What Is Peekytoe Crab?

A Guide to Buying, Cooking, and Storing Peekytoe Crab

Someone holding a peekytoe crab
Tetra Images / Getty Images
In This Article

Once a throwaway byproduct of lobster fishing, considered more a pest than a catch, the peekytoe crab is nowadays a prized shellfish, highly sought after by chefs around the world. With its sweet, mild flavor, peekytoe crab is typically used on rolls or in salads, dips, and crab cakes. Small in size and with a delicate shell, it doesn't ship well alive, so it's usually cooked and picked right after being caught.

What Is Peekytoe Crab?

It is a Maine rock or sand crab, whose nickname "peekytoe" comes from "picked toe" referring both to the handpicked leg or toe meat and the pointed shape of the crab leg—"picked" means "pointed" in Maine. Only rock crabs from Penobscot Bay in Down East Maine were called peekytoes until demand increased, but now they are sourced from Rhode Island to Nova Scotia. This small crab can reach five inches across and have a red or orange shell and white belly. Because the meat is traditionally handpicked, this crabmeat is usually shell free, ready to eat, and one of the best choices for all preparations that call for crabmeat.

How to Cook Peekytoe Crab

Live peekytoe crab is cooked, cleaned, and picked right after being caught, so the product you'd come by is ready-to-eat crabmeat, fit to mix into other preparations. But if you get your hands on a live peekytoe, you can steam, grill, roast, or boil the crab, depending on the texture or final recipe you're attempting.

What Does Peekytoe Crab Taste Like?

Peekytoe crab is sweet, salty, delicate, and juicy. If you're buying ready-to-eat peekytoe from well-known brands that have standardized procedures for cooking and cleaning the crabs, you're not going to be disappointed. The meat is white with bits of pink and has a firmness to it but is equally silky and delicate.

Peekytoe Crab Recipes

As with any other crabmeat, peekytoe meat is great for classic recipes like crab cakes or dips. Mix it with mayonnaise, Sriracha, lime juice, celery, or jicama, and stuff a roll for a new take on lobster rolls. Use it in salads with peppery arugula and a citrus vinegarette with extra-virgin olive oil. Marinate the meat in coconut milk, spices, and fresh herbs for 20 minutes, drain and serve over lettuce with green ketchup and crusty bread. Mix the crabmeat with mayo and spices, grill slices of polenta and top them with the prepared crab salad, or mix it with cold pasta for a refreshing summer lunch. Maine crab, stone crab, or Dungeness crab can be substituted for peekytoe as long as it is fresh and unpasteurized.

Where to Buy Peekytoe Crab

Online upscale retailers will ship peekytoe meat to other parts of the U.S., but the availability depends on the season (summer) and also on how much peekytoe meat you are willing to buy. The bottom line is that this meat is expensive because you might have to pay for overnight shipping or the time-consuming handpicking of the meat. It's unlikely that peekytoe will be sold at fish markets when in season because the meat is usually sold directly to chefs. Some gourmet stores or specialty seafood distributors might have peekytoe during the summer, but it's always better to call ahead.

Storing Peekytoe Crab

Peekytoe meat that has been cooked and picked has a shelf life in the refrigerator of three days. As with all seafood, the fresher the better, with less risk of food poisoning if you consume it within a short time. If you have live peekytoes, these animals can live out of the water for a maximum of 24 hours, as long as they are kept in a cool and moist environment before cooking.