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Crabmeat 101

By Cook's Illustrated Published May 2011

Here are the most common grades of crabmeat available in U.S. supermarkets.

Crabmeat is almost always sold in cans or containers rather than fresh; it’s cooked, cleaned, pasteurized, and then packaged. Though the crabmeat sold in the United States may come from different species of the crustacean, all are closely related with a similar taste and texture. Differences in grade correspond to the part of the crab the meat comes from and the size of the pieces in the package. Here are the most common grades of crabmeat available in U.S. supermarkets.

JUMBO LUMP: Derived from the two large muscles connected to the swimming legs, jumbo lump is the largest and most expensive grade of crabmeat. It boasts a bright white color and delicate flavor. Its size and meaty texture can be best appreciated on cocktail platters or in sautés.

LUMP: Lump crabmeat is composed of smaller or broken pieces of jumbo lump, along with other smaller pieces of body meat. Like jumbo lump, it’s white and has a delicate flavor. Because lump is a mixture of large and small pieces, it’s a good choice for seafood salads or crab cakes.

BACKFIN: Backfin is a mixture of smaller “flake” pieces of body meat (there’s no meat from the legs). Backfin is finer textured than lump meat, but its flavor is similar. It is commonly used in crab cakes.

CLAW MEAT: Claw meat comes from the swimming fins and claws of the crab. Because these are very active muscles—much like dark meat in poultry—the meat is pink or brown, high in fat, and has a much stronger crab flavor. Its texture is similar to backfin, but it’s oilier. Claw meat is best in dishes requiring a bold crab taste, such as soups or bisques.