If you’re not in the mood to listen to some complaining, it won’t hurt my feelings if you skip this part, but I could not write about Maryland crab cakes without getting the following off my chest..
Maryland crab cakes DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT, contain bell peppers..or celery..or onion..or any other vegetable..but especially not bell peppers. So when I see “Maryland-style Crab Cakes” on a menu I always ask if they contain any of those no-no ingredients. I mean, who ever thought this was a good idea anyway?? Crab has a very mild, delicate flavor and bell peppers over-power just about anything, especially crab. Same goes for raw onions. Celery isn’t as strong, but still is not a traditional ingredient in Maryland crab cakes. Now, if you just can’t imagine a crab cake without some of these non-Maryland style ingredients, fine, have it your way..just don’t call them Maryland crab cakes. Ok, I feel better now.
So what DOES go into a Maryland crab cake? As little as possible. You have to have some type of binder..I normally use eggs, mayo, a little flour, and a little bit of cracker crumbs..just enough to hold the crab meat together so the cakes don’t fall apart while cooking, but not so much that they compete with or hide the crab. And Old Bay, of course, but not too much..again, you want to taste the crab, not just salt and seasonings.
The type of blue crab you use is up to you. Some people insist on using only lump crab meat, but it makes it harder to keep the cakes together while cooking. A good-quality backfin is perfectly acceptable in my book, and it’s what I used here. A happy compromise would be to use half lump and half backfin, which I think I’ll try next time. Whatever your choice, just make sure it’s not the fake stuff, not claw meat, and not the kind from the Chinese buffet. Again…you can make a cake out of whatever you want, but only certain ingredients make it Maryland-style.
A pound of crab meat will yield 4-6 crab cakes..not a lot considering how expensive the stuff is, which is about the only reason I don’t make these several times a week. Since I was feeding three I made 6 cakes, 2 for each of us. And of course, my son was looking for more after he finished his 2..sorry Tyler! If you want to serve them as an appetizer, you should be able to get 12-16 smaller crab cakes from this recipe. It’s easy to multiply this recipe if you’re feeding a crowd.
Handling crab cakes can be a little tricky, especially when they aren’t loaded with fillers. My trick is to place the uncooked crab cakes on a lined cookie sheet (parchment paper works best), cover with plastic wrap, then place them in the fridge for at least an hour. They firm up and are much easier to transfer to your skillet. It also helps to squeeze out any excess liquid when you’re forming the cakes, and form them into balls rather than flat cakes..you can flatten them a little once they’re in the pan.
The cooking method is up to you, although there are some that will swear it’s not a Maryland crab cake unless it’s broiled, others insist they have to be fried. I like them both ways and don’t think the cooking method is as important as 1. Using the right type of crab meat, 2. Minimal fillers, and 3. No peppers/onions/celery! (Ok, I’ll let it go…)
- 1 pound lump or backfin crab meat
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 Ritz crackers, finely crushed
- 2 tablespoons Canola oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Drain any liquid from the crab meat, then remove any pieces of shell, being extremely careful to not break up the lumps of crab while doing this. Set crab aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, mayo, lemon juice, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and Old Bay. Whisk the flour and crackers into the egg mixture.
- Very gently fold the crab into the egg and cracker mixture until fully combined, being careful not to break up the crab too much.
- Form the crab mixture into 4-6 equally sized cakes, gently squeezing out any excess liquid.
- Place crab cakes on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour so that the cakes firm up before cooking.
- When ready to cook the crab cakes, heat the oil and butter in a large well-seasoned cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium-low heat until butter is melted but not browned.
- Using a spatula, carefully remove each cake from the sheet pan and place into the skillet. Cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes per side. If the crab cakes brown too quickly, lower the heat and partially cover the pan (a splatter guard works well) to help the crab cakes cook inside without burning the outside.
- The crab cakes can also be broiled on low until golden brown, about 15 minutes. If they brown too quickly, move them to a lower shelf in the oven and keep an eye on them until done. When I broil them, I brush them with a little bit of melted butter first.