As we ease into the coming fall and winter seasons here at the Villages of Citrus Hills, one of the many bright spots on the horizon is the return of Stone Crab season in Florida.
Whether you prefer to get out on the water and catch your own or simply buy them from one of our local fresh seafood markets, those delicious stone crab claws are going to be plentiful throughout the rest of this year and the first part of 2020.
About Stone Crab Claws
Unlike so much of the seafood that comes out of the Gulf of Mexico, stone crab claws are actually a renewable resource since they are able to regrow their claws after those claws are harvested by local fishermen.
Stone crabs are able to regenerate their claws over the course of about a year, and with a life expectancy of about 8-9 years, they can produce that delicious claw meat quite a few times in their lives.
Catching Stone Crab Claws
Like any seafood that you might be looking for here in Florida, there are plenty of rules and regulations to be aware of when it comes to stone crab claws. The most important of those is the fact that you can only catch stone crabs when they are in season from October 15 through May 15.
Any amateurs fishing for stone crab need to obtain a saltwater fishing license and respect limits of just five traps, only collecting one gallon of claws per day, and making sure that all of those claws are at least 2 ¾ inches long.
Of course, if you don’t feel like remembering all of the details, you can always go the charter route and let the captain take care of worrying about the rules, or you can just purchase claws that someone else harvested at one of our many local seafood markets.
Cooking Stone Crab Claws
There are four ways to cook your freshly harvested stone crab claws, and the easiest one is to throw them right into a pot of boiling water. The only tips you need to worry about here are to make sure that you season the water with plenty of salt and be careful not to overcook the claws.
Another simple way to cook your fresh stone crab claws is to put them in a casserole dish with a little bit of water at the bottom and bake them covered in the oven at 350 degrees.
The slightly more complicated way to cook stone crab claws that often produces a better quality meal is to steam them in a basket over a pot of boiling water. It’s really only complicated in that you have to have the right equipment. Once again, you want to be careful not to overcook the claws.
Boiling your stone crab claws should take about 5-10 minutes. For steaming and baking allow 8-10 minutes. You know they’re done when they smell like delicious crab meat. You will also see the color change and brighten.
In Florida we love to grill all year round, so why not grill our claws. Simply put the claws on a medium heat grill for about 5 minutes for each side. The temperature for grilling should be between 300 and 325 Fahrenheit. When you are grilling, it's advisable to spread olive oil or butter on the claws.
Again, it is crucial to check the crab claws when heating them. Baking and grilling can give out sweet meat, but overheating them will make the meat tough and lose the flavor.
Stone Crab Claw Dippage
One of the things that make stone crab claws so popular is that there is a wide variety of things you can dip them in. For many home cooks, the best place to start is with drawn butter or cocktail sauce.
Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami is probably the most popular stone crab restaurant in the world, and they are known for serving stone crab claws with a unique mustard dipping sauce. Thanks to websites like Epicurious, you can make a great mustard sauce for your home-cooked stone crab claws using their version of that recipe.
If you are a stone crab expert looking for some new flavors, this article from News-Press offers some unique twists on dipping sauces like Brandy Mustard Sauce, Jalapeno Honey Sauce, Ginger Scallion Sauce, and Spicy Marinara Sauce.
However you prefer to cook and dip your stone crab claws, there is no denying that they are one of the best treats available throughout the winter here in Florida. Make sure you take the time to enjoy plenty of these local delicacies this year!