To choose the best canned crab meat, determine what grade is needed and whether pasteurization matters to you and ensure that the meat has not expired. All crab meat has a grade based on where it was taken from and its size; for example, broken meat is a lot less valuable than large chunks of crab meat, even though the taste is the same. Pasteurization is sometimes a matter of personal preference, but it can affect the quality of the crab meat to a noticeable extent. Lastly, canned crab meat usually has an expiration date, which should not be confused with a “sale by” date.
Look at your recipe to determine what grade of crab meat is best. Colossal and jumbo lumps are the best sections of meat on a crab, closely followed by super lump. These sections can be used for anything, but they are most often saved for dishes where crab meat is the focus. The next grade is backfin, which is broken pieces of better grades and also suitable for crab cakes and salads. Next is special, which consists of small pieces of crab meat, but the special grade is still very versatile. Lastly, claw meat is brown instead of white and has the strongest flavor, so it is primarily used with dips.
The best canned crab meat depends on what you are planning to make with it. A salad with a sprinkle of crab meat for added flavor can be made with just about any crab meat from a can. Crab cakes should be made with the highest quality canned crab meat available. High-quality crab meat is usually not pasteurized, and the label says to keep it refrigerated at all times. Pasteurization is done to kill harmful bacteria and give crab meat a longer shelf life, but it also kills helpful bacteria and diminishes the taste and texture of the meat.
Make sure the canned crab meat is within its expiration date. Sometimes expired foods are still safe to eat, though not recommended, but expired crab meat should not be eaten. It is possible for expired foods to cause food poisoning or at least ruin the dish they were added to because of their odd taste. While canned crab meat is sometimes expensive, the risk of using expired crab meat is usually not worth it. If the can had already expired by the time you bought it, consider asking the store for a refund.