Seafood lovers rejoice! As fall approaches, so does one of the best times of the year — snow crab season. This delectable crustacean is only in season for a short but highly anticipated period annually. If you have never tasted snow crab before, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Below, we’ll look at what snow crab is (and why you should eat it) and what to expect from the 2023 season, including market prices.
So, let’s jump in.
What Is Snow Crab?
Alaska snow crabs (Chionoecetes opilio) are of a smaller size. Females grow roughly 3 inches across their shell, but males can get as large as 6 inches across. They have four sets of legs and a single set of claws. This crab species is believed to be long-living, possibly even up to 20 years.
They live on muddy or soft sandy ocean floors because part of their defense mechanism is to burrow when a predator approaches. That is why they evolved to have a brownish shell, which acts as a sort of natural camouflage. These ground-dwellers are not picky eaters. They will happily scavenge anything hanging out on the ocean floor. And they are known to eat shrimp, snails, sponges, clams, fish, brittle stars, and more.
Even though female snow crabs carry as many as 100,000 eggs, their population is considered overfished. That is, in large part, due to their popularity on the dinner plate and restaurant menus. Despite this, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) does not consider snow crabs at risk. Government regulations help ensure the stock is not depleted, and the body is actively working on a re-population plan.
When Is Snow Crab Season?
Technically, the snow crab season starts in October and ends in April. But some local areas may allow fishing year-round. The peak season, though, kicks off in January and runs through April. Much of the snow crab caught during this window comes from the Eastern Bering Sea.
After the snow crab gets caught, it typically gets frozen before hitting the markets. However, some companies do ship fresh seafood overnight to specific stores and restaurants.
What Are the Snow Crab Market Prices in 2023?
Snow crab prices have finally fallen back in line with their historical averages. That drop came after an unusual spike in cost during the Covid-19 pandemic. By February 2023, the price per pound fell back to an average of $7.50. This makes snow crab significantly more affordable than it was the year prior (at $19 per pound on average).
However, the market price heading into the early 2024 peak season is still unknown. You could potentially wait for that peak season to roll around before enjoying snow crab. Or, you can start incorporating it into your meal plan earlier if the price increases again.
How Do You Eat Snow Crab?
When it comes to eating snow crab, there’s no one correct way. Many people choose to forgo eating the meat out of the body. That is because this crab species is so small that it becomes difficult to work around all the cartilage. So, for many, the legs and the claws are the way to go.
The best way to cook crab legs is to steam them. Stick them into a pot of boiling water for roughly 5 to 7 minutes. You’ll know they are ready when they turn a lovely shade of white and red. Once the legs are hanging out on your plate, break them at the joint. You’ll twist the two halves apart, and they should pop open easily.
Now it’s time to get inside for the meat. You’ll need a seafood cracker or a pair of sharp kitchen shears. The shells are tough and will cut you if you’re not careful. Use your tool of choice to split open each half of the leg. You can retrieve the meat with either your fingers or a small fork. Just make sure to have your favorite dipping sauce nearby!
Are Snow Crabs Good For You?
The good news is that this tasty seafood is also highly nutritious. So you can enjoy it guilt-free. Snow crabs have loads of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, copper, Vitamin B12, and selenium. The only downside, and a significant caveat, is that anyone with known seafood allergies should avoid eating snow crab.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © from my point of view/Shutterstock.com
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