Snow Crab Flavor Profile

Snow Crab Flavor Scale

Snow Crab have a sweet, delicate flavor, snowy white meat with a rather stringy or fibrous texture.

Alternate Names

Tanner Crab, Queen Crab, Spider Crab, Alaska Snow Crab

Snow Crab Purchasing Consideration

Some Snow Crab have barnacles, black spots or molting on the shell. These are called “dirty” crab because of their apperance and is an indication that they have not molted recently.  These crabs are often priced cheaper due to their appearance, but this does not affect the quality of the crab, and in fact indicates that they are meatier because they have not yet moted.

Baird Snow Crab is considered to be a more premium crab than Opillio Snow Crab.

Snow Crab Description (Chionoecetes) 

Snow Crab-Chionoecetes bairdi jpgCreative Commons Image source

Snow Crabs are decapods (10 legs) with pincer claws on their front pair of legs. They have orange colored shells and can live over a decade with most adults reaching 1 to 4 pounds (0.45 to 1.8 kg), usually after about five years.  There are seven species of crab which are marketed as Snow Crab:

  • Chionoecetes angulatus  – triangle tanner crab
  • Chionoecetes bairdi  – tanner crab or bairdi (Alaskan Snow Crab)
  • Chionoecetes elongatus
  • Chionoecetes japonicas  – beni-zuwai crab
  • Chionoecetes opilio – snow crab or opilio (from Atlantic and Pacific Oceans)
  • Chionoecetes pacificus
  • Chionoecetes tanneri  – grooved tanner crab

Snow Crab Fresh Availability

Fresh seafood availability chart: green areas show peak availability, light green show limited availability, gray indicates not available fresh.  Frozen Snow Crab is usually available all year long.  The Alaskan Snow Crab season opens in January and lasts until a pre-determined quota is caught (typically within one month). Russian opilio is caught from September through December on a quota system, and Canada’s Maritime season in Quebec, Newfoundland, and  New Brunswick runs from May through August also on a quota system.

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


Range & Habitat

Snow crab are caught as far north as the Arctic Ocean, from Newfoundland to Greenland and north of Norway in the Atlantic Ocean. In the Pacific Ocean they are caught in the Sea of Japan, the Bering Sea, the Gulf of Alaska, Norton Sound, and as far south as California for Chionoecetes bairdi.  Snow crab are fished at depths of 30 to 1500 feet.

Typical Wholesale Snow Crab Products

Snow Crab Legs jpgThis image by is licensed

Snow Crab clusters has two grades: #1 (bright-shell) and #2 (dark-shell).  They are commonly sold as Sections, Snap-and-eats, Splits, Cocktail Claws, and Meat.  Common packing is as follows:

Sections (halves of cleaned crab) 8-12 oz and 12-16 oz each.

  • Bulk Sections (meaning un-sized)
  • Sections under 5 oz
  • Sections 5 – 8 oz
  • Sections 8+ oz

Cocktail Claws size graded as follows:

  • 9-12 per pound
  • 12-16 per pound
  • 21-25 per pound
  • 26-30 per pound

Cleaned Meat is sold as: Merus (all leg meat), Fancy (mix of leg and body meat), and Salad (body meat only).

Snow Crab Sustainability Info

As of September 2015 Seafood Watch has the following ratings for Snow Crab:

  • Best Choice – U.S. Eastern Bering Sea
  • Best Choice – Canada Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence
  • Good Alternative – Canada Newfoundland, Labrador
  • Good Alternative – Canada Eastern Nova Scotia


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