What is lump crab? A Guide to Choosing Crab Meat

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What is lump crab? A Guide to Choosing Crab Meat

Are you a seafood lover? If so, you’ve likely come across the term “lump crab” when browsing a menu or shopping for crab meat. But what exactly is lump crab, and how does it differ from other grades of crab meat? In this blog post, we will explore the world of lump crab, its characteristics, and why it is considered the most sought-after grade of crab meat. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned crab connoisseur, this guide will help you make informed decisions when choosing crab meat for your next seafood feast. So let’s dive in and unravel the mysteries of lump crab!

What is lump crab, and why is it popular?

Lump crab meat is a type of crab meat that comes from the body of the crab. It consists of smaller chunks of crab that are still sturdy and can be easily mixed with a fork. Unlike jumbo lump crab meat, which comes from the two large muscles connected to the crab’s swimming fins, lump crab meat is made up of slightly smaller white pieces. 

What is lump crab

Lump crab meat is known for its versatility and is often used in a variety of dishes, such as pasta dishes, crab pies, and crab dips. It has a medium flavor and a fine texture, making it ideal for crab cakes. The slightly different taste of the meat from different areas of the crab’s body adds depth to the flavor profile.

Lump crab meat is a popular choice among seafood lovers due to its delicious taste and versatility in various recipes. Its smaller chunks make it easier to incorporate into dishes while maintaining the crab’s texture and flavor. Whether it’s used as a topping for salads, mixed into pasta, or made into crab cakes, lump crab meat adds a delightful seafood element to any dish.

The different grades of crab meat and their characteristics:

Crab meat is a delicacy that comes in various grades, each with its own unique characteristics and uses. Whether you’re a seafood lover or a professional chef, understanding the different grades of crab meat can help you choose the right one for your recipes. Here are the main grades of crab meat and what makes them special:

Jumbo Lump:

  • Consisting of the two large muscles connected to the swimming fins of the crab.
  • Prized for its impressive size, bright white color, and exquisite taste.
  • Best used in dishes where the size of the lumps can really shine.
  • Perfect for stuffing fish, chicken, vegetables, or seafood.
  • Ideal for impressive presentations and showcasing the crab meat’s quality.


  • A blend of broken pieces of jumbo lump and special-grade crab meat.
  • Perfect for use in crab cakes, dips, salads, and casseroles.
  • Makes a beautiful presentation when stuffing fish, chicken, vegetables, or seafood.
  • Often considered the most versatile grade for a wide range of recipes.


  • Consists of the smaller pieces of white meat from the body of the crab.
  • Perfect for crab cakes, salads, quesadillas, wraps, soups, and crab balls.
  • Versatile and suitable for various recipes, offering a delicate flavor.


  • Picked from the swimming fins of the crab, claw meat is brown meat with a stronger flavor profile.
  • Ideal for dishes with heavy sauces, dips, and soups.
  • The flavor of the crab still comes through, even when paired with bold ingredients.
  • Claw Fingers, which consist of brown meat from the first section of the crab claw with part of the shell removed, are great for heavy sauces or dips.

Additional Crab Meat Grades (Foodservice):

  • Colossal Lump: Similar to jumbo lump, prized for its impressive size, bright white color, and exquisite taste.
  • Culinary Crab: An innovative crab meat product made from wild-caught crab meat shaped into jumbo lumps with no artificial binders.
  • Super Lump: Made of broken pieces of jumbo lump with larger flakes of white body meat, perfect for use in various recipes.

Knowing the different grades of crab meat allows you to choose the right type of crab meat for your recipes. If you’re looking for large, impressive lumps of crab meat, go for a jumbo lump or colossal lump. If you prefer a more versatile option for a variety of dishes, lump or special-grade crab meat is ideal. And if you want a stronger flavor profile, claw meat is the way to go.

Next time you’re cooking with crab meat, consider the grade and choose accordingly to enhance the flavors and presentation of your dishes. Enjoy the exquisite taste of Maryland crabs with the perfect grade of crab meat!

How to choose the right grade of crab meat for your recipe?

Crab meat is a versatile ingredient that can elevate any seafood dish. However, choosing the right grade of crab meat can make a big difference in the taste and texture of your recipe. Here is a helpful guide to help you select the best grade of crab meat for your cooking needs.

Understand the Different Grades

Crab meat is typically divided into five different grades, each varying in quality and price. These grades are:

  • Jumbo Lump: This is the most expensive grade of crab meat, known for its firm texture and sweet flavor. It consists of two large muscles that connect the swimmer’s fins. Jumbo lump crab meat is best enjoyed on its own or lightly dipped in butter.
  • Lump: Lump crab meat comes from the body of the crab and is often mixed with broken pieces of the jumbo lump. It is of high quality and works well in recipes where the crab meat should be the star, such as crab cakes or crab salad.
  • Backfin: Backfin crab meat is a mix of lump crab and white meat from the body. It is slightly lower in quality than lump but is still a good choice for crab cakes, quesadillas, and pasta dishes.
  • Special: Special-grade crab meat is made up of small pieces of white crab meat from the body. It is the sweetest tasting grade and works well in omelets, mayonnaise-based salads, dips, and soups.
  • Claw: Claw meat comes from the crab’s claws and has a darker color and stronger flavor compared to meat from the body. It is perfect for dishes with bold flavors, such as crab stuffing, hot dips, and cream-based soups.

