs or claws. Sometimes crab reacts to the cooking process by producing a dark pigment, but the taste is unaffected and there is no health concern with eating this meat.

Fishing Methods

Dungeness crabs are harvested using circular, steel-framed pots covered with a wire mesh net covering the pot frame. The 60- to 80-pound pots have escape rings to prevent the catch of undersized crabs as well as non-targeted species. Even though fishing for wild species can be unpredictable and affected by many factors, fishermen usually catch around 5 to 10 crabs in each pot.

Learn about the fishermen-owners and trusted partners who catch our Dungeness Crab.
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