What is it about king crab that makes it so much more expensive than other varieties like snow crab, and is the difference in flavor really worth the added price? A quality seafood restaurant will always distinguish which type of crab is being used in any particular dish; understanding which crabs you enjoy most and how they are traditionally cooked can make picking the right entree simple and reduce the risk that it will not be to your individual taste.
Blue crabs are the staple crab of the East Coast, named for their vibrant shells. Besides being abundant and relatively easy to catch, these crabs are many diners' favorites thanks to their sweet, tender meat. Blue crabs can be used in nearly any crab dish, ranging from chowders to cakes to whole legs and claws. Soft shell crabs, which are simply molted blue crabs, are particularly rare and sought after, and they can be eaten whole when prepared correctly, including by frying. If you see true soft shell crabs on the special board, they are well worth considering.
On the other side of the country, in the Pacific Ocean, dungeness crabs are the mainstay of seafood aficionados. Valued for their thick, meaty claws and legs and overall size, dungeness crabs are frequently served whole and cracked in half to provide better access to the succulent white body meat as well. You may, however, find dungeness crabs in any type of dish. Female dungeness crabs are smaller and typically thrown back when caught, leaving only the quality males for dining purposes.
Snow crabs resemble nothing so much as giant sea spiders, with small bodies perched on long, plump legs. Their legs and claws are their primary selling point, and that is how they are usually served. Snow crabs can be found in both the Pacific and the Atlantic, making them a popular fresh option on either coast and anywhere in between.
The most prized crab regularly sold in the United States is the Alaska king crab -- a giant, spiked monstrosity that dominates the cold coastal waters of the Northern Pacific. King crabs have very firm but juicy meat, particularly in their long, sturdy legs. King crabs are usually sold and served by their legs alone, since the spiny body is difficult to crack open and relatively small for the effort. Recent population declines and fishing hazards have made them a rare find in many restaurants today, so if your local seafood restaurant has them on offer, you may want to jump at the opportunity.