Spanner Crab

Ranina ranina

Other names: Frog crab, red frog crab, kona crab (USA).

Family: Raninidae (spanner crabs).


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.

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).


Only commercially fished member of the raninidae family.

To Buy:

They are usually sold cooked, but are occassionally 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 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.


Blue swimmer crab, marron, mud crab, redclaw, rock lobsters, yabby.


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


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