Eating King Crab and Snow Crab: What's the difference?

While both King Crab and Snow Crab make for an excellent cold dish by itself or with butter, there are important distinctions between the two crustaceans in terms of price, size and taste. Since Kuro Kitchen seasonally imports both these crabs, here are some useful information for our crab lovers who have bought them.

king crab and snow crab difference

What's the difference between King crab and Snow crab?

Snow Crab (also known as Queen Crab) and King Crab are two different species of crab. Snow crab is less spiny and much easier to get the meat from the shell.   Both, however, are delicious! King crab is much more expensive than Snow crab. Discovery Channel airs a show called “Deadliest Catch" that shows exactly how dangerous fishing for these two species of crab really are.

Crab Sizes

King crab is much larger than Snow crab. King Crab has more spines on its shell, making it a bit harder to get to the meat.

A fully developed King crab weighs as much as 5-6 kgs where a Snow crab only weighs about 2-3 kgs.

King crab and Snow crab price differences

With a longer harvesting season and because they are found in more locations, snow crab is usually the cheaper of the two. King crabs, on the other hand, are more of a delicacy because of their limited availability, seasonal catch and harsh fishing environments.

snow crab

Taste and texture

Snow crab is named for its meat, which turns from red to snowy white when cooked and boasts a sweet, subtly briny flavour. The texture tends to be more fibrous (easily shredding into pieces) than king crab. Snow crab leg shells are breakable enough for simply cracking open with your hands.

King crab’s flavour is one of the most prized. The leg meat is known for its rich, sweet flavour and delicately tender texture reminiscent of lobster meat. But it takes more work to break through the King crab's spiny shell than a Snow crab and you'll probably need tools.

The meat from a Snow Crab tastes sweeter than King crab, however, the King crab has larger, firmer meat. It also does not shred as easily compare to the Snow crab and you can enjoy it in huge bites.

Habitat and season

Both crabs are very difficult to catch because the King crab season is in November/December in the Bering Sea. Snow crab season is in January/February, also in the Bering Sea. Countries catch these crabs are mainly from Alaska and Russia.

Snow crabs reside in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans, preferring the deep, cold water conditions of these northern seas. Their harvesting season starts in late fall and extends as long as early summer.

The Alaskan king crab, on the other hand, has a limited habitat and harvesting season. The large crustaceans reside in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia. King crab fishermen harvest them for just a few weeks in the winter. That far north in the middle of winter makes for treacherous fishing as documented in TV show Deadliest Catch.

Cooking & Eating King crab legs and Snow crab legs

Regardless of which crab legs you purchase, note that both varieties are usually sold pre-cooked and frozen. They’re cooked on the boat or immediately upon reaching land, then blast frozen (rapid freezing) to preserve freshness as it takes quite an effort to ship these crabs from the Bering sea.

This means when you cook King or Snow crabs, you just need to heat them up—so be sure not to overcook the crab meat which will cause it to lose sweetness and size. Steaming or poaching for just 3 - 4 minutes are recommended methods that won't dry out the meat, or you can just thaw the crab meat and eat it as a cold dish. Butter poaching is also a delicious method where you deshell the crab meat first, then poach it on a pan in simmering butter with a little bit of water.

Do make sure the meat is fully thawed before cooking so as to cook evenly. Melted/clarified butter goes well with these crabs, so a lemon butter sauce would work as a dip.

Using these legs as a hotpot ingredient is also very popular in Asian countries as long as you don't leave the legs in the boiling soup for too long, again, to prevent overcooking. 

When consuming King crab, it is recommended to have kitchen / crab scissors with you in order to cut through its tough shell, however Snow crabs have a soft enough shell to just use your hands and teeth to break.