The Great Crab Debate

August 13, 2008 | By | COMMENTS

For as long as I’ve known him, Craig has waxed lyrical about the Dungeness crabs he and his family eat when they go to their cabin on the San Juan Islands, pull the crabs right out of the water, boil them and eat them right on the spot. Diana, however, who comes from Virginia is partial to the blue crabs she gets from the water near her house, cooked in a mixture of beer and various seasonings. Mark, her boyfriend, who’s had both Diana’s blue crabs and Dungeness crabs (though, not Craig’s Dungeness crabs) prefers the blue crabs and you can see them agitating Craig in the above video.

I’ll finally get to taste Craig’s beloved crabs a week from Friday when I fly out to Seattle for a week-long visit to Bellingham and the San Juan Islands. Meanwhile, those of you who’ve had both, which do you prefer: Dungeness crabs or blue crabs? If you say blue, prepare to get angry e-mails from Craig.

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  • flip

    i was raised on chesapeake bay crabs. the maryland tradition is to dump a steaming spicy pile of blues on a picnic table and go to town. my first taste of dungeness was an L.A. new year’s eve celebration with friends from the Chinese diaspora communities. They prepared a feast, what a feast, featuring the big crab. I was hooked on craig’s beloved giants.

  • Craig

    Let me get this right–are the three of them arguing which one is better, but only one of the group has tasted both, lol?

  • Yvo

    Whole, I prefer Dungeness, hands down… garlic butter and all… from SF… yum yum… I grew up on blue crabs though lol.

    Can’t wait to go back in a month!!!

  • jill

    I have eaten fresh dungeness crab caught by Craig’s family in exactly the way he describes AND I have been to Maryland and eaten freshly caught blue crab and I completely agree with Craig. No contest.

  • Joanna

    Hmm… on taste, I have to go with Craig – Dungeness is out of this world. But I prefer the blue crab experience (in MD at least), where a tray of steamed crabs smothered in Old Bay seasoning is dumped unceremoniously onto the table and you just attack them. Yummy, messy, and so much fun!

  • Barry CB Martin

    I’ve been fortunate to taste local crab on all three coasts and Hawaii. Gotta say for pure flavor and delight, fresh from the shell – Dungeness are the best. And even better with some sourdough bread and a bottle of west coast white wine.

    But that said – who could argue with soft shell crabs in Maryland or not want a plate full of those wonderful crab claws you get along the Gulf Coast?

  • Barry CB Martin

    ok…spell check dependent ‘Dungeness’

  • zeep

    Dungeness crabs, no question. King crab is yummy too.

  • Elisa

    I’ve had both fresh blue and dungeness crab, and I prefer dungeness. However, dungeness has an ephemeral quality to it. If the crab isn’t freshly pulled out of the sea and cooked, the sweetness and essential sea salt flavor that permeates it is lost. Sometimes, even dungeness crab at restaurants with fairly good seafood suppliers cannot compare to dungeness plucked straight from a still dripping crab pot and boiled.

    Craig, just to give you some ammo for those blue crab supporters, James Beard revered dungeness crabs above all others. James Beard!!

    Also, if you are in Seattle at all during your vacation, try the dungeness crab in fermented black bean sauce at Ho Ho in the International District. Not only is it very fresh, but the black bean sauce is wonderful with crab!

  • AJK

    Dungeness Crabs 100%.

    To be fair, I’m a San Francisco girl, so I’m sure I’m biased. Though I’d also like to point out that every single response so far has been for Dungeness…

  • Greg

    I love Maryland. I love Marylanders. They are so cute. They drink a lot. They drink enough to think blue crabs are better.

    Now I’m going to put a Marylander on my lap and hug them, stroke their hair and feed them some lovely Dungeness crab. Poor deluded (and potentially very drunk) souls.

    (from a Puget Sound native)

  • Mia

    I’m going to have to weigh in for the blue crab as far as taste is concerned, for quantity the Dungeness is better because its a bigger meatier crab so you get more with less effort. Crab is one of my favorite foods though so I wouldn’t turn my nose up at either of them, or any other variety for that matter.

  • Matthew

    “They Don’t Know.”

    You tell ‘em., Craig. Ignorant haters, begone.

  • kristin

    If I saw someone putting “Old Bay Seasoning” on fresh Dungeness crab, I’d slap them. I’m not kidding.

  • Frank

    Agree with Kristin 100%.

    Also, East coast people don’t know what they’re missing when it comes to most seafood.

