The Great Stone Crab Debate a/k/a “Who’s Got The Crabs?” by CaptBonez

Published by Miss Prissy on April 15th, 2012 - in Prissy's Privilege
“Everybody seems to love stone crabs but not many people know or understand what it takes to get them.  Some friends and I have some recreational stone crab traps that we work during the 7 month season. The state permits us 5 traps per person: the traps are a 16 inch square ‘box’ made from either plastic or wood slats,

with a hinged lid on top and a ‘chute’ that lets the crab climb in but not out.  If the traps are plastic they must have at least one wood slat that will rot out and let the crabs out if the trap is lost or becomes a ‘ghost trap’. The bottom of the trap has 20-30 pounds of concrete in it to keep the trap on the bottom in tide changes and heavy currents.  Commercial crabbers have either electric or hydraulic winches to pull traps; us recreations guys are not permitted such luxury and have to pull them by hand.


Stone crabs are pretty unique critters; unlike most crabs we only keep the claws.

The crab is released to regrow the claws that are removed.  A crab can regrow claws to legal length three times in it’s life. We normally pull our traps once a week; some guys will let them sit or ‘soak’ up to two weeks.




Traps are baited with pig’s feet and scrap fish.

The fish carcasses only last a few days in the water and the pig’s foot lasts a week or even longer, the colder the water is.


Stone cabs have two types of claws: a cutter claw and a crusher claw. Most people tend to like the crusher claw because it has more meat.  In order to take a claw it must be at least 2-¾ inches long from along the bottom of the claw not including any part of the knuckle.


Stone crabs must be cooked within a few hours of harvest otherwise the meat will start to go bad; it will also stick to the shell.

There are lots of methods used but for the last 10+ years  I bring a pot of salt water to a boil, dump my claws in and set the timer for 12 min. The pot normally comes back up to a boil in 3-4 min. After the 12 min. is up I dump out the hot water and immediately pour lots of ice on the claws and then fill the pot back with water creating very cold slush.

I like to cool them quickly because it stops the cooking and also shrinks the meat so it will not stick to the shell.



Crab claws are classified into 4 different sizes starting with medium  at about 2 ounces each;

large are about 4 ounces; jumbo are 6 ounces and the big boys are the colossal at 8 ounces plus.  In over 10 years of pulling traps, the biggest claw I have found was just less than 15 ounces. It was as big as my hand.

(Note: No colossal claws were caught that day).



There has been a long standing debate over fresh vs. frozen claws. I have long maintained that most people cannot tell the difference between the two, especially after they dip them in sauce.  Prissy and I decided to put my theory to the test, with ‘The Great Stone Crab Debate’, a/k/a ‘Who’s Got The Crabs?’ After my weekly trap pull we had 24 medium sized claws fresh claws for the taste test,

so I thawed 24 medium sized frozen claws.



We arranged with our good friends Clayton and Val at Vino’s on Duval to host a taste test at their bar.

Kimberley a/k/a Bitchin’Paradise was working the bar so we had a place and a great bartender.



The plan was to sample 4 claws. Two would be sampled ‘naked’ with no sauce and two with mustard sauce.   Each tester would pick a number and receive a bag of claws.  Each bag had 4 bags labeled A, B, C, and D. One claw out of bags and A and B was fresh and one was frozen.  The same with C and D.   Claw A and B would be tasted ‘naked’, C and D would be with sauce.  The fresh and frozen were alternated so that not all bags label ‘A’ had fresh or frozen claws.

I was the only one with the answer key.



Hence, the tasting began…

It’s almost like Christmas!


Prissy picked lucky #7 but is her palate sensitive enough to discern fresh from frozen claws?

We’ll find out.



So there was discussion among the focus group, but since the fresh and frozen were random, there could be no cheating.

Not that any of these fine folks would do that.  Just sayin’.


More tasting…more ‘hmmmmm’ing’

More concentration.


Prissy completed her ballot.

Does she have the chops?


In the meantime, in walks KP to join the taste!

This was a lot of fun and Prissy & I thank Clayton, Val, and Kimberley profusely.  However, we had more claws and another test stop to make prior to compiling all the results.


‘Who’s Got The Crabs? Grand Vin’.


Winetender Andrew revealed that he never had stone crab claws and isn’t a huge seafood eater.  Still, we wanted his opinion.


Enter Kim on the right, another local who has never had claws.

Were they in for a surprise!  They loved them!


Another crew who just happened to be at The Vin that night:

Some faculty members of Florida Keys Community College.  Bring on the educators!


The results were very interesting. Out of 12 people only 1 person was able to tell the difference between fresh and frozen in both ‘naked’ and with sauce.

Meet Debbie and her husband (whose name we don’t remember).  Nice, nice people!  Prissy wished she bought a tiara because Debbie was the only one who could tell fresh from frozen in both categories.  The irony is that Debbie only eats seafood a few times/year but her husband eats it more often.  Go figure!


Surprisingly to me, only two people picked the naked frozen claw as fresh; everyone else got it right (Prissy included).  More shocking was that only two people got the sauced fresh or frozen right.  Yup, most people could tell the difference between fresh and frozen with no sauce but add the sauce and most people picked wrong.  I talked with a few of the tasters afterward; most agreed that there was not one thing or reason why they could tell, it was just a ‘feeling’.  Most also agreed that if they had a plate of claws in front of them, it would not matter.   I did ask a few other questions on the score cards.  Most people picked garlic and butter as their favorite dipping sauce and only one person preferred them hot instead of cold.”


While most of this review was done by The Handsome Captain™, some editing and picture commentary was done by me, Prissy 🙂










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