Crab cakes are one of my favorite foods. I love the delicate, crispy coating and the sweet tender crab meat. Add some spicy rémoulade and it’s definitely a win-win for me.
Crab cakes are surprisingly easy to make at home. You can make small cakes and serve them as appetizers (I promise you, they will be devoured!). Or you can make larger cakes and serve them as an entrée along with a salad. They’re also fun to eat on buns with a little tartar sauce if you want a change from your standard burger.
Crab cakes are made of crab (obviously) as well as other ingredients to bind and flavor them. Most recipes include mayonnaise, egg, onion, cayenne, mustard and breadcrumbs. The trick is to add the right amounts of these ingredients: too little and you’ve got bland crab cakes that fall apart; too much and you end up with a bready crab cake that no longer tastes of crab. Some people put vegetables like bell pepper and celery into crab cakes, but I think the veggies overpower the delicate flavor of the crab. The best crab cakes are mostly crab, with very little filler.
You can buy several types of crab meat and it ranges in price from relatively inexpensive to the boss is coming for dinner. The names of the categories vary by brand, but these are some of the more common terms you’re likely to encounter (thanks to the Phillips website for helping me sort this out):
Jumbo lump — This meat is taken from the large muscles connected to the crab’s swimming fins. The large lumps of crab meat are white and tender with a mild flavor. If you’re going to spend the money on jumbo lump crab, use it in a recipe where you’re going to leave the lumps intact. You could carefully sauté them with a bit of butter and garlic, for example, or showcase the meat in a lightly dressed crab salad.
Lump — Lump crab meat is a combination of smaller pieces of jumbo lump crab mixed with special crab meat. This is sometimes called backfin.
Special — Special crab meat consists of the smallest pieces of lump crab meat combined with finely shredded body meat.
Claw — This meat is taken from the swimming fins of the crab. It is light brown in color and has the strongest crab flavor. Claw meat is usually the least expensive variety and it’s great for things like hot crab dip.
Lump crab meat is probably ideal for making crab cakes. I used special, which is a little cheaper, and they turned out great.
The recipe I used has been my standby for about 20 years. It’s from an old version of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook and I discovered it way back when I was in high school. It’s a really standard recipe, with just enough binder to hold the crab cake together and just enough seasonings to enhance the crab flavor without overpowering its delicate sweetness.
Start with some beautiful crab meat.
Add the rest of the ingredients – egg, breadcrumbs, mayo, onion (I used yellow onion in place of scallions because that’s what I had on hand), parsley, mustard, thyme, Worcestershire, and celery salt.
Mix gently, trying not to break up the lumps of crab.
Shape the mixture into patties.
Coat with a mixture of breadcrumbs and cornmeal seasoned with salt and pepper.
Then pan fry about 3 minutes on each side until the crab cakes are a beautiful golden brown and are heated all the way through.
Crab cakes are great with a simple spritz of lemon or paired with any number of sauces from rémoulade to mustard to tartar, horseradish or lemon-dill.
Recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook
6 oz crabmeat
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup fine, dry breadcrumbs
1 scallion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp mayo
1 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
2 tsp fresh thyme
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ tsp celery salt
2 Tbsp cornmeal
2 Tbsp dry breadcrumbs
1. Combine egg, breadcrumbs, scallion, mayo, parsley, mustard, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and celery salt. Mix. Gently stir in crabmeat. (I added the ingredients to the crab meat and then combined everything, but the BH&G method would probably be gentler on the crab meat.)
2. Shape mixture into 4 ½-inch thick patties.
3. Combine cornmeal and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Coat patties in mixture.
4. Cook crab cakes in cooking oil, about 3 minutes per side.
Makes 4 crab cakes.