What’s in a name?
Warning. I’m going to sound like a boring 7th Grade Science Teacher for a moment.
The genus Chionoecetes includes two species, Bairdi (C bairdi) and Opilio (C opilio), sometimes referred to as “Opies” (go ahead, insert your own Ron Howard joke here). Typically, in the seafood marketplace, these two deliciously sweet cousins are referred to as Alaska snow crabs and Tanner crab.
Snow Crab typically refers to Opilio, and Tanner referencing Bairdi.
Although, Bairdi is still technically a “Snow Crab”, and Opilio is technically a Tanner. Clear? No? Great! Maybe this will help.
Where are all the crabs?
Missing: One Billion Crabs.
In 2022, Alaska Fish and Game canceled the 2022-2023 Opilio, Red King, and Blue King crab seasons after surveys failed to meet the requirements for opening.
So the question looms. What happened to the Alaskan snow crab?
This announcement marked both a second consecutive cancellation of a Red King season in Bristol Bay, and the first ever Snow Crab (Opilio) cancellation in the history of the Bering Sea fishery. While biologists work to answer why Alaska snow crabs disappeared, there is more to the story.
As if that news wasn’t bad enough, with its implications for the fisherman and their families, the standard Russian crab supplement (around 30% of the market) has been stopped because of the import bans resulting from the war in Ukraine.
The result: Good luck finding Red/Blue King and Opilio (Snow Crab) for sale anywhere.
All is not lost, however.
Why you know Opilio
Opilio crab is a popular species used in a variety of ways. It’s a crab meat often used in Asian and American cuisine. Used in crab salad recipes or crab Rangoon recipes. Snow crab is a very versatile protein.
If you’re a fan of the popular television series Deadliest Catch, you’ve likely seen the fisherman out pursuing this smaller crab variety in the bitter cold, seeking pot numbers in the triple digits.
Bairdi Crab: A Sweet Savior.
“Snow Crab” lovers fear not, because Opie’s bigger cousin, Tanner, has come to play.
Despite the struggles of Red King and Opies, Bairdi numbers have been held steady, and the fishery remains open.
A sweet flavor complimented by a flakey, yet fibrous texture makes Bairdi a spitting’ image of Opilio, and filling the culinary void for one of America’s most luxurious and delicious underwater proteins.
But wait, there’s more! (cheesy infomercial voice)
Bairdi has the advantage of size. A commercial male Opilio averages 1-2 pounds in size. Bairdi commercial male’s average 2-4 pounds in size.
Let’s be honest, when is MORE crab ever a bad thing? Especially when your cheapskate uncle is joining you for dinner.
A sidebar on crab availability
At Wild for Salmon, Captain Steve works hard to keep an active pulse on not only what is happening in the Sockeye fishery, but all the fisheries within the Wild For Salmon product line. Connecting regularly with fellow Captains and industry suppliers.
Understanding the shortage of Red and Opilio crabs, Wild For Salmon sourced additional Bairdi and Dungeness species.
We also brought in a King Crab variety known as the Golden King. While not as heavy and rich as its cousin, the Red King, Golden’s provide a comparable sized alternative that totes a succulent flavor and tender texture. Goldens are regarded as the “sweetest” variety of King Crab species. Try them!
How to prepare snow crab
Our Bairdi clusters are precooked, meaning you can simply thaw and enjoy! The advantage of Bairdi crab legs is their long and easy to crack. Making them a splendid choice for those still honing their cracking skills. Grandma will appreciate not having a rogue piece of shell hitting her cornea.
Many people choose to enjoy their snow crab with a side of drawn butter. Simple yet delicious.
To make a cup of drawn butter, simply take ½ lb of unsalted butter in a small saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, and let boil for 1 minute.
Set the saucepan to the side to settle, undisturbed. Once the milk solids work their way to the top, skim them off with a spoon and pour the drawn butter into a bowl or individual crafts for dipping.
For those of you who aren’t about the thaw and dive in approach, I’ve included our basic baking instructions for preparing Bairdi below.
Give Bairdi a try
So rather than just sit around and wait for Opilio to find its way back to the fishing grounds, give cousin Bairdi a try.
While the names may be confusing, the taste is nothing short of definitive.
[[ recipeID=recipe-8ldkhe9nt, title=How to cook Bairdi Snow Crab ]]