Dungeness Crab Vs. Snow Crab

Although a few thousand crab species exist worldwide, not all are edible, and less than twenty are known to the average consumer. The Dungeness and Snow crabs are two examples of the multi-legged, sideway walking marine arthropods. In addition, these two crab types are frequently rated amongst the top, most preferred, and tastiest seafood delicatessens.  

Dungeness crabs have larger bodies than Snow crabs but have shorter and thinner legs. Dungeness are typically eaten as a whole, whereas Snow crab legs are preferred over their body. In addition, snow crab has a brine, lightly sweet taste compared to the more noticeable sweet flavor of Dungeness.

If you are one of the many crab-loving consumers that don’t already have a preferred crab type, you may be confronted with various choices, which can be confusing and discouraging. So, of course, you can’t go wrong when you add the Dungeness and Snow crab options to your favorites list. But, before you do, let us give a detailed comparison break-down between these most sought-after sea delicacies.

Dungeness Crab Vs. Snow Crab: A Comparison

Let us start with the first fact. Crab is delicious and the most popular seafood cuisine enjoyed by many worldwide. Secondly, not all crabs are the same, and each differs in various ways. It is also true with Dungeness and Snow crabs, as they have many differences. Therefore, knowing what they are may ease and positively affect your decision to pick your favorite crab.

Dungeness Crab vs. Snow Crab: What is in a name?

It usually is fascinating to know where animals get their names. It is no different with these crabs; once you have learned the reason, it adds to their understanding and identification.

Dungeness Crab

The port of Dungeness, Washington, is responsible for naming the Dungeness crab. That is where they inhabit the waters along the North American west coast. In addition, if you work with or are more familiar than the average person with crabs, you call them Dungies, for short.

Snow Crab

Snow crabs get their name from their meat’s white or snowy color. In addition, many believe the term refers to the cold northern ocean habitat they prefer and call home. Their name differs in other parts of the world; for example, in Canada, they are referred to as Queen crab, or Spider crab, because their legs resemble a spider.

Dungeness Crab vs. Snow Crab: Habitat

Crabs have original or native habitats, but to enable everybody in the world to enjoy their tasty meat, they are exported from various countries and similarly imported. For example, China is the largest exporter, and Russia is the second largest producer of crabs.

Technically, there is a considerable lifespan difference between these two crab species. However, they rarely live beyond about six years because they are captured and consumed as part of the fishing industry.

Dungeness Crab

The habitat of Dungeness crabs is broad and spans the west coast of North America, Alaska, and Mexico. They are mainly sourced along the California coast and love sandy, eelgrass water bottoms.

The Dungeness crab has an average lifespan of about ten years. Therefore, only male Dungeness is harvested to ensure the sustainability of the species.

Also, their Washington and Oregon harvest season spans from December to August the following year. Alaska harvesting happens from the middle of June to September, and harvesting in Canada is mainly during May and June, followed by September and October.

Snow Crab

Snow crabs prefer the cold conditions of the North Atlantic and North Pacific regions. In addition, they are also found as far as the Arctic Ocean, Greenland, and north of Norway in the Atlantic Ocean. Other areas include the Sea of Japan, the Gulf of Alaska, and even as far south as California.

The Snow crab has an average lifespan of almost twenty years, about five years longer than Dungeness. Their harvesting season typically starts in April and extends to November. Not all, but most U.S. consumers get their Snow crabs from Canada, where they are harvested and exported across the border.

Dungeness Crab vs. Snow Crab: Description

Appearance is a prominent factor in identifying and distinguishing between crab types. For example, on a high level, Dungeness crabs have thinner and smaller legs, but their body is larger than the Snow crabs.  

Dungeness Crab

With their wide, long, hard-shell bodies, Dungeness crabs are the largest of the common edible crabs. In addition, their legs are somewhat curved, thinner, and smaller than the Snow crabs. They can typically weigh about three or even four pounds. Also, the Dungeness crab’s body length averages 8 to 10 inches. So naturally, a Dungeness will produce about 70% body and 30% leg meat.

Although they are large and heavy, because of the relatively small legs, they provide less leg meat per serving, and roughly 25 percent of their weight, is meat. Dungeness crabs have a brownish gray with a purple shine back. However, some Dungeness crabs have a lighter brown, rusty orange color, their underside is creamy, and typically, their claw’s tips are white.

Snow Crab

Snow crabs have a smaller and rounder body than Dungeness; however, they have longer and thicker legs. As a result, they grow to a similar weight of about three and sometimes four pounds. Also, because of their giant legs, they provide almost 20 percent meat of their total body weight.

Snow crabs are related to King crabs and are mostly legs than the body. Therefore, the body of a snow crab typically grows to only about 6 to 8 inches. In addition, the male Snow crabs can grow to almost twice the female size. Snow crabs are primarily orange or reddish when young and can change to darker green areas as they age.  

Dungeness Crab vs. Snow Crab: Taste

Most people find all the differences between crabs fascinating and informative. However, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Although both have a similar taste, many would argue that one has a more distinct flavor in comparison, which is a noteworthy difference. In addition, personal preference also plays a role as some may prefer one above the other.

