Have you ever eaten raw imitation crab? Imitation crab is a more affordable crab substitute often used in sushi salads and other seafood-based dishes. This fake crab substitute may look and taste like the real thing, although it doesn’t contain any crab. But do you have to cook imitation crab?
Imitation crab is already cooked when you purchase it. Therefore, you can use imitation crab straight from the package. When heating imitation crab, we recommend doing so for a short period to prevent the meat from drying out or losing its flavor. After that, you can serve it hot or cold.
Because imitation crab is such a highly processed food, you may wonder what it is made from. We will discuss how to serve imitation crab best, what it is made from, and if there are any health benefits from eating imitation crab. We’ll also discover if you can tell the difference between real and imitation crab.
Can You Eat Raw Imitation Crab?
You will often see imitation crab on the menu when visiting a sushi restaurant or seafood spot. When eating it as sushi, you may wonder if the imitation crab has been cooked or if you can eat it raw. Fortunately, imitation crab is already cooked by the time it is packaged. Therefore, you can eat imitation crab straight from the packet without care.
Imitation crab is processed seafood often used as a more affordable alternative to real crab in seafood dishes. Imitation crab has a similar taste and texture to real crab and, therefore, makes an acceptable substitute for the real thing.
Furthermore, imitation crab is available year-round, making it the perfect crab substitute when the real crab is not in season. Finally, because imitation crab is already cooked when it gets packaged, it serves as a quick and convenient protein to serve with your meal.
When ready to eat, remove the imitation crab from the freezer and place it in a bowl with room temperature water. Once the crab is thawed, you can add it to salad or California rolls for a quick dinner.
In addition, you can heat the imitation crab in the microwave, on the stove, or in a steamer for a few minutes. Because the imitation crab is already cooked, you only have to heat it through before it is ready to serve. However, don’t overcook the crab, as this will result in your imitation crab drying out and losing its flavor.
You can use imitation crab to substitute any dish that calls for crab or lobster. For example, use imitation crab to make affordable lobster rolls. Or roll imitation crab with cheese in spring roll pastry and deep fry it for the easiest and most satisfying crab spring rolls you have ever tasted. See here for some fantastic recipes with imitation crab.
Although imitation crab tastes and looks like a real crab, it seldom contains any real crab. So, what is imitation crab made of, you might ask?
What Is Imitation Crab Made Of?
While you might think there isn’t any meat in imitation crab, it contains leftover pieces of fish. Using fish scraps to avoid wastage caused the invention of imitation crab in the first place. Imitation crab originated in Japan, where it is known as surimi or kamaboko.
To make imitation crab, chefs would use scraps of white fish and other seafood they have leftover. First, they remove bones and skins from the fish, wash them, and work it into a paste. The fish paste is then pressed into molds and steamed to give it a firm texture. Finally, a thin layer of orange food dye is added to the top of the imitation crab to make it look like a real crab.
Therefore, even though imitation crab doesn’t contain any crab, it is made from seafood, such as pollack and white fish. Other things, such as starches, flavorings, and preservatives, are added to the fish paste to create the flavor and texture of imitation crab.
Imitation crab is also pressed into various shapes, including sticks, chunks, and strips. This allows you to decide which form of imitation crab you would like to use and to select the imitation crab that resembles the meat you are replacing.
Some imitation crab recipes call for the addition of crab extract to ensure the imitation crab tastes more like the real thing. However, apart from this, imitation crab doesn’t contain any real crab. But despite this, most people agree that imitation crab makes an acceptable substitute for real crab if you wish to save money and time while preparing a seafood dish.
Imitation crab is much more affordable than real crab. In addition, if you use imitation crab, you don’t need hours to cook and shell the crab to use the meat. Instead, you can simply take it out of the freezer, allow it to thaw, and your imitation crab is ready for use.
Although imitation crab contains fish and other seafood scraps, you may wonder if the additives and preservatives added to the fish paste make it unhealthy. Is imitation crab just as healthy as real crab, or are there some disadvantages to using imitation crab as a substitute for real crab in a dish?
