Live crab should be put into a well-aerated chilled-saltwater tank (temp 45°-50° F.) as soon after arrival as possible. Immerse slowly to facilitate gill function. Oregon Dungeness crab can be kept with live lobster, but should be separated by a divider.
Fresh Whole-Cook Crab should be refrigerated at 33° to 35°, preferably in ice. If stored in shipping box, drain melted ice water so crabs aren’t submerged. Keep lid closed and avoid contact with blowing air so crabs won’t dry out. Shelf life is approximately 7 days.*
Picked Meat (fresh) should be kept on ice in a sealed container and refrigerated at 33° to 35°, preferably in ice. Shelf life is approximately 5-7 days. Frozen picked meat should be stored at 10°F or colder. Shelf life is approximately 6-9 months.
Frozen Whole-cooks, sections and single legs should be stored at 10°F or colder. Allow adequate cold-air circulation. avoid temperature fluctuation. Shelf life is approximately 9-12 months.
* shelf life is dependent on handling, temperature & other variable conditions
Release vacuum from vacuum-packed products before thawing. Frozen product should be thawed slowly under refrigeration. Thawing in warm water or at room temperature compromises product quality. Large quantities can be thawed under a cold water spray, but avoid total immersion in water. Try to thaw on an as needed basis and keep chilled until use. Do not refreeze crab.
Live Oregon Dungeness crabs should show signs of activity and should react to stimulation. Fresh whole-cooks should have heft and not feel light. Shell (back) should be moist and intact, legs and claws should be attached.
Frozen product forms should show no signs of discoloration or freezer burn. To maintain maximum quality, good product handling and inventory practices should be applied to fresh as well as frozen market forms. All boxes should be dated when received and a first in, first out program should be adhered to.
Chefs in the Pacific Northwest have developed a reputation for their creative use of local ingredients from the bounty offered up by both land and sea. Dishes featuring seasonal items, picked and harvested at their peak, have become a trademark. Oregon Dungeness figures prominently in this cuisine and is found on the menus of the state’s finest restaurants. Sometimes it’s straight from the shell, crab feed style, with fresh slaw and crusty bread; or, as an ingredient accompanied with delicate sauces made with fresh herbs and spices to enhance a pasta-based dish. The light, sweet flavor of Dungeness meat works well in a traditional crab cake recipe. A crab cocktail comes alive with a zesty Chipotle Sauce. Dungeness serves up equally as an appetizer or an entrée, and lends itself to both down home and white tablecloth cuisine.
Whole crab presentations can be accomplished with some simple preparations before serving that make cracking, on the plate, simple and fun. The cooked crab should be cleaned (gills & viscera removed) and the shell back washed out before placing back on the crab body. Preliminary cracking of the legs will make the at the table experience that much easier. Bibs, plenty of napkins and a shell bowl round out the setting and allow diners to get through a Dungeness with dignity.
Sections provide the crab cracking experience and work well when served in combination with another item, combo style. They are a popular item at ‘seafood buffets’ where they can be served chilled or warm, depending on customer preference.