Crab Cakes: A Primer for Eaties

Maryland Style Crab Cakes with Caper Garlic Aioli
Maryland Style Crab Cakes with Caper Garlic Aioli

“There is a saying in Baltimore that crabs may be prepared in fifty ways and that all of them are good.”- H. L. Mencken

After reading the definition of foodies in the Urban Dictionary and seeing that it could be a

“A dumbed-down term used by corporate marketing forces to infantilize and increase consumerism in an increasingly simple-minded American magazine reading audience…”,

I kept a sharp eye out for the black helicopters with food company logos offering to sell magazines.  While I was waiting, I decided I am more of an “eatie” than a foodie.  I don’t know if I coined a new word or not, but if it is a new word, then you heard it here first.

An Eatie is not a dumbed-downed term used by me.  It is a term I use when I think about the food that Yes!Chef! makes.  He’s a true Foodie…”A person that spends a keen amount of attention and energy on knowing the ingredients of food, the proper preparation of food, and finds great enjoyment in top-notch ingredients and exemplary preparation.”  An Eatie is a person who enjoys the fruits of The Foodie’s labor.  (You can steal this word from me, if you would like.)  So, I was most happy to be an Eatie to Yes!Chef!’s Crab Cakes.

I had a hankering to eat crab before it was out of season, and Yes!Chef! promised that he would make crab cakes if I picked up some crab at the store.  I was happy that crab was on sale at the grocery because I saved about $4.00 per pound. 🙂

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Because I am not very familiar with the ins and outs of crab cakes, I read up about them and discovered that the State of Maryland seems to have cornered the market on them. I know very little about Maryland (I’ve unfortunately never been there) and I know even less about Crab Cakes.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever tried a true Crab Cake.   But I read that there are two type of Maryland crab cakes:  the Boardwalk and the Restaurant.

“Boardwalk crab cakes are typically breaded and deep-fried, and are often filled with stuffing of various sorts and served on a hamburger bun.”

“Restaurant crab cakes, which are sometimes called gourmet crab cakes, are often prepared with no filler, and are composed of all-lump crab meat served on a platter or open-faced sandwich. Many restaurants that offer Maryland crab cakes will offer to have the cakes fried or broiled.”

It seems to me that the crab cakes Yes!Chef! made leaned more towards the Boardwalk style, although he did not serve them on a bun.  He served them on a bed of micro greens with a lemon dressing.  I added an aioli because I thought it needed a little somethin’ somethin’.  As I have mentioned before, Yes!Chef! does not care for mayonnaise or sauces made with mayo, but he agreed that the crab cakes could use a little sauce.  Don’t get me wrong…his crab cakes his way were very delicious.  They were not dry in the slightest.  It’s just my humble and somewhat uninformed opinion that proteins taste better with a good sauce.

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Flaky and Tasty!

The hardest or most tedious part of making this recipe is retrieving the crab meat from the crab.  I had asked the seafood guy at the grocery to clean the crab for me, but I forgot to ask him to crack it a little so that it would be easier to extract the crab.  Crabs are a little intimidating to look at and they guard their meat well.

They will snap your finger off
They could snap your fingers off

Seriously.  Who would approach a creature that had teeth growing on his hands?

crab cakes 1

Even upside down, the crab looks intimidating.

crab cakes 2But, we soldiered on and got almost a pound of meat from the two crabs.  The recipe calls for a pound.

crab cakes 3

Mise En Place

crab cakes 4

Panko is used as the binder (along with an egg).  If you have never used Panko before, you really must become acquainted with it.  It is a really, really crispy bread crumb found in the Japanese food section of your Super.  These crumbs stay crisp in even the most moist of circumstances.  They are magic.  You can use them on anything you bread or if you need to bind your meat (like meatloaf or…crab cakes.)  They are crumbs made from magic bread, I think.

Form into balls and then smash into patties
Form into balls and then smash into patties

Stick the crab cakes in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes to firm them up.

crab cakes 7Meanwhile, make the dressing for the greens.  Always taste to make sure it is seasoned correctly.

crab cakes 8Remove from the fridge, coat with Panko and place in a sizzling hot pan to brown up.

crab cakes 9

Beautiful, crispy, good!

20130302-_MG_8437 webPlace your greens in a bowl or on a plate and dress them.  Then add the crab cake (or cakes) and squirt a little fresh lemon juice on top.  You could also drizzle a little salad dressing on top, if you like.

Or…make some aioli sauce and put that on top.

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Here’s the recipe he used, which comes from the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen via Epicurious.

Baltimore Crab Cakes

Yield: Makes 6 servings

active time: 30 minutes

total time: 40 minutes

Crab cakes are so popular in Baltimore, they’re even sold at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Use lettuce instead of a bun, and serve with a squeeze of lemon.
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice plus wedges for garnish
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded, finely chopped
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over
  • 1 1/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 head Bibb lettuce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


Whisk first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add crab; fold to blend. Stir in 3/4 cup panko, chives, salt, and pepper. Divide into 6 equal portions. Form each into 1″-thick patties. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes. Line a platter with lettuce leaves.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place remaining 1/2 cup panko on a plate. Coat cakes with panko. Fry until golden brown and crisp, 3-4 minutes per side. Arrange atop lettuce; serve with lemon wedges.