Is Imitation Crab Healthy?
Nowadays, everyone is concerned about what they eat. For example, many people avoid food with too many preservatives and additives, as they feel these ingredients harm your health. Considering the number of additives, such as artificial flavorings, colorants, and preservatives added to imitation crab, it’s only natural to wonder if imitation crab is a healthy ingredient to cook with.
You’ll notice that they have nearly the same calories when comparing imitation crab to real crab. However, the real crab has more proteins, vitamins, and minerals than imitation crab. So let’s consider a side-by-side comparison of the nutritional value of imitation crab and Alaskan King Crab:
|Nutritional Value||Imitation Crab||Alaskan King Crab|
|Protein||6.5 grams||16.4 grams|
|Fat||0.4 grams||1.3 grams|
|Carbohydrate||12.7 grams||0 grams|
|Starch||3.5 grams||0 grams|
|Cholesterol||17 milligrams||45 milligrams|
|Sodium||715 milligrams||911 milligrams|
|Selenium||27% RDI (recommended daily intake)||49% RDI|
|Vitamin C||0% RDI||11% RDI|
|Magnesium||9% RDI||13% RDI|
|Folate||0% RDI||11% RDI|
|Vitamin B-12||8% RDI||163% RDI|
|Copper||1% RDI||50% RDI|
|Zinc||2% RDI||43% RDI|
|Phosphorus||24% RDI||24% RDI|
|Added Sugar||5.3 grams||0 grams|
As you can see, the real crab has a lot more minerals and vitamins, making it more nutritious than imitation crab. However, imitation crab is lower in sodium and cholesterol than real crab. So while imitation crab isn’t as healthy as real crab, it is also not considered unhealthy.
Dietitians recommend eating imitation crab no more than once a week because this dish has so many additives. However, suppose you don’t have any significant health concerns. In that case, you can safely consume imitation crab once in a while without worrying about the possible health effects.
One final question someone may have regarding using imitation crab is whether you can tell the difference between imitation and real crab. Although imitation crab is an acceptable substitute for real crab, can you tell the difference between the two?
Can You Tell The Difference Between Real And Imitation Crab?
Because imitation crab is often used as a substitute for real crab in various dishes, people may assume that the two taste the same. However, while real and imitation crab shares some taste qualities, you can undoubtedly tell the difference between them if you taste them side-by-side.
The first difference between a real crab and an imitation crab comes from its appearance. Real crab is mostly flaked when added to salads and seafood dishes. Therefore, you will see tiny pieces of flaked crab in your dish. On the contrary, imitation crab has a more uniform shape, and the pieces are usually larger than real crab.
In addition, an imitation crab has a very artificial color painted on its top. In contrast, a real crab has a pinkish orange layer on the outside. By looking at the two, you can clearly see the difference between imitation and real crab.
Of course, the biggest difference between real and imitation crab comes in the taste and texture of the two. Imitation crab has a denser and more rubbery texture than real crab. In addition, it is less flavorful and saltier than real crab.
On the contrary, the real crab has a naturally sweet taste. The texture is soft and flaky, and fresh crab tastes like the ocean without being overly salty. Therefore, you can always tell the difference between imitation and real crab.
However, just because one can tell the difference between the two, it doesn’t mean that you should be ashamed to serve imitation crab to your guests. Just don’t try and persuade them that they are eating real crab when it is, in fact, imitation crab.
Overall, imitation crab is an excellent substitute for real crab. It is more affordable and allows everyone to enjoy seafood whenever they want.
As imitation crab is already cooked when you buy it, you don’t have to cook it or heat it before serving. Instead, defrost the imitation crab before adding it to salads or your favorite sushi roll. Imitation crab is an excellent substitute for real crab and lobster as they have similar tastes and textures.
However, the real crab has more nutrients, such as proteins, vitamins, and minerals, than imitation crab. In addition, you can instantly tell which is which when comparing real crab and imitation crab side-by-side. Don’t eat imitation crab more than once a week, and add fresh seafood into your diet as well.