Prepared crab cakes have to keep their shape during cooking to heat through evenly. If you brown the outside of the crab cakes properly, you know the interior has heated through because the inside steams during searing. You have to start the crab cakes cold so they're firm enough to hold their shape, no matter how you cook them -- sauteing, baking or deep-frying. All three methods get the job done, but sauteing makes the cakes look their best; baking requires the least work; and deep-frying comes in handy if you're cooking fries or something along with the crab cakes.
Place the crab cakes in the freezer, uncovered, about 10 minutes before you start.
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Take the crab cakes from the freezer and place them in the pan. Space the crab cakes about 1 inch apart.
Sear the crab cakes on the first side for about 2 to 3 minutes, then turn them over. Sear the other side for about 1 minute. The first side takes longer to sear because of the temperature drop when you first lay them in the pan.
Lower the heat to medium and fry the crab cakes for another 1 to 2 minutes. Tilt the pan towards you and spoon up some of the oil then pour it over the tops of the crab cakes once or twice during cooking.
Transfer the crab cakes to a plate lined with paper towels using a slotted spatula. Pat the tops of the crab cakes with a paper towel and serve immediately.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the crab cakes on a baking sheet oiled with cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Space the crab cakes about 1 inch apart on the pan.
Brush the tops of the crab cakes with a thin layer of oil. The oil helps the tops of the crab cakes brown faster.
Place the crab cakes in the oven. Bake the crab cakes for 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the crab cakes to the serving dish using a spatula and serve immediately.
Place the crab cakes in the freezer for about 10 minutes before you deep-fry them. Deep-frying is an aggressive cooking method, and getting the crab cakes very cold helps them hold together when you first drop them in the oil.
Heat about 4 inches of frying oil in a heavy-bottomed pan on the stove over medium heat. Check the oil temperature after 5 minutes with a digital thermometer and adjust the heat as needed to keep the temperature between 350 and 375 F.
Take the crab cakes from the freezer and lower them into the oil one at a time using a slotted spoon. Don't overcrowd the oil; you should be able to turn the crab cakes over in the oil easily when you need to.
Deep-fry the crab cakes until they start to float on the surface of the oil, about 2 minutes. Use a spoon or spatula to turn the crab cakes over in the oil when they start floating.
Cook the crab cakes another 2 minutes then use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels. Blot the tops of the crab cakes with paper towels and serve immediately.