Dungeness Crab

Firstly, The whole Dungeness is consumed as the crab’s body contains most of the meat. Secondly, they have a noticeable and prominent sweet taste. If you like sweet crab, go for the male Dungeness – Its flesh is firmer and even more endearing than the female. Many people love the soft and tender body meat, and others may prefer the somewhat firmer, less meaty leg meat.

Dungeness is home to the West Coast and probably the reason they are the favorite consumed crab in those areas. Some also describe the taste as a little salty with a nutty flavor, but overall, much more appealing in comparison to most other crabs.

Snow Crab

If you must categorize the taste of Snow crabs, it will probably fit in the mild flavor section. However, it may be a bit unfair to this Snowy Queen of crabs, as it is delicious with the legs containing more flavor than the body meat. That is one reason Snow crab legs are the most consumed line. The other reason is the legs being the meaty part of the Snow crab.

Compared to Dungeness, Snow crab meat is less sweet, thus mild in taste, but has a lovely medium briny flavor. Because of their meaty legs, restaurants will typically dish Snow crab legs in groups attached to a body portion.

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Dungeness Crab vs. Snow Crab: Affordability

In comparison to, for example, King crabs, both Snow crabs and Dungeness are on the more affordable end of the scale. However, prices vary because of various factors such as supply and demand. Other price influencing factors are an understaffed fishing industry and low stock levels.

Dungeness Crab

Dungeness crabs are more prominent in comparison and give more percentage meat per weight value; therefore, you get more value for your money. Unfortunately, there are delays in California’s Dungeness crab fishery due to coastal toxic levels.

The last two years have seen higher prices per pound of Dungeness crab, mainly due to demand as restaurants and fish markets were closed for long durations. In addition, prices fluctuate during the season, which starts in November and ends in July the following year.

Snow Crab

Snow crab legs are part of the more affordable crab types because they are managed by responsible sourcing. They also have a more extended harvesting season and are easier to locate. Nevertheless, the pricing of Snow crab is mainly determined by supply and demand. Sometimes, Snow crab legs will have lower demand than, for example, giant King crab legs and will be more affordable.

Unfortunately, like Dungeness, external factors have been weighing in on the supply of Snow crab recently. Low stock levels caused a moratorium on their harvesting resulting in low supply and high demand. This increased demand will influence their affordability.

Dungeness Crab vs. Snow Crab: Recipe Tips

Although crab is a sought-after seafood cuisine enjoyed in many top restaurants worldwide, you can order and purchase cooked crab from various distributors. In addition, because raw crab meat is so perishable, the wholesalers will pre-cook the meat. 

Dungeness Crab

Dungeness crab meat is ideal for adding to salads or a lovely sandwich for a delightful snack. In addition, if you haven’t had crab cake yet, put it on your bucket list. The first rule of cooking crab is never to overcook it. An advantage of purchasing pre-cooked crab is that it is ready to serve in cold dishes immediately.

The second rule is to reheat Dungeness crab meat slowly and try not to cook it again. Therefore, adding the crab at the end of your hot crab recipe is best. The good idea is to steam it to the right temperature lightly. Else, reheat and dish it up with melted butter for a quick, tasty snack. A salad, a creamy dressing, or a mustard vinaigrette typically works well when using Dungeness.

Because of its super sweet taste, you can blend it with mayonnaise and add some herbs or chili powders. It is then perfect for use as a sandwich filling or on a soft roll. In addition, Dungeness crab combines well with fresh herbs like chives and creamy dairy products. The sweetness will mix well with sour ingredients like pineapples or other citrus fruits.

Snow Crab

If you purchased pre-cooked Snow crab legs, you could serve them hot or cold. In addition, dipping those long, thick crabby legs in melted butter is a favorite of many. Also, salad, soups, and crab pasta dishes are other examples of tasty crab dishes. Always thaw snow crab legs thoroughly before cooking and similarly with pre-cooked and frozen crab legs.

Snow crab pairs well with a massive variety of flavors, including chili peppers, vinaigrettes, cilantro, lemon, shiso leaves, lobster mushrooms, butter, tarragon, mustard, avocados, grapefruit, yuzu, lime, lemon, mayonnaise or aioli, shrimp, bacon, onions, bell peppers and a wide variety of other vegetables.

Again, do not overcook the crab legs and never re-cook the pre-cooked crab. Instead, heat them just enough to prevent altering their original flavors or meat texture. You can boil, broil, steam, or grill Snow crab legs in the shell, or, as an alternative, you can remove the leg meat with a crab cracker. Clusters of Snow crab legs go well with a seafood boil. Then, for example, add potatoes and corn cobs.

Conclusion

Although these crabs differ in many ways, they have some commonalities, such as a similar sweet taste. In addition, both are harvested commercially for consumption worldwide. The predominant difference is that the Dungeness carry most of their meat in their body compared to the Snow crab, which is more known for their meaty legs.

In addition, both have a sweetish flavor, which is more pertinent in the Dungeness, while the Snow crab has a milder, brine epilate. Also, Snow crabs love the cold deep waters of the North Atlantic and Pacific waters, whereas Dungeness prefer the shallower sandy-bottom waters of the West Coast.  

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