    A sweet succulent dungeness crab dominates blue crab, stone crab or even lobster. (I was just over there trying hard to find something would compare)

  • vwc

    Dungeness, just he way Craig prepares them gets my vote! However, blue crab RULES when preparing soft shell crab!

  • Katherine

    I’m from Maryland, so I’m a little biased when I say that I like blue crabs better. I’m prepared for the angry e-mail from Craig :), but we don’t put anything on them either. (Actually, we usually get them from a friend of the family who cooks them for us.) The outside might be coated in Old Bay (mmmmmm), which is standard in Maryland, but I’ve never had it smothered, drowning, or within proximity of anything else.

  • Kelela

    Don’t miss Wild Ginger in Seattle…Can’t visit without at least 1-2 meals there…

  • Morgan

    Whoa, hold on there Frank. Lobster?? Now, I can understand that Dungeness beats blue hands-down, and maybe some people will think it’s better than king. But lobster? A fresh, live, sweet-fleshed, soft-shell 1 1/2 pounder straight from the lobster boat? NO WAY!

  • Ben

    As a former Washingtonian, I have to throw my support behind Dungeness crabs as well. YUM.

  • Katie

    Dungeness crabs are indisputably superior (although I think blue crabs might be better for making crab cakes). BUT, both varieties are better than those crabs they serve places like Las Vegas casino buffets – what are those? Snow crabs?

  • Matt

    Blue, but I’m from Florida so I really prefer stone crab to everything. But really blue > dungeness. And I don’t need to smother them in anything.

  • Joanne

    I haven’t had fresh from the water blue crabs yet, so I have to chose Dungeness crabs. Growing up in NorCal, you have to appreciate the sweet pleasure of the large meaty crabs. Nothing like fresh live crab that is cooked on the spot, or bought from an Asian fish market to take home, clean then tear the sucker apart to stir fry Cantonese style. A dying treat are the crab feeds in the Bay Area. Booster clubs, and churches would hold crab feeds for everyone to gather. All you could eat spaghetti and salad, then the crab fresh cooked, cleaned and cold ready for your own concoction of butter and garlic gently simmering in your little sauce crock brought from home, with plenty of cocktail sauce and lemon wedges. The fun I had with good friends eating pounds upon pounds of the stuff. A great deal for $25-30 at the time.

  • The Food Monster

    I must say living out here in Los Angeles, you would think, that Dungeness crabs would be my favorite. However, I grew up with two Maryland raised parents, and Blue Crabs were what I was raised on. There is no comparison for me personally. Blue Crabs all the way!!!. That’s not to say I would ever turn down a Dungeness Crab…yumbo jumbo!

  • Robin

    Dungeness crabs rule. Every two or three years, my family will have crab for Christmas Eve dinner. Fresh cracked crab, lemon, butter if you want it, (I usually skip it) cocktail sauce (just a little), bread. We spread paper grocery bags on the counter, dump out the crab, and the room gets real quiet, except for the cracking of the shells. Last year I waited in line 45 minutes to pick up my reserved crabs, off the boat that morning.

  • Calichef

    Dungeness crab by leaps and bounds! They are especially good when chilled and served with a fruity chardonnay, lemon wedges and a light touch of spicy cocktail sauce. After Dungeness I like those lovely stone crab claws, then blue crabs and far, far behind them are those pokey, stickery and bland Alaskan things. (Although, the show on Discovery, “Deadliest Catch,” about the Alaskan crab fishing industry is pretty darned good, even if the crabs they are catching are only so-so.)

    Oh, and I’d rather eat Dungeness crab than lobster, too.

  • K

    Hands down – Dungeness crabs. Those blue crabs are icky. I also grew up in the San Juans and have many fond memories of grabbing the canoe after high school and picking up some fresh crabs for dinner. Yum!! I remember my first time eating blue crabs – I was at a very fancy fish restaurant in Florida that was famous for their blue crabs – I nearly gagged in my disappointment!

  • Hillary

    What about stone crabs? I like stone crabs!

    I like the video, especially because the conversation is still going on after the car was parked.

  • Erin

    Blue crabs all the way! Anyone who says they dip crabs in butter doesn’t count – anything dipped in butter tastes great – and there seems to be a definite coastal divide. But blue crabs are so much better for true flavor. They just take a little more effort than Dungeness…

    (Yes, I’m a Maryland native)

  • Steph

    I can’t comment on the crab situation, but that video was filmed right near where I live in Providence! You guys had just gotten off 195, right? I could see the Radisson in the background.

