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Condescending to Cook Canned Crabmeat Crab Cakes

 Guys!!! How come you have time to answer silly questions such as [mocking comments about other people's questions deleted — ed.], meanwhile I am here waiting forever to get a simple answer to a rather important cooking dilemma: can I for budgetary reasons use canned crabmeat for my crab cakes and how can I minimize that "canned" taste? And what's the best brand to use? And do you have any good recipes? Please, please, please, have some understanding!!

 This is a question that separates (in sexist terms) the men from the boys, or (in culinary terms) the cutting-edge food snob from the old-fashioned get-dinner-on-the-table home cook. And it sounds like you're a food-snob wannabe on a home-cook budget.

People have been making crab cakes with canned crabmeat for decades. Our older and more mainstream cookbooks have recipes by the score. Our newer and more upscale cookbooks generally either don't mention the existence of canned crab or specify fresh. Partly this is because fresh and better grades of crabmeat are more broadly available across the country these days, and with access to better quality, our collective expectations have gone up. The end-of-the-millennium Joy of Cooking (Canada, UK), for example, written largely by a committee, calls for fresh lump crabmeat, while earlier versions of the book, written by Irma Rombauer and her daughter Marion Rombauer Becker, do not assume you can either find or afford fresh lump crabmeat. Sadly, most current books imply that you might as well not bother if you can't use fresh meat.

We disagree. Canned crabmeat can be delicious. In our opinion, a canned crabmeat crab cake is clearly better than no crab cake at all. But the question that matters is, will canned crabmeat crab cakes satisfy your taste buds? That is a question for which we have no answer. If all you've had are well-prepared lump-meat crab cakes served in a good restaurant, homemade canned crab cakes may be a let-down.

We are not familiar with all the brands of canned crabmeat on the market, although we know that mainstream canners Chicken of the Sea and Bumble Bee Seafoods (Bumble Bee and Orleans brands) both market relatively inexpensive crabmeat.

A related question may be, what variety or grade of meat is in the can? You can find lump meat (large chunks picked from the body or backfin) in cans, just as you can find canned Dungeness crab. On a budget, however, you will probably need to settle for flake or regular crab, which comes from all parts of the body, and may be blue crab from the East Coast of the United States, but is as likely to be other varieties that come from Thailand or Indonesia.

Soaking the meat in ice water for 10 minutes, then draining it and patting it dry will take out a lot of the "canned" taste. Some brands of crabmeat have layers of parchment paper in the can between the top and bottom lids and the meat to inhibit the transfer of that metallic taste. But we have heard this is primarily used by canners in countries with less-developed metal plating processes, so may be more useful as a warning sign than as a real benefit. As you would with any crabmeat, you should pick over the pieces to remove all bits of shell or cartilage that slipped into the can.

Finally, Mr. Pushy, we won't have you bad-mouthing our other questioners — their questions are important to them, even if you think they're insipid and moronic and we shouldn't be wasting our time answering them. If anyone is going to bad-mouth our readers, it's going to be us.

Now that that's settled, you can try this recipe for East Coast Crab Cakes.


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