Why Fresh Stone Crabs Are Superior To Frozen
The Florida stone crab is a staple to the diet of many seafood lovers. As Maine is known for lobster, Central Florida is known for stone crabs. When these stone crabs are being caught the main priority is keeping them in the best condition possible for consumption. Sometimes this means freezing them if the crab meat is destined to be shipped a long distance. However, consuming stone crab meat that has been frozen is inferior to the meat of a fresh stone crab.
Here are some reasons why fresh stone crab meat is superior to frozen stone crab meat:
It Tastes Better Fresh
If you've ever been to a restaurant and have seen a particular meat advertised as "fresh, never frozen", there's good reason for that. Frozen meat tends to have a less satisfying taste compared to their fresh counterparts. The same thing applies to stone crab. Restaurants want their customers to know that the meat they are ordering has not had its taste diminished by the act of freezing. When a meat is frozen, ice crystals can form and damage the cell structures of the meat. This is especially concerning when a meat is not frozen rapidly as the ice crystals can grow quite large and cause more damage. Damaged stone crab meat can affect the overall taste of the product once it has been defrosted and prepared.
It Sells Better Fresh
Crab fisherman who make their living by catching stone crab know better than anyone that fresh stone crab claws sell better than frozen stone crab claws. When buying a supply of stone crab claws, restaurant owners will inspect the claws and verify their freshness. One way you can tell if a claw has been frozen or is fresh is by examining the sheen of the claw. If a stone crab claw is shiny, then it is likely to be fresh. Another obvious sign that you are dealing with fresh stone crabs is by the texture of the meat. If the claw meat is dry and tends to stick to the shell, then it has likely been frozen at some point. In contrast, fresh stone crabs are juicy.
Eating Fresh Stone Crab Meat Can Be Safer
When stone crabs are caught their claws are retrieved before returning the crabs to the water. After 12 months or so, the crab will regrow its claws and will be ready to be caught again. This process makes stone crabs one of the most sustainable meat proteins on the planet. However, like other crabs, stone crabs require careful care to ensure the meat stays safe for consumption. Typically, when a claw is harvested it is then cooked and refrigerated (fresh) or flash frozen. When the meat is frozen, that means it is unlikely to be consumed within the next 3-4 days that would be required if it was just refrigerated. The longer a meat is frozen, the more likely problems can occur in the cooling chain that may lead to health problems. Eating stone crab that has gone directly from the warm waters of Central Florida to your plate within a day or two ensures you are safely consuming the crab's claw meat.
These are just some of the ways that consuming fresh stone crab meat is superior to consuming frozen stone crab meat. Taste, quality, profitability, and health are all reasons you should choose fresh stone crab over frozen stone crab. Beyond the fresh versus frozen debate, stone crab meat is a sustainable and renewable food source for many in Florida and across the country, and the industry relies on those who enjoy the product regardless of how it has been preserved.