  • Lydia

    When in Bellingham, you HAVE to eat at Fiamma Burger. It’s downtown on Railroad. Fiamma Burger is organic and local and composts everything, and they make a damn fine burger to boot. We always eat there when whipping down from Vancouver for our Trader Joe’s fix. I hope you don’t mind my unsolicited advice. Ooh, you should come to Vancouver for a day trip and have a meet up!

  • Jackie

    I’m a crab lovah. I wouldn’t kick either out of bed, that’s for certain.

    HOWEVER, I’m a blue crab lover, all the way.

    And yes, I am crazy about Old Bay and will gladly step up if anyone has an issue with my yellow and blue tin with the red top that I carry around in my bag (kidding, sort of).

    Blue crabs are delicious; the meat is sweet, the spices make your lips and tongue all tingly (all the better to chase with cold brewskies), but most of all — it’s the experience. Cracking open crab after crab, arguing with your tablemates over who got the best “ice cream cone” (for all you non-blue crab eaters, this is the huge piece of backfin lump crab meat you pull out while still attached to the leg) — some people dip in butter (this is a no-no), and some dip in apple cider vinegar (wonderful pairing with those sweet claw meat bites)…as I said, I have nothing against Dungeness — it’s fine eating all the way. And maybe this is totally blue collar of me, but I’d take a pile of steaming hot MD blue crabs even over lobster. I can’t even compare the two. Lobster is wonderful, a truly delicious food (esp. at POB), but it’s the experience of eating blue crabs simply can’t be beat.

  • camille

    yay! this means seattle blogs! i live in seattle and i can’t wait for some restaurant reviews. i was just on san juan island last week and am excited to see what you have to write about your food/experience. it’s beautiful anytime of year, but it’s exceptional in summer.

    oh, and dungeness all the way.

  • tom

    The two are just very different taste experiences…I would really hesitate to deem one as “better” than the other.

    I love both, having eaten both pretty copiously…I think that the Dungeness crabmeat is a little sweeter, but each is a real treat.

  • Katelyn

    Dungeness!!! My Seattle upbringing probably makes me biased, as I will always equate crab with Dungeness and anything else seems a little off. The blue East Coast ones are great too, but… Dungeness, fresh out of the water, are indisputably the best.

  • Felix

    Does King crab count?

  • Bayushi

    I’ve had both kinds and I’m actually a recent convert to crabby goodness. And fresh Dungeness crabs are the first kind I ever had and they’re fabulous. However, I had fresh blue crabs for the first time last year, and they were soooo much better. They were still kicking when we put them in the pot and it was a pure pleasure to kill those mean little bas…jerks! Eating them was even more fun! The meat was sweeter, nuttier and heavenly. Sorry, Craig.

  • JB

    Ooo he’s from Bellingham. I grew up in Everett about an hour south of there. It’s true that crab from up here is quite good.. and I agree with him. I like it better than blue crab.

    I may be slightly skewed however in that my korean mother made blue crab an intensely spicy affair.

  • JB

    Ooo he’s from Bellingham. I grew up in Everett about an hour south of there. It’s true that crab from up here is quite good.. and I agree with him. I like it better than blue crab.

    I may be slightly skewed however in that my korean mother made blue crab an intensely spicy affair.

  • Dennis

    Had both – blue crabs are better but you have to eat 12 of them to get enough. Dungeness crabs are good and one is enough but the meat isnt as sweet and its slightly fibrous. Best I’ve had is at Thanh Long in SF – along with their garlic noodles.

  • Eireann

    JB…I’m from Everett as well! Small world, back on topic Dungeness take the cake, no question.

  • Eireann

    JB…I’m from Everett as well! Small world, back on topic Dungeness take the cake, no question.

  • Anonymous

    Dungeness by far! I think blue crabs may be sweeter, but that makes no difference. Dungeness is saltier and more “sea tasting” which why I prefer it. The great thing about crab is that you don’t even need butter. Unlike lobster, you can eat it on it’s own.

    But above all, my favorite is King Crab. King Crab is called that for a reason.

  • Liz Stambaugh

    Well coming from a girl who lives in Maryland, The Blue Crab State. I will always go with Blue Crabs in Old Bay. Well in fact, any type of crab in Old Bay.

  • Joe Blough

    Ultimately, there is no way to compare. Blue crabs are tiny and spicy, eaten by the bushel, meat is stringy, and the experience is the thing, hard work. Dungeness is essentially a lobster. You eat 2 TOPS. The shell is crazy hahd. Great meat but impervious to the Old Bay because of the shell. Comparing is kind of silly.