What's The West Coast Dungeness Season Looking Like?

cooking/cleaning whole crabs isn’t difficult, but it IS a mild-to-moderate pain in the ass, requires at least a little knowledge/research (which bits CAN I eat? Which bits SHOULD I eat? How do I open the thing without smashing it with a hammer?) Many, even most (?) people are willing to pay extra to not have to worry about these questions.

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I agree I’d rather just buy it frozen. Luckily where I shop, they’ll have the “previously frozen” stuff behind the counter but also will have the still frozen stuff either in the back or in the regular freezer section.

My guess is - especially with shrimp or prawn - they thaw for the customer who only wants a smaller portion than the original packaged portion size. Or maybe they just need to fill up some space in the counter section.

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Ok… that is a good point, IF it all comes frozen together. Maybe the swordfish steaks are all in a frozen together block that needs thawing to separate, or perhaps they get larger cuts of fish that require thawing to butcher. But Shrimp or whole Dungeness crabs!? (c;

Maybe folks think it is fresher if it is in the seafood case opposed to selecting it out of the freezer, but up here… almost everything in the “fresh” seafood case is from frozen, which is usually why I ask to smell it before purchasing (and there are way too many fails).

I’m not usually negative, and I know I’m fortunate to have a choice, but a post about the crab season, then referencing frozen Dungeness is a crushing disappointment!

Granted it’s work, but it’s only a few months, and that’s if we are lucky.


Not sure I get what you mean. Where I live now there’s no access to live crab, so cooked, frozen is our only option (other than canned).

I do understand that not many have the option, and I apologize for my “parish-pump” behavior.


“Granted, it’s work” meant, if it is available to you, recognize that at least in my opinion, you should at least try it “fresh”, as it tastes very different, even compared to when cooked hours prior.

I’m sure it’s all good, but the fresh is something I wait months for.

Two questions
Do you know if they have it live in tanks in Sacramento?
If it’s frozen, what difference does the season make?

They DO have it live in tanks in Sacramento. The main place I’d try is Sunh Fish (1313 Broadway). I’ve gotten them there for a couple of years in a row now. It’d also be worth trying some of the Asian markets in town (99 Ranch, SF Supermarket) that have relatively sizable live sections.

I always feel incredibly guilty not using the ‘crab butter’ fully. I’ll mop up some of it with some bread, but I KNOW there’s more I should do with it, and the shells. But you have to get that stuff out of the house THAT NIGHT or in the morning your kitchen garbage is gonna require a respirator to deal with.

There are 99 Ranch in Sacramento?

It might help to know some years the “butter” is not considered safe.

I freeze the shells and fiddly claw pieces the same night (to make stock for gumbo), but yeah; the rest of it; “off you go!”

I don’t… but even if they do, it’s two hours round trip to get it (can’t justify that).

None I suppose.

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99 Ranch is on Florin road just west of, uh, 99. :slight_smile:

I know about the butter not always being safe, but as far as I know, you’d have to eat quite a bit of it, or eat it quite often, for even the ‘unsafe’ years to make an otherwise healthy adult sick. But I’m only vaguely recalling info I ‘heard somewhere once’, so I’m happy to be pointed to better info.

And yeah, using the shells for stock is the move I WANT to make, but freezing the shells never crossed my mind! Do you just rinse off whatever gets left in the shell bowl, put it in a couple of layers of ziplock and chuck it into the deep freeze?

I might have to do that so I can have crab stock next time I want garlicy shrimp pasta…

You are absolutely right! Growing up in Culver City, Redondo Beach, Santa Monica, and Carlsbad, as a certified diver since the age of 13, fresh abalone, clams, mussels, lobster, urchins, and a bunch of other stuff was a given. But for crab (my all time fav Alaskan King), I just went out and ordered it at dozens of places in the 'hood that did it up big time for what was then a reasonable price.

That crab, clams, and the abalone are the things I miss most in modern times. Now-a-days I have come to the realization that everything will be frozen. But if you live in a place where you have the opportunity to buy fresh, ya gotta do it!


Yes, although I smash up the backs a bit ( which I understand don’t add much flavor) so I can fit more, and smash sharp edges so they don’t poke holes in the bag. I think the fiddly claws and picked body pieces make the most difference, and as the season goes on, I pick the crab less and less meticulously.

Melanie Wong on Chowhound had a great thread, about streaming them, among other things.

I remember a recipe where the tomalley is finishd with butter in the backs. Not sure, but there’s this.

Welp. That settles it. I’ve been boiling with a bay leaf or two for I don’t know how long. Never tried steaming because I kept looking at steamer baskets thinking “no way could I make it sit in there still kicking.”

But… duh. It’s it’s own basket.

Steaming next time FOR SURE.

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I’m not going to lie; they do put up a fuss, and I do them one at a time. :grimacing:

I will spend hours, really!, taking the meat from the Dungeness I buy, but only after gorging on at least a whole crab. The Dungeness comes to my grocery store pre-cooked and when I have bought it in the past I demand to give it the sniff test before asking the clerk to package it up. I freeze the picked over meat in 1-2 cup portions in vacu type seal bags and then those go into a zipper lock bag. I never can get enough to last through the year. I will save and freeze the butter and I use all the body and leg parts except for the end ‘nail’ and the gills for stock. It takes a long time, but for me it is worth it. I eat Dungeness three ways: cracked with lemon and maybe some homemade mayo, in a hot crab open faced sandwich or in a crab quiche. I once had a wonderful curried whole crab at a Chinese restaurant in Oakland and it was divine but a little messy. When I was a kid and when my mother, the cook in the family, would go through all this work she’d have to put the cats outside because they would cry and cry for crab. Our cats now have no idea how great Dungeness crab is.


Thank you!


The ocean is now closed to crabbing through Nov. 30. Crabbing in bays and estuaries remains open.

Bay crab limits are coming out of Garibaldi. Bay crabbing in Newport remains hit and miss. Crabs have hardened and are full of meat.

In addition to Dungeness crab, another Oregon native present in some of Oregon’s estuaries is the red rock crab. Look for them in larger bays with jetties and other rocky habitats. Crabbers can retain 24 red rock crabs of any sex or size. There have also been higher numbers of Pacific rock crab in Yaquina Bay. This crab counts as your “Other” shellfish, which has a daily bag limit of 10 in aggregate with other species that fall in this category (see page 82 of the fishing synopsis for more details). While they look very similar to red rock crab, their long antennae and large claws distinguish them; they sometimes have spots on their abdomen.

Some crabbers in estuaries may also encounter non-native European green crab in their catch this year. While they look similar to Oregon’s native shore crabs, identify them by the three prominent bumps between the eyes and 5 spines down each side of their body (carapace). They are not always green and color is not a good identifying feature. The daily catch limit for European green crab has been increased to 35 per person per day. European green crab can be any size or sex. Learn more about this species."