Spanner Crab

Ranina ranina

Spanner Crab
Species

Crabs

Description

Available wild-caught, these marine dwellers are found from close inshore to at least 100m, usually buried in sand from where they attack small bottom-dwelling fish. Their long, almost goblet-shaped, bright orange shells (even when uncooked) and spanner-shaped front claws are quite distinctive. Found around most of the Australian coast from NSW north to southern WA, they are caught commercially, mainly using dillies, but also as a bycatch of prawn trawling, off southern Queensland and northern NSW. The fishery has increased greatly since the early 1980s.

Other Names

Frog Crab, Red Frog Crab, Kona Crab (USA).

Family

Raninidae (Spanner Crabs).

Season

Available from January to October, peaking from July to October with the fishery closed for most of December.

Size and Weight

Commonly about 8.5cm in carapace width and 400g, but can grow to 15cm and 900g.

Price

Low-medium priced (though price is increasing as popularity increases).

Relations

Only commercially fished member of the Raninidae family.

To Buy

They are usually sold cooked, but are occasionally available live. It is best not to buy dead uncooked spanner crabs, as it’s difficult to tell how long they’ve been dead.

Crabs should feel heavy for their size and have their legs and claws intact. Look for firm, intact shells, without any discolouration, particularly at joints, and a pleasant fresh sea smell.

If possible, give them a gentle shake to ensure there’s no sound of sloshing water. Males are larger and more common than females. Females with eggs are protected.

To Store

Live Crabs should be consumed as soon as possible after purchase. Place in a container, cover with damp paper or cloth and keep in the warmest part of the refrigerator, which is usually the crisper (optimum 5°C). Once cooked, wrap in plastic wrap or foil and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months below 18ºC. Picked crabmeat can be stored in the same way.

To Cook

The shell is burgundy-orange even when uncooked, turning a brighter orange when cooked. Average yield is 25% (from claws and body). The flesh is translucent when raw and white when cooked, it has a distinctive, sweet flavour, low oiliness and is soft and moist. The most humane, and easiest, method of killing any crustacean is to chill it in the freezer for about 45 minutes until it becomes insensible (but not long enough to freeze it). Once chilled, it should be killed promptly by splitting in half or dropping into rapidly boiling water. See NSW Department of Primary Industries and RSPCA for more details.

Cooking Methods

Steam, poach, boil. Do not recook cooked Crabs, pick the meat and use it in salads, sandwiches, as a garnish for soups, or in dishes where it is just gently warmed, such as pasta, risotto, Crab cakes and omelettes. Given its thick top shell, Spanner Crab is best used for its meat rather than presented in the shell.

Goes Well With

Anchovies, black pepper, butter, chilli, coconut, cream, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, herbs (such as chervil, coriander, dill, French tarragon, parsley), lemon, lemongrass, lime, mayonnaise, nutmeg, onion, soy sauce, tomatoes, turmeric.

Alternatives

Blue Swimmer Crab, Marron, Mud Crab, Redclaw, Rock Lobsters, Yabby.

Imports

None; however, a lot of Australia’s catch is exported (mostly live).

Recipes

Crab & Asparagus Soup
Crab & Celeriac Remoulade
Crab & Corn Frittata
Crab & Green Mango Salad
Crab & Herb Sandwiches
Crab Omelette with Avocado Salsa
Crab Salad with Witlof & Snow Peas
Partan Bree (Scottish Crab Soup)
Seafood Gumbo
Spaghetti with Crab, Lemon & Chilli
Spicy Stir-fried Mud Crab
Stir-Fried Blue Swimmer Crabs with Tamarind & Coconut
Steamed Blue Swimmer Crabs with Asian Citrus Dressing

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