Soak Canned Crab In Milk For The Freshest Taste

Though canned crab is much less expensive than fresh crab meat, it sometimes comes with the challenge of tasting ... like it came out of a can. Weird, we know. Fortunately for your wallet and taste buds, there are a few methods you can use to liven up that canned crab again.

One of the best ways to restore canned crab's flavors is to soak the meat in milk. Crab meat naturally contains a compound called trimethylamine oxide, which helps protect the crustacean against water pressure and extreme temperatures. After the crab dies, this compound decays into trimethylamine, which is what gives its meat that characteristic strong, fishy odor.

When you soak crab meat in milk, however, an emulsifying protein called casein binds to the trimethylamine. Straining the meat then allows the stinky trimethylamine to leave with the milk. This makes sense, considering how the casein in yogurt can eliminate garlic breath. You're then left with canned crab meat that tastes and smells about as fresh as its non-canned counterparts.

Turn your canned crab into crab cakes

While the texture of canned crab isn't necessarily ideal for a stand-alone snack, it can make a delicious addition to other dishes. For instance, once you've soaked the canned crab in milk to remove the odor — and patted it dry to remove any excess moisture — you can enhance it with a variety of ingredients. Mix canned crab with zucchini, onions, and breadcrumbs to craft a decadent zucchini stuffed crab cake recipe. Alternatively, you can bulk up your crab cakes with meat, corn kernels, eggs, and any seasonings you have on hand.

To change up the flavor profile of your crab cakes and other crab-centric recipes without overusing the canned meat, you can add fresh scallops or pollock, though it's worth noting that fresh ingredients might be a bit pricier. Regardless, when used in moderation and with herbs, other seafoods can help highlight the best parts of canned crab.

Other alternatives to canned crab

We get it: even canned crab can be pricey, and if you're short on time, it might not be worth the necessary doctoring. If you're looking for another affordable alternative, you may choose to buy imitation crab meat, also known as surimi. Surimi is typically composed of various types of white fish — pollock, cod, tilapia, etc. — minced together into a fishy paste. The product maintains enough of a flaky texture to resemble crab meat, but the flavor understandably leans more toward fish than crab.

Of course, once imitation crab has been mixed with other ingredients, the lack of crabby flavor is less noticeable. What's more, if you consider surimi as its own thing, and not as a lower-quality crab alternative, you might just find its worth in versatility and a unique flavor profile. Besides, it may not be authentic crab or even whole pieces of fish, but surimi is still very much made up of real seafood. At the end of the day, whether you choose surimi over canned crab or the "real deal" depends on your budget and what you plan to use it for.