You may love the crab cakes you get at your favorite seafood restaurant and wonder if you can recreate the savory dish at home. Crab cakes are usually pan-fried or baked in the oven.
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Find out how to cook store-bought crab cakes (and how to make your own from scratch) with a few easy methods.
How you cook prepared crab cakes may depend on your recipe or brand. Traditionally, crab cakes are pan-fried, but you can also bake them in the oven, too. Whichever method you use, be sure to cook crab cakes until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Bake Crab Cakes
When cooking crab cakes that have already been prepared, the best method is the one recommended on the box or recipe. When it comes to healthier cooking options, baking makes the better choice.
Things You'll Need
pre-made crab cakes
Here's how to cook pre-made crab cakes in the oven:
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Coat your baking sheet with spray-on oil and place your cakes on the sheet.
- For thawed crab cakes, bake for 15 minutes, turning them halfway through to make sure each side is golden brown. If you're cooking crab cakes that are frozen, bake for 25 minutes, flipping halfway through.
How to Fry Crab Cakes
Baking may be healthier, but crab cakes are traditionally fried. Instead of butter or lard, saute with a neutrally flavored vegetable oil, such as canola. Crab cakes can be sautéed, shallow-fried or deep-fried (a non-stick pan will make the job easier).
Things You'll Need
pre-made crab cakes
Here's how to pan-fry crab cakes:
- Preheat your skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add a small amount of oil.
- Cook your crab cakes until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes per side.
If you're cooking crab cakes that are frozen, be sure to thaw them in the refrigerator before frying. The temperature of a frozen crab cake may lower the temperature of your cooking oil, which may affect the quality of your crab cake.
Because crab cakes can vary in size and ingredients, you should only use the cooking times as a guide for doneness. How long to pan-fry crab cakes depends on safety: The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS) suggests cooking crab cakes until they reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F to kill any foodborne pathogens and prevent foodborne illness.
How to Broil Crab Cakes
Popular New England crab cakes are traditionally made by deep-frying the crab meat patties, but broiling instead helps reduce the fat content for a healthier entree.
Things You'll Need
1 cup crab meat
1/2 cup starch
1/2 to 3/4 cups liquid
Here's how to make broiled crab cakes from scratch:
- Combine the crab meat and a starch of your choice in a large mixing bowl. Starches could include breadcrumbs, dried bread pieces, crushed-up crackers or cooked mashed potatoes.
- Gradually add liquid to the mixture until it is moist enough to form into cakes. While mayonnaise and butter are common moistening elements, they are both heavy on the fat. Substitute egg whites, low-fat milk or low-fat mayo instead.
- Mix in the yolk of one egg for heavier cakes, or the white of one egg beaten until it forms soft peaks for a lighter, fluffier cake.
- Mix in any flavoring elements, such as mustard, Worcestershire sauce, finely chopped onions or celery, seafood seasoning, fresh herbs or lemon juice.
- Form the mixture into 1/2 inch-thick patties. Form the cakes gently and don't compact the mixture, as the cakes will become very dense.
- Dip each cake in breadcrumbs if you want the outside to be extra crispy.
- Place the cakes on a greased broiling pan and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Chilling the cakes allows them to bind properly so they stay together during cooking and serving.
- Preheat your broiler. Place the broiling pan 5 to 6 inches beneath the heat element and broil the cakes for 8 to 10 minutes on each side, or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
Make Your Own Crab Cakes
Frozen crab cakes may be convenient, but you can prepare crab cakes ahead of time and then cook when you're ready to eat them.
Making your own crab cakes from scratch allows you to retain control over the ingredients, which means you can use real crab meat, whole-wheat bread or whole-grain breadcrumbs and your own seasonings to add flavor without all the sodium.
If you're not a fan of mayonnaise, use milk to add moisture. Or skip the moistening agent altogether because your eggs provide moisture in addition to acting as a binding agent.
According to the USDA FSIS, when freezing food for later use, you want to freeze it as rapidly as possible. Consider placing your formed crab cakes on a baking sheet and then in your freezer, which may help them freeze faster. After about 2 hours in the freezer, transfer your crab cakes to a freezer-safe sealable container, and then label and date it.
Crab Cake Nutrition
While no crab cake recipe is the same, the basic ingredients include crab meat, bread or breadcrumbs, a moistening agent such as mayonnaise or eggs to bind the patty together and various herbs, spices and flavorings.
Given that crab cakes can vary depending on the maker, so can the nutrition. Your prepared crab cakes may contain a list of ingredients beyond the basics, especially the frozen varieties.
According to the USDA, one brand of frozen crab cakes contains various types of seafood including pollock and squid along with the crab meat, as well as potato starch and artificial crab flavor.
A 3.5-ounce serving of this frozen crab cake has:
- 165 calories
- 12 grams of protein
- 6 grams of total fat
- 15 grams of carbohydrates
- 825 milligrams of sodium
In addition to the long list of ingredients, these prepared crab cakes contain a significant amount of sodium. Americans already eat too much sodium, which contributes to high blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.
Ideally, you should be limiting your daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams or less. Your prepared crab cakes may make it difficult for you to stay within the recommended range if you're not cutting back elsewhere.
- Food Time Line: "Crab Cakes"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Crab Cakes"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Crab Cake"
- American Heart Association: "How Much Sodium Should I Eat Per Day?
- Mayo Clinic: "Crab Cakes"
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart"
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Freezing and Food Safety"
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Refrigerator & Freezer Storage Chart"