What is Snow crab (Chionoecetes spp.)?

Snow crab Snow crab

Common names for Snow crab

Snow crab, Alaska snow crab, spider crab, tanner crab, queen crab (Canada)

Other languages for Snow crab

  • French name: Crabe
  • Italian name: Granchio
  • German name: Eismeerkrabbe

Introduction to Snow crab

The snow crab fishery in North America is focused on three species: Chionoecetes opilio, Chionoecetes bairdi, and Chionoecetes tanneri. Opilios are technically snow crabs, whereas bairdis are tanners. The opilio fishing in Alaska is considerably bigger than the bairdi fishery. Bairdi are caught in the Bering Sea and Alaskan Gulf. Commercially, the most valuable species is opilio, which is also the only species that is captured in both the Atlantic and Pacific. It has sustained significant fisheries in both Alaska and the Canadian Maritimes (where it is sometimes referred to as queen crab). Snow crabs are trapped from sandy bottoms at depths ranging from 30 to 1,500 feet. They are smaller and less red than king crabs, and instead of the king crab’s three pairs of walking legs, these crabs have four pairs of walking legs plus a pair of claws. Bairdi are the biggest snow crab, weighing an average of five pounds and reaching a length of three feet from tip to tip. Opilio weigh little more than a pound on average; tanners are significantly bigger, with longer, slimmer legs.

Product profile for Snow crab

Snow crab flesh is sweeter and more delicate than king crab, with a more fibrous texture. The delicate, longitudinal fibers of shoulder meat to the tougher fibers of claw meat range in texture. Cooked shell is bright red, but not as bright as king crab, and becomes brownish at the shoulder. The meat is white to reddish in color. Snow crab, like king crab, is sold already cooked.

Cooking tips for Snow crab

Because snow crab is cooked before being processed in the United States, all you have to do is defrost (slowly — one to two days in the fridge) and reheat. If you do anything more than warm it up, you risk turning it dry and harsh. Chowders, omelets, crepes, casseroles, and quiches can all be made using snow crab flesh. Split legs are frequently served cold as an appetizer or grilled and served hot with drawn butter. Steamed whole legs and clusters are possible.

Nutrition facts for Snow crab

Calories: 90 Fat Calories: 10.8 Total Fat: 1.2 g Saturated Fat: 0.1 g Cholesterol: 55 mg Sodium: 539 mg Protein: 18.5 g Omega 3: 0.4 g

Primary product forms for Snow crab

Live (limited) Fresh: Picked meat Frozen (most common): Cooked sections, Cooked legs, Cooked legs and claws, Cooked meat, Blocks (meat), Cooked claws Value-added: Canned meat, Snap-’n-eats, Splits, Cakes

Global supply for Snow crab

Canada, Japan, Russia, United States, Iran