Crabs are a type of crustacean that belong to the order Brachyura. There are thousands of different types of crabs that are divided into over 850 species. Most varieties of crab have hard outer shell (called an exoskeleton), 3 walking legs on either side of their body, and 2 pinching claws.
So, if you order crab in a restaurant, you may get a few instruments to get to the sweet crab meat. A nutcracker-type device can break open the crab legs and claws, and seafood picks can help to pull out the succulent meat. You may even get a small mallet to crack the hard crab shell.
Different types of crabs inhabit cold saltwater regions, warm sea areas, bodies of fresh water, and they also live on the land. For example, snow crabs live in the cold waters around Alaska, Greenland, Siberia, and Japan. However, the Florida stone crab is found in warmer seas in the Gulf of Mexico, on the coast of Florida, and in salt marshes in some US states.
Types of Crabs
Let’s look in more detail at some of the most popular types of crabs that you can eat. At the end of the article, you will also learn about a few crab varieties and different types of crabs that are rarely consumed.
Red King crab is a popular type of edible Alaskan crab
King crabs are one of the most common and best types of edible crabs due to their large size and delicate taste. In fact, species of king crabs are among some of the largest types of crabs on the planet.
From the many species of king crab, Red King crab (Paralithodes camtschaticus) is a popular type of Alaskan crab.
Red King crabs are generally caught in cold North Pacific seas around Alaska, such as the Bering Sea and Norton Sound.
When caught in the wild, Red King crabs have light brown jaggy body. This becomes a deep red color when cooked. This also gives a pink tinge to the edges of the savory Alaskan crab meat that you extract from the claws and legs.
Another type of huge Alaskan king crab is the Blue King Crab (Paralithodes platypus). This is not as large as the Red King crab, but can still weigh up to 18 lbs (8.2 kg).
Snow Crab (Rock Crabs)
Snow crabs (rock crabs) are a type of edible Alaskan crab
Snow crabs (Chionoecetes opilio) are also called rock crabs and are a type of Alaskan crab with long legs. This species of crab is also found in the cold seas around Alaska and in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Blue crab is a popular type of edible crab
As its name suggests, the Blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) has blue colored shell and legs when caught in the wild. These large-sized crabs are found in the waters around the East Coast of the US, the Gulf of Mexico, Japan, and Europe.
Apart from the blue color of its shell, one of the identifying features of this popular crab variety it the shape of its body (carapace). Rather than a round type of carapace, the side of a Blue crab’s body protrudes to a point.
Blue crabs are also a popular type of crab to serve as a soft-shelled crab. This is when a crab has just shed its outer shell (exoskeleton) and the new one hasn’t hardened yet. Usually, soft-shell crabs are consumed whole sautéed or deep-fried.
Another popular large variety of crab is the Dungeness crab (Cancer magister) which is brown to purple in color and has a hard shell.
Cooked Dungeness crabs take on a light pink to red color. Because the shell of Dungeness crabs is especially hard, crab crackers and shrimp forks are usually provided to extract the pinky-white sweet meat.
Florida Stone Crab
Compared to the size of other popular types of edible crabs, the Peekytoe crab is a medium-sized crab. Its carapace can grow up to 5.25” (13 cm) in diameter. It has smaller chelae than other popular crabs, such as the Florida Stone crab.
Japanese Spider Crab
Despite this large crab having a ferocious look of something out of a Sci-Fi movie, it is not an aggressive species.
Rather than being something to fear, the meat of a Japanese spider crab is a delicious delicacy. When it comes to taste, the spider crab has a sweeter taste than brown varieties of crab. Of course, the length of the long spindly legs means that it may take a bit of work to get all of the tasty flaky white meat out.
Southern European Crab
One type of edible freshwater crab is the Southern European crab (Potamon fluviatile). This is a type of green crab that is generally found in rivers and streams in Italy, Greece and the Balkans.
Compared to varieties of seawater crabs, the Southern European crab is tiny in comparison. An adult green crab may only average about 2” (5 cm) and they have been a popular food source for hundreds of years.
European green crabs have now become an invasive species in North America. You can boil them in a similar way to Blue crab and they have a rich sweet taste.
Brown (Edible) Crab
This is a medium-sized crab variety with the carapace being between 6” and 9” (15 – 22 cm) wide. An adult brown crab can weigh up to 6.6 lbs (3 kg) with about one-third of its weight being meat.
Coconut crabs vary in size and coloring
Although rarely on the menu, Coconut crabs (Birgus latro) are an edible type of land-dwelling crab. Coconut crabs inhabit islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans.
Hermit crab is a type of small crab that doesn’t develop its own hard shell
Hermit crabs make up a group of crabs in the Paguroidea superfamily and can include marine crabs and land hermit crabs.
Hermit crabs are not a true species of crab as they don’t belong to the Brachyura infraorder. These ‘crabs’ are more closely related to squat lobsters.
You can eat hermit crabs; however, they are generally quite small and not worth the bother. Actually, the coconut crab is a type of hermit crab. But unlike most hermit crabs, coconut crabs develop a hard, calcified shell for protection.