Consider the Recipe

When choosing the grade of crab meat, consider the recipe you’ll be making. A lower grade, like backfin or special, will work well if the crab meat is mixed with other ingredients or heavily seasoned. For recipes where the crab meat is the main attraction, such as a seafood tower or crab bisque, opt for a higher grade like a jumbo lump or lump.

Price and Quality

Keep in mind that higher grades of crab meat, such as jumbo lump and lump, tend to be more expensive. If budget is a concern, consider using backfin or special grade, which still offers great flavor and texture at a more affordable price.

Fresh or Pre-picked

You can either purchase fresh crabs and steam them yourself or buy pre-picked crab meat. Fresh crab meat can be refrigerated for a few days, while pasteurized crab meat can be stored in the fridge for up to six months. If you plan on freezing crab meat, it’s best to use it in a recipe before freezing or freeze it in the shell to retain its texture.

Cooking tips and recipes for using lump crab meat.

Cooking with lump crab meat can be a delicious and versatile way to enjoy this tasty seafood. Whether you’re making crab cakes, crab imperial, or adding it to pasta dishes, lump crab meat adds a sweet, delicate flavor and tender texture to any recipe. Here are some tips and recipes to help you make the most of lump crab meat in your cooking:

Buying and handling lump crab meat:

    • Look for fresh lump crab meat at your local seafood market or grocery store. Fresh, pasteurized crab meat is preferred over canned crab meat for better flavor and texture.
    • When handling lump crab meat, be gentle to avoid breaking up the large pieces. Remove any shells or cartilage before using it in your recipe.
    • Rinse the lump crab meat under cold water to remove any excess salt or debris before using it.

Boiling lump crab meat:

    • Boiling is a quick and easy way to cook lump crab meat. Add the lump crab meat to boiling water and cook for 5-10 minutes until cooked through.
    • Boiled lump crab meat is great for crab boils or steamed crab legs.

Grilling lump crab meat:

    • Brush lump crab meat with oil and seasonings and grill for a few minutes on each side until cooked through. Grilling adds a smoky flavor to the crab meat.
    • Grilled lump crab meat can be a tasty addition to salads or served on its own as a main dish.

Baking lump crab meat:

    • Mixing lump crab meat with other ingredients and baking it in the oven can create delicious dishes like crab cakes or crab dip.
    • Gently fold the lump crab meat into the sauce or mixture to avoid breaking it up too much.
    • Bake the crab meat in a preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.

Sauteing lump crab meat:

    • Sauteing lump crab meat in butter or oil with garlic and other seasonings adds a rich flavor to the crab meat.
    • Sauteed lump crab meat can be added to pasta dishes, risotto or served on top of salads.

Now that you have some cooking tips for using lump crab meat, here are a few recipes to get you started:

  • Maryland Crab Cakes: This classic recipe combines lump crab meat with breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and Old Bay seasoning. Shape the mixture into patties and pan-fry until golden brown.
  • Crab Imperial: Mix lump crab meat with an imperial sauce made from mayonnaise, lemon juice, Old Bay seasoning, and other seasonings. Bake the crab imperial mixture until golden brown and serve with sauteed greens and roasted potatoes.
  • Crab and Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms: Fill mushroom caps with a mixture of lump crab meat, cream cheese, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese. Bake until the mushrooms are tender, and the filling is golden brown and bubbly.
  • Lemon Garlic Crab Pasta: Toss cooked pasta with sauteed lump crab meat, garlic, lemon juice, butter, and parsley for a light and flavorful seafood pasta dish.

With these tips and recipes, you can enjoy the deliciousness of lump crab meat in a variety of dishes. Whether you’re grilling, baking, sauteing, or boiling it, lump crab meat adds a touch of elegance and flavor to any meal. So go ahead and start cooking with lump crab meat and enjoy a taste of the sea in your own kitchen.

The nutritional benefits of lump crab meat.

Lump crab meat is not only a delicious seafood option but also offers various nutritional benefits. With only 102.353 calories per 100 grams, lump crab meat is low in calories, making it a good choice for those watching their calorie intake. It is also low in fat, with only 1.765 grams per 100 grams, making it a lean source of protein.

Speaking of protein, lump crab meat is packed with it, containing 20.0 grams per 100 grams. Protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle mass, making lump crab meat a great option for individuals looking to support their muscle health.

What sets crab meat apart from other types of seafood is its high content of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are known for their role in improving heart health. They can help lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood clotting, and even lower the risk of irregular heartbeats. Lump crab meat is also a good source of selenium, which is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system and acts as an antioxidant to protect the body from chronic diseases.

Additionally, lump crab meat contains important vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12, which is crucial for producing red blood cells and preventing vitamin deficiency. It also contains folate, which helps reduce the risk of vitamin deficiency anemia. 

