Dungeness Crab Flavor Profile

Dungeness Crab Flavor Scale

Dungeness crab has a sweet, mild and slightly nutty taste with tender body meat and leg meat which is slightly firmer.

Alternate Names


Dungeness Crab Culinary Notes

Dungeness Crab gifimage from ODFW is public domain

When preparing a whole crab for use, the viscera should be cleanly removed since it may contain heat-resistant bio toxins. The yellow substance inside the shell, which is sometimes called the crab butter, is the hepatopancreas, the digestive gland, which is equivalent to our liver and pancreas. Some people consider this a delicacy, but if it is from crabs taken from polluted areas then it may contain contaminants such as PCBs or heavy metals.

Dungeness Crab Description (Metacarcinus magister – formerly Cancer magister)

Dungeness crabs have light reddish-brown shells on the back with an underside which is white to light orange. Its claws are white-tipped. Male Dungeness crab can grow to a shell width of 9 inches (230 mm. Most commercially caught Dungeness crab weigh between 1 1/2 lbs (680 grams) and 3 lbs (1.4 kg).


Fresh Dungeness Crab Availability

Fresh seafood availability chart: green areas show peak availability, light green show limited availability, gray indicates not available fresh.  The Dungeness Crab commercial fishing season varies by region so the graph below is a mixture of several differnt fisheries.  Frozen Dungennes is available all year long.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
  • Oregon Dungeness Crab season: The ocean crab season along the Oregon coast begins on December 1 and continues through August 14. The peak harvest occurs between December – April  with up to 75% of the annual production landed during the first eight weeks of this period. https://www.dfw.state.or.us/MRP/shellfish/commercial/crab/index.asp
  • Washington Dungeness Crab Season: October 1 through April 15.  https://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/commercial/crab/
  • British Columbia: Dungeness crab is harvested in Canada all year long but most are caught from May to October. Although crabbing is open all year in Canada, crabs caught during the summer and early fall may have recently molted which results in soft shells and little meat.


Dungeness Crab Yield Percentage

Item To Meat without Shells Notes
Whole Crab 25% Depending upon molting and size Dungeness yield to meat varies between 13% – 30%


Range & Habitat

Dungeness Crab_Live jpgimage from ODFW is public domain

Dungeness crab is found all along the west coast of North America from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska to central California.

Typical Dungeness Crab Wholesale Products

  • Live – super chilled to dormancy; air-shipped “dry” in styro boxes with gel ice, box size/pack weight varies.
  • Fresh Whole-Cook – cooked, back on; packed in wet ice, “ocean run” or size graded in 25 lb. or 50 lb waxed boxes.
  • Frozen Whole-Cook – brine, air-blast or nitrogen frozen & water glaze; size graded 1.5-2 lb, 2-2.5 lb, 2.5-3 lb, 3-up; legs banded, individually poly bagged, packed in 30 lb box.
  • Frozen Section or “Cluster” – cooked, back off, eviscerated, brine, blast or nitrogen frozen and glazed; “soldier packed” in 20 & 25 lb boxes.
  • Single Leg – cooked IQF leg; packed in 10 lb & 20 lb boxes.
  • “Snap & Eat” – cooked IQF scored leg with shoulder meat attached; packed in 10 & 20 lb boxes.
  • Cocktail Claws – cooked IQF claw, shell tip removed; packed in 6/3 lb case.
  • Picked Meat – fresh & frozen; layered mix of body & leg meat(usually a 60/40 mix); available in 5 lb tins (6/5 case), 1 lb & 8 oz. tubs or cans , 1 lb pouches.
  • “Fry Legs” – fresh & frozen; picked merus leg meat only–very expensive.

Dungeness Crab Sustainability Info

The window below is a link to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program info on Dungeness Crab.  Size limits and restrictions on harvesting any female crabs are the primary conservation measures in place for the Dungeness crab fishery. Different fisheries employ different restrictions to maintatin the species.  Size limits vary  between 6 to 6 1/2 inches across the maximum breadth of the shell. This rule is designed to protect sexually mature males for at least 1 year and all female crabs since the female species rarely grow to this size. Other conservation measures being used by some fisheries include biodegradable escapement devices on traps to limit ghost fishing, escape holes to allow small crabs (including females) out of the traps, fixing the number of boats and traps along with seasonal closures.


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