Comparing Dungeness Crab and Alaskan King Crab

You might find this hard to believe, but did you know that there are over 6,700 different species of crabs in the world? This is along with some who are named “crab” that do not actually classify as a crab, such as a hermit crab. Another fact about crabs that is rather mind-blowing is that they have been around since the Jurassic period, where archeologists have discovered a very primitive type of crab that obviously evolved greatly throughout time. It is no wonder why there are so many interesting varieties with different appearances--and most importantly tastes. They’ve had millions of years to develop into the crabs we know of today. 

Two of the most popular types of crabs to eat are the live Dungeness crab and the Alaskan King crab. In this article, you will learn about them as far as their similarities, differences, and how they compare on a plate.

Fresh Dungeness Crab

Where Do You Find Dungeness Crab?

Dungeness crabs are found throughout the West coast of North America in fairly shallow waters; it’s name actually comes from the port of Dungeness, Washington. In the state of Washington, the Dungeness crab are actually considered “a prized crustacean that supports the most valuable fishery on the west coast.” Even though the majority of Dungeness are found near Alaska, Washington, and Oregon, they do not solely reside in the upper northwest; they can travel from Alaska down the coast all the way to Mexico. 

Where Do You Find Alaskan King Crab?

Alaskan King crabs are mainly found off the coast of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, which is a part of Russia. Most of them are caught in American waters, but sometimes they venture out and are caught in international waters. 

How Are Dungeness Crabs Caught?

These crabs are caught in a sustainable manner--one that does not harm other species as well as the environment. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, “Dungeness crabs are often caught by commercial fishers in circular pots typically baited with herring, squid, or clams. Pots are usually about 40 inches in diameter and 14 inches high.” 

They are also able to be harvested by individual fishermen/women. “Crab pots similar to those used in the commercial fishery, ring nets, diving gear, dip nets, and hooked or hookless handlines can all be used to harvest crab for personal use. Dungeness crabs are sometimes stranded by minus tides and can be picked up by an observant beachcomber.” 

Washington and Oregon have very specific fishing and catching rules and regulations regarding their Dungeness crab; they keep the safety of those fishing and the wellness of the species and environment into consideration and are serious about the consequences. Those in charge work hard to make catching Dungeness as sustainable as possible in order to keep the species thriving so that we may be able to enjoy their meat. 

Dungeness Crab Fishing Boat

How Is Alaskan King Crab Caught?

Alaskan King crab, the largest edible species of crab, are also caught with a pot; however, commercial fishing conditions both for the staff on board as well as the crabs are much more hazardous than with the Dungeness crab. It is so dangerous and intriguing that there is even a TV show, “The Deadliest Catch” portraying the job of a fisherman. These are some reasons why Alaskan King crabs are not as sustainable and great as you may think:

  • Fishing deaths also make up about a third of all occupational fatalities in Alaska each year.
  • Crab pots and crab pot launchers are common sources of injuries, especially in the hazardous arctic waters. 
  • Overfishing has set off environmental ripple effects, as low seafood populations hurt the other fish and sea animals that feed on them. The federal government has now placed limitations on Alaskan fishing.

[Source: HowStuffWorks]

Taste and Texture

What Does Dungeness Crab Taste Like?

“Dungeness crab has a sweet, mild and slightly nutty taste with tender body meat and leg meat which is slightly firmer,” (Chefs Resources). You can partake in the succulent live Dungeness crab longer than Alaskan King, as the fishing season spans from December to August. 

Shop for live Dungeness crab from Fathom Seafood to taste yourself! 

What Does Alaskan King Crab Taste Like?

“Alaskan king crab’s flavor reputation precedes it. The leg meat is known for its rich, sweet flavor and delicately tender texture reminiscent of lobster meat. But it takes work to reach that sought-after meat—the thick shells with large spikes often necessitate a cracking tool,” (Southern Living). Remember that Alaskan King crab has limited availability due to the restricted fishing season, so you can only dine on its freshness legally between the months of October to January. 

What do consumers have to say about the taste of Dungeness compared to Alaskan King crab?

One Dungeness fan on Serious Eats says: 

  • “I love them both but I'll take Dungeness, for the price AND flavor, anyday over King crab.”

And a few more positive reviews:

  • “Dungeness, for sure, fresh-caught and steamed on the boat.”
  • “I love them both, but I would choose Dungeness. I LOVE it stir fried with ginger and scallions.”
  • “Dungeness. It is the more sustainably caught choice!”
  • “Dungeness, but if you put any crab in front of me I will eat it in a flash!”

It definitely seems like the consumer’s choice is the Dungeness crab! 

Overall, the research, facts, and opinions show that Dungeness crab and Alaskan King crab are actually more different from each other than people think. A crab just isn’t “a crab.” Each species has its own variety of qualities that make it unique and definitely its own taste that make it delicious. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it seems as if Dungeness might be the more popular choice among groups of people for a variety of reasons. 

After reading all of the positive reviews, are you thinking about purchasing and cooking live Dungeness crab? Check out the selection from Fathom Seafood! You’ll be able to order and receive your product typically within 24 hours.  

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