What is the Best Food to Pair With Stone Crab Claws?
Stone crab is a popular Florida dish with unique features that make many people consider it a delicacy.
- The harvesting methods are different from other types of crab.
- Stone crab can be prepared as a main dish or appetizer.
- Side dishes are used to perfectly balance the rich, savory stone crab meat.
If you are a Florida native or just love visiting the state and enjoying some of the delicious offerings of the area, you have probably been acquainted with stone crab. A popular cuisine for seafood lovers, stone crab differs from other types of crab in several unique ways. When preparing stone crab as the centerpiece of your meal or pairing it with side dishes, keeping in mind some of the special qualities of this type of crab can help you concoct some amazing creations.
What Is a Stone Crab?
Stone crab is a species of crab that can be found from the coast of North Carolina through northern Central America but is primarily harvested off the coast of Florida. Crab fishermen find stone crabs in both shallow and deep waters. When capturing stone crabs, there are several regulations in place. Crabbing season for stone crabs occurs during the winter months, from October 15 through May 15. During this time, there are restrictions to harvesting amounts that are limited to one gallon of claws per person or two gallons per fishing vessel, whichever is less. Limiting volume by claws may seem like a strange restriction, but it makes sense when you know how stone crab is captured and prepared.
How Is Stone Crab Different From Other Crabs?
One of the most significant differences between stone crabs and other types of crabs is the collection method. Fishermen who harvest this type of crab cannot use anything that can cause injuries to the crab’s body. This means any type of spear or grabbing hook is prohibited. Once stone crabs are harvested, the larger of the two front claws are removed and released back into the wild.
The crab resumes normal functioning, and over time the claw grows back. This practice leads to a sustainable population of stone crabs. Although the loss of a claw temporarily places the crabs at higher risk from predators, this harvesting model provides a successful and sustainable way for everyone to enjoy this delicious crustacean.
How Do You Prepare Stone Crab?
Stone crab preparation begins after harvesting with the removal of claws. Each claw must be removed carefully and can only be collected from crabs of legal size. Typically, the claws are cooked immediately after they have been collected. If they are not pre-cooked, the meat becomes challenging to separate from the shell. When you purchase stone crab from a seafood market, grocery store, restaurant, or other venues, the pre-cooked claws are found chilled and can be eaten either cold or quickly boiled to warm them up.
Preparing stone crab for eating as a main meal or as an ingredient in a dish begins with cracking the claws. Your seafood vendor can pre-crack them for you when you purchase to make it easier to remove the meat before eating or preparing it. If you purchase the crabs uncracked, they can be cracked in several different ways. Some people purchase a specific utensil to break the shells and remove the meat, while others use the backside of a spoon to smack against the claw firmly. The action will usually crack the shell and expose the meat inside all at once, allowing you to easily remove the meat to enjoy.
What Foods Pair Well With Stone Crab?
Although stone crab can be enjoyed entirely by itself, either cold or warmed up, many people like to pair it with a delicious side dish or include the stone crab meat in a recipe. Many stone crab connoisseurs insist that this crustacean is best enjoyed by keeping the presentation simple. A plate of crabs to crack and possibly some dipping sauce may be all you need to get the best of the flavor. Others recommend pairing stone crab with side dishes that complement the natural flavors or adding the meat to a larger recipe. No matter which preparation you choose for your stone crab, if you have never tried it before, you are sure to become the newest fan.
Traditional Stone Crab
When you order stone crab in a restaurant, especially in Florida, you may receive it paired with a traditional mustard sauce. The exact recipe for mustard sauce differs among establishments, but generally includes dry mustard, mayonnaise, steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cream, lemon, and salt. This sauce is usually chilled before serving. Traditionally, stone crab with mustard sauce is prepared as an appetizer before a meal in a restaurant.
Once you crack the claws and remove the meat, you can dip it into the sauce. Alternatively, you can crack the claws and knuckles, remove the meat, and pour some of the mustard sauce over the pile. If you aren’t a fan of the traditional mustard sauce, another option is to serve the claws with melted butter. The temperature of the claws determines the availability of sauces, since you wouldn’t want to pair melted butter with cold claws.
