Now that we’ve covered the different types of king and snow crabs, we can better compare them.
First and foremost, it’s really not practical to compare opilio snow crab to any of the king crab varieties. The opilio simply can’t compete at any level with the king crab. If your goal is to totally replace king crab with inexpensive opilio snow crab, it’s unfortunately not a good substitute.
Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating good quality opilio. It’s just an afterthought when king crab enters the conversation.
On the other hand, bairdi crab can absolutely hang with the king when it comes to taste and overall quality. Many Alaskan locals will tell you that they actually prefer bairdi. The problem is that bairdi is so hard to come by, especially for folks who live nowhere near that part of the world.
Bairdi is sweeter than king crab and has a lighter texture. It’s generally sold pre-cooked and ready to eat. Leaving it cold is the preferred way to serve, but reheating is fine as long as it’s done with care. Too much heat and it will double-cook the crab and dry it out.
HOW TO COOK SNOW & KING CRAB
Whether you’re dealing with snow crab or king crab, chances are good that most of the work has been done for you, and the meat is already cooked.
Almost all Alaska-caught crab, regardless of species, is cooked and flash-frozen immediately after capture. Fishermen do this to preserve freshness and keep the meat from going bad. Crabmeat goes bad extremely fast and it’s actually pretty rare to have the option of fresh crab that has never been frozen.
I know what you’re probably thinking- that you know of several nearby restaurants that serve fresh king or snow crab daily. The truth is that in almost every instance, the crab has been previously frozen. Don’t worry though, as that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Properly cooked and frozen crab is very high-quality.
Since you’re dealing with pre-cooked crab, your goal should be less about “cooking” and more about simply reheating to the proper temperature. It’s a simple procedure, but it’s worth taking the care to do it right. The last thing you want here is to overcook your crab and dry it out.
My preferred method of reheating crab is always steaming. If done properly, it’s gentle enough to heat the crab up to good serving temperature without much risk of overdoing it.
Water and a steamer pot are all you really need and you really can’t go wrong if you do it this way. Just make sure you don’t get your crab too hot. It’s better for it to be slightly cold rather than too hot. About 5 minutes should do it in most cases.
And, of course, simply drawn butter is always the tried and true classic way to complete the finest crab legs.
Now that you’re well-versed in the differences between Alaska’s two heavyweight crabs, you should be able to make an informed decision next time you’re shopping around. It’s worth taking a moment to find out about your options whether you’re buying at a fine restaurant or a local grocery store.