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Crab Feast Food Fight: Maryland vs. Louisiana

Maryland crab feast

Maryland crabs look like they came straight out of the sand; it's really just loads of Old Bay seasoning.

I grew up in Maryland. My husband-to-be hails from Louisiana. Though our hometowns were quite different, one thing unites both states: seafood. We both grew up digging into hard-shell crabs on tables spread with butcher paper, learning as young tykes how to extract as much meat as possible from each one. But that’s where the seafood similarity ends. We happened to visit both families on back-to-back weekends this summer, which presented the perfect opportunity for a regional crab smackdown.

The first time my fiancé experienced a Maryland crab feast, he was confused. “What are these for?” he asked, holding up a small wooden mallet. That’s what we Chesapeake Bay devotees use to crack crabs, along with a pointy-ended plastic knife to help get the meat out of every nook and cranny. In Louisiana, they use metal crackers. In my neck of the woods, those are exclusively for lobster and would never grace the table at a crab feast.

Crab mallets

The necessary tools for crab-feasting in Maryland.

Then there’s the question of seasoning. Old Bay is Maryland’s pride and joy. A generous amount of this regional seasoning is heaped over any pile of freshly boiled crabs, and it also seasons the cooking water. While heavy-handed seasoning is a trademark of Louisiana cuisine, strangely enough, their crabs are not as flavorful. They’re cooked in water with special “seafood boil” seasoning mix, but nothing is dumped on top of the cooked crabs like I’m used to. Thus, the Louisiana seafood boil is a little less messy.

What about the quality of the crabs themselves? I find the Maryland blue crab meat a little sweeter, more delicate. But as my fiancé would counter — and unfortunately, he’s right — many of the crabs served up in Maryland these days come from Louisiana. If you’re eating crabs on the Chesapeake in the off-season, chances are they didn’t swim in the water you’re looking at, but came from the Gulf of Mexico.

Louisiana seafood boil

Perks of a Louisiana seafood boil: Less mess and crawfish!

Next consideration: What’s on the seafood spread in addition to crabs? Peel-and-eat shrimp are common in both locations. Corn on the cob is, too. But in Louisiana you get crawfish — pounds and pounds of the little guys. This forgives the lack of Old Bay in my book — once I got the technique down, I became an addict. For more on that, check out our Southern expert Nealey Dozier’s post on How to Host a Crawfish Boil.

Where do your crab loyalties lie?

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Comments (1812)

  1. RON posted 04/10/2012

    Maryland Crabs: hard shell, soft shell, crab cakes, crab stew are better in Maryland than any place else on the planet. Don't give this a second thought. It is the "Gospel". Period, the end, finis!!!!! I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and my whole family is from there so take it from me……I know what I am talking about. The oysters are also very good in Maryland. Also have relatives in Louisiana in the Breau Bridge/Lafayette area, Cajun Country. Crawfish, Shrimp, Catfish are "King" from this part of the country. You can't get any better! Oysters are also very good. Long Island, NY is where I live now. Little Neck Clams, Mussels, Oysters, almost any kind of fish are now what we are known for. Lobsters have disappeared!! Massachusetts and North….Lobster!!!! You need ice cold water to sweeten the lobster. Seafood is expensive, so if you are going to spend the money for quality seafood, you have to know what you are doing. To sum it all up…….If I had to pick one………Maryland. Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs!!!!!!!!!! For me, there is nothing better!!!

  2. aav amphibs posted 07/05/2012

    I gotta go with Louisian for seafood. Can't beat the cajun cooking. I am from Maryland. I do give Maryland crabs the advantage with the old bay and steamed crabs. Louisian likes to boil everything. But as far as shrimp, its Louisiana, gumbo, Louisiana, rice, Jambalya, red beans and rice, coffee, desert, its Louisiana. Louisiana is king of seafood overall. Maryland has better clamb chowder and crabs but everything else is better in Louisiana. You have to admit it. The warm waters of the Gulf is definately seafood haven, and shrimp thrive there in huge amounts, same for the crawfish. I just made a batch of the blue crab, getting ready to eat it, all drenched in OLD BAY and steamed in beer. I live in Texas. I can get them at an asian market, I paid 1.99 per pound. I bet I got a dozen for just over ten bucks. Yesterday I paid double. For some reason, they were on sale today, not very meaty though, a bit small but its great for the amount I paid for and I cook them MD style.

  3. aav amphibs posted 07/05/2012

    Oh, I give Maryland crab cakes the edge too, very high marks. LUMP CRAB CAKES! Expensive as hell but very good indeed. Oysters and clams very good up in MD.

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