Red King Crab

Paralithodes camtschaticus

Market Name(s): King crab, Red King Crab, Alaska King Crab

Primary Source(s): Japan, Russia, United States

The largest of the commercially harvested crabs, king crabs are characterized by spiny shells and long, spidery legs. Most crabs have 10 appendages, but king crabs have six walking legs, one large “killer” claw and one small “feeder” claw. The best meat is the merus, which comes from the upper section of the walking leg. It is marketed as “fancy.” The crabs grow to 6 feet, from leg tip to leg tip, and from 4 to 10 pounds. Shell color varies according to harvest location. While red is the most common of the king crab species, there are also blue (P. platypus) and brown, or golden (Lithodes aequspina), king crabs. Red is most marketable, primarily because of size, followed by blue and then brown. Kings are found in shallow waters (60 to 100 fathoms) off the shores of Southeast Alaska and in the Bering Sea on flat, plain-like stretches of sea floor. King crabs often march in herds across vast expanses of these plains. They are caught in large, wire-mesh traps that measure 7 x 7 x 10 feet

Red king crab caught in Alaska and Norway's Barents Sea with pots is a "Best Choice." In Alaska, the population is healthy, bycatch and habitat impacts are minimal and management is highly effective. In Norway, effective management practices prevent this invasive species from growing and spreading.

Under the U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program, companies must track their red king crab imports from the point of harvest to when they enter the U.S. This program aims to stop illegally caught or counterfeit seafood from entering the American market.

King crab is sweet, moist and rich. It’s a bit firmer and coarser than Dungeness crab meat. The king’s body meat is slightly flakier than the leg meat. The spiky shell of the cooked crab leg is a bright red. The meat is snow white with a scarlet membrane.Almost all king crab sold in the U.S. market has been cooked and brine frozen. However, if processed correctly, the meat should not taste salty. Flavor is best just after thawing.

King crab meat, chunked, flaked or shredded, can be served hot or cold. For hot menu items, gentle heating is all that’s required. Add to soups and stews during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Legs are often served in the shell with drawn butter. To steam, throw legs in a covered pot with an inch or so of water, bring to a boil and steam just until heated through, about 5 minutes.