Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Grades Of Crabmeat
Colossal and jumbo lump are perceived as the "Rolls Royce’s" and "Bentleys" of crab meat, though they are the most commonly misused grades of crabmeat. While the lumps are large and the meat is white, colossal and jumbo lump are best used in upscale cocktail presentations or in sautés.
Colossal consists of the extra large lumps of unbroken meat, while jumbo lump consists of the two largest muscles from the swimming fins of the crab.
Many users have the impression that the flavor of colossal and jumbo lump is better than other grades of crab meat. This is not necessarily true. The size of the lump is the only thing that really distinguishes these grades from other white meat grades. If a chef breaks up the lumps for a recipe, he could easily use another grade of meat.
Backfin meat is ideal for upscale operations that feature crab dishes. Backfin is a blend of broken pieces of lump and special grade crab meat. It is perfect for crab cakes, sautés, crab toppings or cold salads. Backfin makes a beautiful presentation when stuffing fish, chicken, vegetables or seafood.
Special grade crab meat is often the most versatile grade for most recipes and quite profitable. It consists of the smaller flakes of white meat from the body of the crab—perfect for crab cakes, salads, quesadillas, wraps, stuffed mushroom caps and crab balls. It is individual pieces from the body cavities of the crab, but it carries the same bright white color and flavor as backfin and jumbo lump with an appropriate price tag for casual dining or quick service.
Claw meat is from the swimming fins of the crab. It is brown meat with a stronger flavor profile which makes claw meat ideal for dishes with heavy sauces or in dips and soups. It is also ideal for price sensitive menu items. Crab cakes can be made with claw meat. Try a Thai crabmeat salad, a crab fritter, or crab spring rolls.
Claw fingers are not a grade of crab meat. They are the pinchers or tips of the claws and they make unique hors d'oeuvres or garnishes. Wrap a claw finger with a crab stuffing mixture or serve them in a cocktail dish. They, too, are an inexpensive way to add crab meat to menus.
Crab meat is available fresh, frozen or pasteurized.
With pasteurization, fresh crabs are cooked and then allowed to cool. The meat is then hand-picked, graded and placed in cans, then hermetically sealed and pasteurized. Pasteurization destroys natural pathogenic microorganisms to extend shelf life without adding artificial preservatives. Once pasteurized, the product has a shelf life of 12 months in cans or refrigerated in plastic containers.