Nutritional Information

Per serving: 233 calories, 14 g fat, 8 g carbohyrdates

And the Aioli Sauce:

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped chives
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons capers
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix the ingredients together and chill for 30 minutes.

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A little tip about food photography and flash…

Study the differences between the two shots below.  Which one do you like better?

on off camera flash crabThe above picture shows on camera flash (pop up) and off camera flash.  (I only use on-camera flash if I am held at gunpoint and told to use it or I die or if I’m in a backlit situation where I can use it as a little bit of fill light.)  The biggest difference you will notice is the very hard shadow caused by the on camera flash (top) vs. and softer shadowing on the bottom picture.  There is more depth and  realism to the bottom picture. It almost comes across as 3D vs. the top photo which appears to be one dimensional.

I realize not everyone can use off camera flash (someday I will show you my quickie set up for off camera flash in the kitchen.)  So, the next best thing is window light.  If you can’t use window light, then get this little device for bounced pop-up light.    I have one of these and they are convenient to use as long as the ceiling is white.  There are other devices that you can find to bounce or diffuse the light, but I have not tried them.

And if I had a knife pointed to my throat and was told to use either on camera pop up flash or overhead kitchen light…

Don’t make me pick between the two of them.

Enjoy your crab cakes.

Published by

Karen Schmautz


28 thoughts on “Crab Cakes: A Primer for Eaties

  1. I must say “NO” to the Yes!Chef!. The most crucial element of your crab cake recipe is wrong—the crab itself. Looks like a Dungeness crab in your photo. Absolutely the wrong crab for a real Maryland Crab Cake. The correct crab to use is a Blue crab, which is caught in brackish bays from Maryland to Florida. The definitive Blue crab is caught in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, which is why the classic crab cake is a distinctly Eastern Shore meal.

    Blue crabs have two small swimmers in back attached to two large internal muscles. That is where the “lump” crabmeat comes from. It would take at least 10 large crabs to get a pound of crabmeat for your recipe. But boy, is it worth it. Freshly steamed Blue crab has a delicate sweet flavor unlike almost any other crab.

    Try your recipe with real Blue carb, and you’ll see that the salad is completely unnecessary. Instead, try it napped with a buerre blanc, or, in the traditional Eastern Shore platter—french fries and cole slaw.

    1. I am sure that the Blue Crab makes the crab cake much more delicious. but, we do not have fresh blue Crab available where I live. We do have Dungeness Crab, so that is what we used. Someday I would love to go to Maryland and try the real thing. BTW, the information I read about crab cakes, and the recipe from Bon Appetit, indicated that the salad is an acceptable way to serve the crab cakes. Thank you for the information!

      1. A good substitute for Blue crab can be found at Costco. Phillips Seafood brand of backfin crab is $18 a pound there, and the crab caught in the Philippines is similar enough to the Blue to work well.

        And, hey, there is nothing wrong with a salad base for your dish, I was just suggesting a more traditional presentation—like many I have had over the years, as I grew up and still reside in the Free State.

  2. Just reblogged this post over on our travel site Take Ya There for several reasons. The recipe looks great, the photos are stunning, and your site is awesome. Keep ’em coming and we are loving the new look! P.S. salad seems to be a great way to serve this bad boy.

  3. Love those crab photos. And it’s my “humble and somewhat uninformed opinion” as well “that proteins taste better with a good sauce.” But those cakes look delicious even plain.

  4. Crabcakes, well-made, are sublime. I almost never order them because the result is usually more bread than crab, but a true lump-meat crab cake is to die for, expecially with homemade aioli. Great post. ken

    1. Thanks, Ken. I understand that lump crab would be better than the crab we chose, but that’s what we have fresh here. I would love to try it with the lump some day.

  5. I love crab cakes and cook them at home and order them in restaurants. I’m sure yours were absolutely delicious with the fresh crab that you used.

  6. Hi there! I’m new to your blog and after seeing this post I’ll definitely be following! I LOVE crab. I used to live on the east coast before I moved to Chicago (great foodie town, but the seafood can’t compare), and I miss crab and lobster oh so much. I’ve actually been thinking about adding a crab cake post to my gluten-free food blog, (please check it out) and you have definitely inspired me! I would need to use gluten-free panko crumbs though, which I love. Keep up the good work and hope you can check out my blog sometime!


    1. I love your blog and your wonderful videos! I’ve been wanting to add videos to the blog, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. Thank you for your encouragement!

  7. Karen, I love crab cakes with dungeness crab. We used to go crabbing at Dillons Beach in N. Cali and make crab cakes from the left overs from dinner the next morning. Crab cakes in a cast iron pan over a fire are perfect. Thanks for taking me down memory lane.

    1. I do love Dungeness, too. Just the smell of the crab reminds me of walking around Fisherman’s Wharf and picking up a fresh crab or a walk around shrimp cocktail. Makes me smile.

  8. Hey there, I think your site is perhaps having browser compatibility issues. Once I look at your internetsite in Chrome, it appears superb however when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I simply needed to present you a quick heads up! Other then that, superb blog!

  9. Hey would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re using? I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a tough time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique.
    P.S Apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

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