BLT sandwich with fried soft shell crab. Sandwich made with deep fried crab, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo, lemon and served on toast. Classic American restaurant or diner lunch favorite.

Your guide to local and imported crabs

Here’s your guide to local and imported crabs that are worth eating.

Coming soon: Soft-shell crab season

There is much to love about spring in the Lowcountry, and soft-shell crab season is one of them. Many local seafood restaurants offer the local delicacy at some point between March and June, whenever water temperatures are right. 

Soft-shell crab is a culinary term for crabs that have molted their old exoskeleton and are still soft. Soft-shells are removed from the water as soon as they molt to prevent any hardening of their shell. This means that almost the entire animal can be eaten, rather than having to shell the animal to reach the meat. They are typically deep fried, sautéed or grilled.

Soft-shell crabs come into season along the East Coast when the water temperature rises above 50 degrees. The farther down the coast you travel, the longer the season lasts. If you’re looking for the best local soft-shell crabs, keep an eye on the Facebook pages of your favorite local seafood restaurants and markets. 

Local crabs worth eating

Close -up of Pea crab on a mussel shell

Pea crab

Measuring about the size of a pea, these are the tick-like surprises you find crawling inside of fresh oysters. Many first-timers are weirded out by the sight of them, but as a local, you should be proud. In many coastal areas, finding a pea crab in an oyster is like finding a pearl. They’re common here, and eating them is said to bring good luck. No need to wash or cook them. Just eat them whole, straight from the oyster shell.

Blue Crab on White Background

Blue crab

Our most celebrated and recognizable crustation. They get their name from their blue front claws and are found in tidal lagoons, sounds and the ocean. They’re prized for their sweet, delicate flavor and tender meat. Females have red highlights on the tips of their pincers and a triangular apron. Males have T-shaped abdomens. They eat almost everything and are easy to catch, even with a piece of stinky chicken tied to a string.

Stone Crab on white background

Stone crab

These prized crabs can be found around local salt marshes and dock pilings. They are brownish red with gray spots and a tan underside and have large and unequally sized claws with black tips. Those claws are filled with light and succulent meat. Crabbers snap off a single claw and throw the rest of the crab back into the water so the missing claw can regenerate.

Imported crabs worth eating 

Dungeness crab on white background

Dungeness crab 

Found in the Pacific Ocean, this crab’s meat is dense and has a sweet, nutty flavor. Arguably the most delectable part of the dungeness crab is the claws.

King Crab on White Background

King crab

Found in the cold waters of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, this dense crab offers a sweet flavor. Virtually all king crab is pre-cooked and blast-frozen in the harbor. Steam it, grill it or even microwave it. The legs and claws are the most prized parts to eat.  

Brown crab on white background

Brown crab

Found in the North Sea, English Channel and Celtic Sea, this crab works best in soups and stews. About a third of these heavily armored critters is edible. 

Horsehair crab on white background

Horsehair crab

Found in the Northwest Pacific and the Western Bering Sea, this hairy crab is especially popular in Japanese cuisine, where it is steamed, boiled or stir-fried. 

Snow Crab on white background

Snow crab

Found in the North Pacific Ocean, this crab’s meat is sweet and delicate. Alaska recently canceled its snow crab season for the first time ever.

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