Monday, May 7, 2007
In California, the most abundant crab is the Dungeness crab, Cancer magister. South of Monterey Bay, the Dungeness crab decreases rapidly in abundance
Distinguishing Characters: White-tipped pincers on the claws (chelipeds). The top edges of the claws and upper pincers are prominently sawtoothed, there being more than a dozen teeth along each edge. The last three joints of the last pair of walking legs (in particular) have a comb-like fringe of hair on the lower edge, and the joint previous to these has hair on both top and bottom edges, but with a much greater amount on the top edge (see Figure 1) . In both male and female, the tip of the last segment of the tail flap is rounded (see photographs) as compared to the pointed last segment of the male and female of all the other crabs herein described (for examples of this pointedness, see Figures 2A and 2B).
Color: Light reddish brown on the back, with a purplish wash anteriorly in some specimens. The characteristic pattern of lighter streaks and spots on the back is shown in the photograph (Figure 1) . Underside whitish to light orange, the inner and upper sides of the anterior legs with crimson or purple.
Size: Attains a width of 9 inches across the back. One of the largest edible crabs along the Pacific Coast of America.
Distribution: Unalaska, Alaska, to Magdalena Bay, Baja California, but seldom seen south of Santa Barbara.
Dungeness crabs can typically be purchased either live or pre-cooked. Larger crabs are valued for the higher meat to shell ratio. Live crabs are cooked simply by steaming for 15–18 min, or boiling for approximately 10 min in water. Beer, crab boil spices, or other flavorings can also be added to the water if desired
Dungeness crab ready to eat at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco
Like all crabs, the Dungeness crab is high in protein and minerals and low in fat. About one quarter of this crab's weight is meat, making it one of the meatiest crabs available. Most of the meat is in the eight legs and two claws, although the body contains plenty as well.
The flesh has a delicate flavor and is considered sweeter than other crabs.
The two most useful tools for removing crab meat from the shell are a nutcracker and a shrimp fork. Sometimes, a cleaver, mallet or small hammer are used for cracking. Melted butter with garlic is frequently used as a dipping sauce.