How to Choose a Quality Dungeness Crab?

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There are a few tips to consider when picking out a dungeness crab. The first is the color of the shell, which should be deep purple and not too light or dark. Next, you will want to check for signs of wear on the claws and legs. Dungeness crabs that have been handled before may show signs of this abuse by having broken shells or missing pieces from their claws or legs. Finally, you’ll want to hold it and smell it! If it has some weight to it and smells fresh like seawater then you know it’s still alive and ready for cooking!

Dungeness crab is a delicacy that many people enjoy for its sweet and tender meat. However, picking the perfect crab can be a tricky process.

In this article, we will teach you how to pick out the best dungeness crabs by looking at their shell, holding them to sense their weight (the heavier the better), and smelling them. These three steps are crucial in finding the perfect crab.

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4 Tips on How to pick a good dungeness crab

Dungeness crabs are a delicacy to eat and can be found in dishes all along the west coast of America.

They are prized for their delicate, sweet flavour that balances the fresh flavour found in many shellfish with a light texture.

To pick a fresh dungeness crab simply follow the steps below;

1. Ensure it’s alive

Fresh is best, If you have the ability to pick a dungeness crab live then you will already be in a much better position to cook a meal.

Live dungeness crab tends to taste better and will guarantee you are getting the best, and juiciest crab meat available.

If you can catch or purchase live dungeness crab near you then you will want to ensure the crab you do buy was either killed recently or is frozen. This will ensure you are retaining the most flavour possible from the meat while ensuring it doesn’t go bad.

2. The heaver the crab the better

One of the best ways to ensure you’re picking a fresh, healthy dungeness crab is by holding it to see if it has any heft or weight to it.

The heavier the better, you should be able to feel the weight of the crab. This will help you determine whether the crab contains a lot of meat and juices.

If the crab feels light, it may either be dead or not particularly healthy and is best to be avoided.

3. Avoid pre-cooked crab meat

Cook your own dungeness crab when possible to ensure you are getting the best possible meat. It’s hard to determine the quality of dungeness crab once it has been cooked and lower quality meat can be easily masked with sauces and the like in the recipe.

Additionally, you don’t know how the meat has been cooked, all factors that can lead to a poor experience overall. 

4.  Catch the crab yourself

There is no better way to ensure you are selecting the best possible crab than to catch it yourself.

Luckily there are many locations you can catch dungeness crab across the west coast of America including California, all the way up into Canadian waters.

To learn more about how to catch your own crab check out this article.


In summary, to select a quality dungeness crab you will want to ensure it’s alive when picking it or purchasing it, you will want it to have some weight to it; a healthy dungeness crab should provide upwards of 2 pounds of meat, and you will want the shell to be intact and a healthy colour.

If you have any questions or comments don’t hesitate to drop a comment below and our team will do their best to get back to you!


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Ryan W

Ryan is the owner of Fisherman First and manages the team of expert writers on the site. He's fished his entire life and has been to locations across North America to catch a range of fish and crustacean from crabs and prawns to minnow and trout.