Crab Crunch Time…Is Now!!

marylandcrabIf you are a crab lover like me, it’s “Hammer Time!” Blue crabs are plentiful and always the tastiest catch. “Give us a shout, we’re never sold out” is the motto at Lowers Crab Shack and Fish Market in Essex, Maryland.

The owner, Jesse Lowers, steams fresh Chesapeake Bay crabs to order. Throw in a couple of ears of extra sweet, local corn on the cob, and you are on your way to a perfect crab feast. Lowers Crab Shack, a family owned business, sells crab mallets, table paper, Berger cookies, and Old Bay spice and other crab outfitter gear for a crab feast.

No matter how big or small, Lowers Crab Shack can help you host the perfect crab event. All crabs are not created equal. We have all been to a crab feast and have heard the same conversation. “These crabs are too small, big, spicy, hot, cold, male, female, local, seaside, bayside, light or heavy.” Size doesn’t always matter with crabs. The best eating crab to me is a crab that is heavy or full or meat. The best steamed crab starts out as a good crab that is fresh, healthy, and hard shelled.

Blue crabs need to shed or “sluff” their shell in order to grow larger. They tend to be full and fat just before they grow into a new shell. This usually happens during a full moon. The higher tides during a full moon means more hiding habitat when the crabs are soft and vulnerable to predators.

Once the shell hardens in a few days, the crab will begin to feed heavily. At this time, the crab is bigger but lighter until they fill up. Ocean crabs tend to harden faster since the salinity or saltiness of the water is higher. In the Chesapeake Bay estuaries, the salinity is lower so this process takes longer.

Crabs are graded and sold based upon weight and size. #1 crabs will tend to be the best quality and fetch the highest price. #2’s are a mixture of sizes and tend to be smaller. Female crabs are #3’s and preferred by many crab eaters. Most local picked crabmeat is actually from female crabs. Canned crabmeat tends to come from Asian and Pacific Ocean markets.

With crabs, you get what you pay for. Some folks prefer a lighter “dollar” crab because they are easier to pick. A full, heavy crab will be harder to pick since the meat is packed more tightly in the crab’s body. Heavier crabs also have more mustard and fat throughout the body. Don’t forget to eat the fat stored in the “points” of the shell. If you haven’t tried it, you are missing a tasty treat.

Dipping crabmeat and leg/claw chunks into melted butter is tasty but fattening. Exercise afterwards to burn some calories!

When planning a crab feast, calculate 6 crabs per person. It takes 10-15 minutes to leisurely and thoroughly pick a crab. If you have leftover crabs and claws, you can refrigerate them for later. I usually remove the shell, lungs, and innards while leaving the legs and claws attached. Eating cold crabs is great, but you can reheat them by steaming or putting them in the oven for about 4 minutes.

Summertime in the Chesapeake Bay means delicious steamed crabs, cold refreshments, friends, and family. For a taste of Bay Country’s best, and to get the tastiest catch, stop by Lowers Crab Shack.