Adding Stone Crab to Dishes
Like other types of crab, stone crab can be used as the main meat ingredient in a variety of seafood dishes. One of the most common choices is adding crab to a chowder or other type of soup. Crab cakes can also be made with stone crab as the primary ingredient. Some seafood dishes use crab as a topping for other types of fish, such as grouper. Crab dip is a delicious way to enjoy stone crab when it is used as the main ingredient. When you think of any traditional crab dish, stone crab can be substituted for blue crab meat to change-up the flavor.
Side Dishes For Stone Crab
Pairing your stone crab claws with vegetables is one of the best ways to balance a dish. Side salads with acidic undertones, such as one with a vinaigrette dressing, can balance out the crab meat richness. Since most stone crabs are served with a sauce, use the sauce and the crab temperature to guide your side dish choices.
For stone crab served warm with melted butter, warm vegetables are an ideal pairing. Grilled, steamed, or roasted vegetables with seasoning provide a filling and hearty meal, especially if you add potatoes or sweet potatoes. In contrast, cold claws served with mustard or sriracha-mayo sauce are better served with a side salad or a cold dish such as tortilla chips and pico de gallo. Some individuals love a side of chowder or soup with stone crab as a hearty selection.
How to Eat Stone Crab Claws
Eating stone crab claws is a delicious experience from start to finish, but the process can be intimidating if you've never had them. Let's consider a few tips on how to eat stone crabs that make it easier to access the white, flaky goodness inside without the stress.
A wooden mallet works best to crack your crab claws since it lessens the likelihood of small pieces of the shell being left behind on the meat. We know not everybody has a wooden mallet lying around, so if you don't, a large, heavy spoon works just as well.
When you're cracking the shells, do so firmly, but don't use too much force. If you crack it too hard, you risk ruining the tender meat inside, and tiny pieces of the shell will stick to the stone crab meat.
As a general goal, it's best to firmly crack the shell and gently pull it away from the meat. Resulting in a clean, large piece of white, succulent meat that can be eaten in one or two satisfying bites. Now that you know how to eat stone crab, you can victoriously crack and eat stone crab claws like a pro.
What to Serve with Stone Crab?
Before serving this seafood delicacy, it's important to set the table with everything you and your guests will need. Drape a nice tablecloth over the table and fold an oversized napkin at each place setting. Now that you know how to eat stone crab, you know how much the napkins will be appreciated as each guest begins the messy process of cracking their claws. Additionally, it's best to place a good set of crab crackers and an empty bowl at each place setting so every guest can easily access the meat inside the shells.
Set out a bottle or two of champagne or prepare each guest a martini, complete with an olive or two. Toss a salad and offer warm, crusty bread with your stone crab claws. Luckily, stone crabs are best served cold without a lot of fuss. Pair them with a delicious mustard sauce or a cup of melted butter.
Stone Crab in Hollywood Beach, FL
The most important part of serving tender and delicious stone crab claws is purchasing them from the right place. At Billy's Stone Crab, we buy from over 40 independent fishers and own 1 boat that catch and deliver crustaceans and other seafood to two fisheries daily. Our fisheries, located in the Florida Keys in Marathon and Summerland Key, deliver these fresh delicacies daily to our market and restaurant. We oversee every step of the process to ensure that your seafood is fresh, never frozen, and of the highest quality.
Our online shop offers a variety of seafood options that make it easy to prepare a seafood feast at home. From stone crabs and Alaskan king crabs to wild jumbo shrimp and raw scallops by the pound, we offer seafood that suits every palate. Every order of stone crabs comes with a side of Billy's signature Mustard Sauce as a complimentary gift.
Billy’s Stone Crab offers the best of this delicious crustacean in an unmatched atmosphere in the area. Whether you have been craving stone crab or want to give it a try for the first time, this is the place to be. Visit or contact Billy’s Stone Crab today to learn more.