In our opinion, the best crab cakes are the simplest. Too many recipes are full of binders and fillers, which make the end result taste less like crab, and more like cake.
Our version is inspired by those you’ll find along the Maryland shore. This means we use blue crab meat, held together with mayonnaise and crushed saltine crackers, and seasoned lightly with the state’s most famous export, Old Bay Seasoning.
Pan-fried in a cast iron skillet (using a generous amount of oil, which will also season your pan!), the result is a crab cake that tastes great, with less filling, and requires little adornment—a squeeze of lemon and a can of National Bohemian (aka Natty Boh) are all you need.
When sourcing crab meat, seek out a source that will stock the freshest stuff possible—this is usually your local fishmonger. If you can’t find freshly picked and packaged blue crab meat, look for canned pasteurized lump or jumbo crab, which has a longer shelf life.
If you don’t have saltines, you can substitute fresh or dried white bread crumbs, which work fine, but will result in a chewier crab cake. We recommend starting with about ¼ cup of breadcrumbs and adding more as needed until the crab cake mixture can just hold its shape.
The real secret to crab cake perfection (in addition to using a great cast iron skillet and plenty of oil), is to chill the crab cake mixture until it firms up a bit, then pull it out of the refrigerator right before you’re ready to cook. An hour is usually enough time, but you can chill the crab cake mixture for up to a few hours.
Recipe: Maryland-Style Crab Cakes
1 large egg
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
½ teaspoon Tabasco hot sauce
1 pound lump or jumbo blue crab meat, picked over
10 saltine crackers, finely crushed
Canola oil (or other neutral oil), for frying
Lemon wedges, for serving
The Field Method for Cast Iron Care
In a small bowl, beat the egg, then whisk in the mayonnaise with the egg, mustard, Old Bay and hot sauce until smooth.
In a medium bowl, gently toss the crabmeat with the crackers. Gently fold in the mayonnaise mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Divide the crab mixture into eight mounds, then gently pack into 8 patties, each about 1½ inches thick.
Add enough canola oil to completely cover the bottom of a Field Skillet, then heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Working in batches if necessary, add the crab cakes and cook until deeply golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Turn the crab cakes over and cook until the other side is browned, about 3 minutes longer. Continue until all of the crab cakes are cooked, adding more oil between batches as needed.
Transfer the crab cakes to plates and serve with lemon wedges.