Red King Crab Flavor Profile

Red King Crab Flavor Scale

Red King Crab is sweet, moist, succulent and rich.  The flesh is snow white with streaks of red.  It is the most prized of the three commercially available king crab species because they are the largest and have the most potent flavor.

Red King Crab vs Blue King Crab Flavor

Blue King Crab is equally as sweet as Red King Crab but has a milder flavor. Brown (Golden) King Crab is the mildest and least sweet of the 3 commercial species. Scarlet King Crab is very sweet with excellent flavor but the species is not abundant enough to fish commercially.

Alternate Names

King Crab, Alaskan King Crab, Blue king crab, Brown king crab (Golden king crab), and Hanasaki crab are all marketed as King Crab.  Crab as prepared on sushi menus is called Kani.

Red King Crab Description (Paralithodes camtschaticus)

Red king crab is the largest of the 4 king crab species (Red King Crab, Blue King Crab, Brown or Golden King Crab, and Scarlet King Crab), 3 of which are available commercially.  It is actually burgundy in color while alive, but turns bright red after cooking.  Red king crab can be very large, reaching a carapace width of 11 inches (28 centimeters) and a leg span of 6 feet (1.8 meters).  Males are larger than females and have an average harvest weight of 4 to 9 pounds.  They live from 10 to 20+ years.  Spawning usually begins in January and continues through June.

Red King Crab Fresh Availability

Fresh seafood availability chart: green areas show peak availability for fresh red king crab, gray indicates not available fresh.  The current king crab season is from October – January (2010-2011).  Frozen is available all year long.

King Crab availability and pricing can vary widely from year to year depending upon crab populations, ocean and weather conditions.  After 2005 the crab fishing rules changed to a quota system where each boat was assigned a quota based upon previous years catch and current crab population.  Due to this change, the following year the fleet dropped from 251 boats to 89.

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec


Range & Habitat

Red King Crab Legs jpgThis image by is licensed

Red king crab is mainly harvested from the waters of Bristol Bay and Norton Sound, Alaska.  They inhabit the sand and silt seafloor “plains” throughout the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, Sea of Okhotsk, Gulf of Alaska and the Kamchatka shelf at a depth of 360 to 600 feet.

In the 1960s it was transplanted by the Soviet Union into the Murmansk Fjord and Barents Sea north of Norway.  In the Barents Sea area king crab have become an invasive species, increasing their population at an alarming rate as they spread northward and westward.

Typical Wholesale Products

Fresh: Live, Cooked Sections, Cooked Legs, Cooked Claws, Meat.
Frozen: Cooked Sections, Cooked Legs, Cooked Claws.

King Crab legs are graded by the number of legs per 10 lbs.
Standard counts are: 6-9, 9-12, 12-14, 14-17, 16-20, 20-24, and 20-up.
For example, a 6-9 means there are 6 to 9 crab legs per 10 pounds. These are huge legs, averaging about 1 1/3 lbs. each!

Red King Crab Sustainability Info

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program has good info on King Crab. U.S. king crab is currently well-managed; however most Alaskan king crab populations are recovering from previous over-fishing. As of September 2015 Seafood Watch lists Red King Crab from Norway Barents Sea as a “Best Choice”, and from the US Pacific as a “Good Alternative”. King crab which is imported from Russia is ranked as “Avoid.” Currently, king crab is only a wild caught product. But sustainable farmed king crab is being attempted and may be available in the market place in a few years.


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