While it is important to note that lump crab meat may have lower mercury levels than other types of seafood, it is still important to consider how it is caught and prepared. It is also worth mentioning that crab meat can have high levels of sodium, so it is advisable to consume it in moderation or choose low-sodium options if you have dietary restrictions.

In conclusion, lump crab meat not only offers a delightful flavor but also provides various nutritional benefits. From being a good source of lean protein to its high content of omega-3 fatty acids and important vitamins and minerals, adding lump crab meat to your diet can contribute to overall health and well-being.

Where to buy and how to store lump crab meat?

When it comes to buying lump crab meat, there are a few options available. One of the most convenient sources is your local seafood market or fishmonger. These outlets typically offer a variety of fresh seafood, including lump crab meat. The advantage of buying from a seafood market is that you can ensure the quality and freshness of the product. If you’re still looking for a local seafood market, you can also consider purchasing lump crab meat online. Many reputable seafood companies offer online ordering and delivery, allowing you to enjoy fresh lump crab meat even if you’re located far from the coast.

Proper storage is crucial to maintain quality and prevent spoilage once you’ve purchased your lump crab meat. The best way to store lump crab meat is to keep it refrigerated. First, remove the meat from its original packaging and transfer it to an airtight container or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. This helps to prevent contamination and maintain freshness. It’s important to store the crab meat on a tray or plate to catch any juices that may seep out. Place the container or wrapped crab meat in the coldest part of your refrigerator, ideally between 32- and 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s worth noting that lump crab meat is highly perishable and should be consumed within two to three days of purchase, even when properly stored. If you’re planning to wait to use it, you can also consider freezing lump crab meat. To freeze, drain any excess liquid from the crab meat, then transfer it to an airtight freezer bag or container. Try to remove as much air as possible before sealing it and label it with the date. When properly frozen, lump crab meat can last for up to three months. However, it’s important to keep in mind that freezing may affect the texture of the meat, so it’s best to use it in dishes such as crab cakes or dips rather than enjoying it as fresh, lump meat. 


Q: What is lump crab?

A: Lump crab refers to a specific grade of crab meat commonly used in various dishes. It is made up of slightly smaller white pieces of crab meat that come from the body of the crab.

Q: What dishes can I use lump crab in?

A: Lump crab meat works well in a wide range of dishes, including pasta dishes, crab pies, and crab cakes. Its bright color and superb flavor makes it ideal for fancy, impression-making dishes where appearance matters.

Q: Is lump crab expensive?

A: Yes, lump crab meat is the most expensive grade of crab meat. However, it is worth the price for its high quality, large chunks, and delicate flavor.

Q: How does lump crab differ from other grades of crab meat?

A: Lump crab meat is larger, consisting of broken jumbo lumps and large chunks of body meat. It has a bright color and superb flavor and is best for dishes where appearance matters.

Q: Can I use lump crab in crab cakes?

A: Lump crab meat is generally not recommended for crab cakes because its delicate flavor and texture can be overpowered by seasonings and mixing. It is too pricey to use in that way.

Q: In what dishes is backfin crab meat commonly used?

A: Backfin crab meat is made up of smaller broken chunks of lump crab meat mixed with flakes of white body meat. It has good flavor and enough texture to look appealing in dishes where the crab meat is somewhat visible, such as pasta dishes and conventional crab cakes.

Q: What is special-grade crab meat best suited for?

A: Special-grade crab meat consists of small flakes of white crab meat taken from the body cavity. It works best for dishes with good color and delicate flavor, such as omelets and mayo-based salads, which are more important than visual impact.

Q: How does claw crab meat differ from other grades?

A: Claw crab meat is the least expensive grade of crab meat but has the most flavorful taste. It is pinkish-brown in color and has a hearty crab flavor that doesn’t get lost under seasonings. It is great for soups, crabmeat stuffing, tacos, and stir-fries.

Q: Where can I purchase fresh lump crab meat?

A: Fresh lump crab meat is available at fish markets or higher-end grocery stores. It is also possible to order frozen or fresh crabs and unpasteurized crab meat from reputable online sources and have it shipped directly to you.

Q: How should I store fresh crab meat?

A: Fresh crab meat should be kept in the refrigerator and used within two to three days. Unopened pasteurized crab meat can be stored in the refrigerator for six months. Freezing crab meat is possible, but it is best to freeze it in the shell or in prepared foods like crab cakes or casseroles for up to three months.

Q: What are some popular types of crab to look for?

A: One of the most popular types of crab is the Blue Crab, known for its soft, sweet, and juicy meat. Soft-shell crabs are blue crabs caught during a molting season when their shells are soft, making them ideal for grilling, sautéing, or frying. Stone crabs are also beloved for the meat in their black-tipped claw.


Thank you for joining us on this journey to explore the popularity of lump crab. We hope you found this information insightful and interesting. Whether you’re a seafood enthusiast or simply curious about culinary delights, lump crab has undoubtedly made its mark in the world of dining. If you have any more questions or want to share your experiences with lump crab, feel free to leave a comment below. And if you’re ever in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country, be sure to visit the Red Caboose Restaurant for a taste of their delicious lump crab offerings. Until next time, happy eating!

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