The sweet, meaty claws of this classic Floridian delicacy are just the beginning of their intrigue.
Nearly 100 percent of stone crab comes from Florida’s warm waters, where the petit brown crabs burrow along shoals just below the low tide mark. From October through May, stone crab season is on; Claws are harvested, and seafood shacks stock up on the sweet, succulent meat.
While most types of crabs are served whole, stone crab claws are prepped like shrimp cocktail—cooked, cracked, and served as a meaty finger food—often with a side of creamy mustard-based sauce (we’ve got the recipe below).
Aside from their delectable flavor, here are some of our favorite things about stone crabs:
1. Stone crabs can regenerate their claws.
While blue and Dungeness crab are valued for the meat from their legs, claws, and abdomen, stone crabs are sought after for their claws alone. The two front claws are not only delicately sweet, and powerful enough to crack an oyster shell (stone crabs feed on oysters, mussels, and fish)—they’re also “renewable.”
Stone crabs can regenerate their claws if they’re removed correctly. To properly remove the claw from a live stone crab, first make sure it’s large enough to harvest legally (the claw must be 2.75 inches long). Then snap downward with a quick pop. This will help ensure the muscles and tissue the crab needs to rebuild the claw remain healthy and intact. In about three years, the claw should return to an adequate size for another harvest.
2. Look for the “fingerprint” to know if the claw is original.
You can tell if a stone crab claw is the original—or if it’s regenerated—by looking for a faint fingerprint-like marking on the propodus (the last segment of the pincer). If the fingerprint-like lines are unbroken, it’s the original claw. If the lines are broken, it’s a regenerated claw.
3. The stone crab’s weight is in its claws.
As a stone crab ages, the percentage of body weight may increase in the claws. An older male crab may have as much as half their body weight in their large claws.
4. Stone crabs are resourceful.
Seashells that wash up on the shore are often taken home as a beautiful memento. But for stone crabs, seashells are useful tools.
Stone crabs use shells to burrow and dig to create a home among the seagrass in shallow waters near docks, rocks, and bridges. Piles of underwater shell pieces near holes in reefs and rocks may be a good indication you’ve stumbled upon a stone crab’s home.
Related: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Dungeness Crab
5. There is a “Stone Crab Capital of the World.”
Everglades City, Florida, claims that title. The small south Florida town, which sits on the western mouth of the Everglades, claims they are the birthplace of the stone crab industry. Indeed, the communities along Florida’s Gulf Coast bring in 98 percent of the state’s stone crab claws.
6. You can make the signature mustard sauce at home.
Here’s how to whip up the creamy mustard-based sauce that was made famous by Joe Weiss, founder of Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami.
Whisk 1 cup mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp. half-and-half, 4 tsp. dry mustard, 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tsp. A.1. Steak Sauce in a bowl until smooth; season with salt and pepper, and chill. Serve as a dipping sauce with all kinds of crab.
7. You should visit one of Florida’s classic stone crab shacks.
These stone crab specialists are tops on our list for savoring the mud-colored crustacean:
- Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami
- Billy's Stone Crab, Hollywood
- Charlie's Fish House & Seafood Market, Crystal River
- Cod & Capers Seafood, North Palm Beach
- Frenchy's Café, Clearwater Beach
- Triad Seafood, Everglades City
8. We love these stone crab recipes.
It's hard to beat classic stone crab preparation, but these two recipes are proven winners from our test kitchen. Looking for even more amazing ways to cook these meaty crustaceans? See all of our favorite crab recipes here, from Mini Crab Melts to Caribbean Crab Cakes Benedict.
South-of-the-Border Crab Boil
An East Coast classic gets a Mexico-inspired twist with a peppy mixture of chipotle, jalapeños, and lime.
Stone Crab Stir-Fry
In this Asian-style stir-fry, the stone crab claws are first tossed with garlic, ginger, chile, and soy, and then showered with lime for a rounded, sweet-sour preparation.