Crab cakes are one of the real American foods. Europe has seen an influx of our beloved blue crabs, and there they are an invasive species, taking over habitat and ruining local seafood fishing areas. Yet, they still haven’t developed a taste for these wonderful creatures, which would be the trick to their demise in the area- eat them! Blue crabs are one of America’s native creatures, and they are amazingly delicious. I absolutely love soft-shell crab, fried with a remoulade or sauteed with a meuniure sauce. “Cracking Crabs” at a crab boil is a big tradition all the way from Maryland to Louisiana. But, most luxurious of all, is a grilled crab cake. I’m not talking about those pale imitiations of some “krab” pre-formed mess dropped in a fryer. I’m talking about a real, honest-to-goodness crab cake. Further, I’m going to take it up a big notch with my Grilled nothing-but crab cakes!
What makes a Crab Cake?
Crab cakes are a generations-old recipe and tradition in the Americas. Crab cakes always usie cooked, picked blue crab meat. Binders such as egg, mustard, and bread crumbs, and usually a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and various seasonings are also added. Unfortunately, most “modern crab cakes” today are pre-made patties using inferior or imported crab. They are full of fillers and binders, and deep-fried. A truly reprehensible treatment of an amazing American tradition. My recipe does incorporate a bit of all the normal ingredients, but in small amounts only necessary to give the cake some adherence. While I like to season my cakes, I never overwhelm the main star of the show, the crab meat.
Grades of Crab Meat
There are many “grades” of crab meat available.
Claw crab meat is from the claw and has a distinct textural difference to crab meat from the body of the crab. It definitely has more flavor than the “white meat” and is preferred by many crab lovers.
Special-grade is basically leftover flecks and pieces of crab meat. While this works well in something like a crab dip, or bisque, it is not for that special crab cake dinner. In other words, they named it special grade because it’s not really special.
Backfin crab meat uses some flakes and smaller pieces from the backfins of the crab. This is a good topping for a salad, or pasta, or any dish where crab is an elemental flavor but other ingredients are foremost as well.
Lump Crabmeat– Ahh, here we go. This is generally the sweet spot for most good crab cakes and will work well in this dish. It will have enough texture and sweetness to carry through the proper flavor but not appear as a shredded mess in a cake. That is, if you handle it correctly.
Jumbo or Colossal lump– the best, most fantastic crab meat available. At home on a plate with a bit of seasoned butter or cocktail sauce, or amazing in this recipe. Beware, if you use it for anything other than enjoying on its’ own, then be careful to FOLD it into recipes. Gently FOLD. If you break it up, then you’ve turned $50 or $60/lb crab meat to $30/$40/lb crab meat. Jumbo lump comes from only the two main swimming muscles of the crab. There are only two pieces per blue crab, and blue crabs aren’t big. If someone screws up picking the muscles out, then they lose 40% right then. So this stuff had better be good!
On to the Grilled “Nothing But” Crab Cakes!
So, I go back and forth on grades for this recipe, and you are most welcome to do so as well. When I’m really wanting a special dinner, I use only jumbo lump crab meat. When I’m wanting an especially tasty dinner, I will use a half and half mixture of lump crab meat and claw grade meat. So, it’s ok to move this recipe between grades. I just wouldn’t recommend anything below lump crabmeat. The appeal of this recipe is the large pieces of crabmeat, where you can taste the crab, blended with the flavors of the “binders,” of which there are very few but they carry flavors and texture.
How to grill crab cakes
You can do almost anything on a grill that you can do in a kitchen. Allow me to rephrase- you can do more things on a grill than you can do in a kitchen. You can add more flavor, you can add nuance to recipes with different smokes. You can even add a caramelization that you just can’t do indoors. In short, you can make some dang tasty stuff on the grill, and these crab cakes are no exception. ‘
As I use minimal binders in this recipe, and god-forbid, don’t “bread them,” you’ll need to prep them on a baking pan and then cook them on the same pan. Make sure it’s a pan you are ok with putting on the grill. It doesn’t have to be a fancy pan, just a pan. Make the crab cake mix, then form them into 8 round balls, then place on your pan. A very light “tapping-down” may be necessary. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before cooking. 2-3 hours is even better to let the binders pull the flavors together. Then grill at high heat, and enjoy!
As always, get out there and grill!Print