Why Do You Use Vinegar When Cooking Crabs?

by Charlie
cooked crabs

Vinegar, the ingredient that is as polarizing as cilantro – you either hate it or you love it. Regardless of which camp you’re in, there is no question that vinegar does have its uses. 

From cooking all the way to cleaning and even weed control, it’s a necessary staple to have at home. But to use vinegar to cook crabs?! Now, that’s a new one.

Why use it? Does it help tenderize the already pretty soft meat? Or maybe it’s to eliminate the salty flavor of the sea. What if I spoil the seafood flavor by adding vinegar? Crabs aren’t usually a routine weeknight meal, so why would I risk it by dousing it with this tangy ingredient the one time I get to have it?

Why do you use vinegar when cooking crabs? Vinegar is used when cooking crabs because it prevents the meat from sticking to the shell, which makes it easier to slide out of the shell and into your mouth without wasting any little bits of meat.

There is more than one benefit to adding vinegar when steaming crabs, and we’ll answer more of those questions below.

Do You Need to Add Vinegar When Cooking Crabs?

Let’s say you’re in the “I don’t vinegar and really can’t stand it” camp, then it may be really tough for you to get on board with this concept. You may also wonder if you can get out of it.

While you do not need to add vinegar to the crabs, just be aware that the end result may not be as neat. You may get delicious morsels stuck in the shell that you will have to pick out with your fingers, and then make a mess. 

What are the Benefits of Adding Vinegar When Cooking Crabs?

If you don’t care about sticky meat, that’s great, but don’t forgo the vinegar just yet. There are more advantages to adding vinegar to the cooking process, and you don’t need to add a whole lot.

Crabs Steam Faster

We get a little science nerdy on you here, but vinegar helps to lower the boiling point of the water, which will help your crabs steam faster. 

Crab Meat is More Tender

Vinegar has the properties to tenderize crab meat. The meat will end up a little bouncier and have more chew to it than soft crab meat without vinegar.

What Type of Vinegar Should You Use?

There is more than one type of vinegar. What comes to mind may be the clear ones that look like water (until you accidentally take a sip), which is distilled white vinegar. This is the most common and the easiest to find.

Vinegar is a chameleon ingredient and can come in many, many forms, such as:

  • White vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar (used a lot for various types of cuisines)
  • White and red wine vinegar
  • Rice vinegar (used a lot in Asian cuisine)
  • Malt vinegar
  • Black vinegar (very common in Asian cuisine but may be hard to find in some areas)

The more uncommon types include:

  • Champagne vinegar
  • Red rice vinegar (seen in Asian cuisine as well)
  • Sherry vinegar
  • Cane vinegar
  • Beer vinegar
  • Raisin vinegar
  • Apricot vinegar

Who knew that vinegar was so fancy (champagne vinegar – what!), but only a few types are recommended for cooking crab, which are white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and balsamic. 

You can try the other ones and report back and let us know the results! 

How Much Vinegar Do You Add When Cooking Crabs?

We had mentioned that you don’t need to add a lot of vinegar when cooking crabs, and you have a lot of freedom to experiment.

The ratio should be ½ cup if you’re looking at 2 to 3 dozen crabs. If you don’t mind the vinegar taste, then try 1 cup per 2 to 3 dozen crabs. There is no set rule, so play around with it a little. 

Maybe you don’t want a strong vinegar flavor, and find that 1 cup is too much. It will take some time to get it just right for your taste. 

Other Awesome Facts About Cooking Crabs

While you’re here with us, we thought it would be a good idea to also answer some other pressing questions you may have about cooking crabs.

Will Your Crabs Taste Like Vinegar if You Add Some to Them?

The short answer is no, your crabs won’t taste like vinegar. They may have a hint of that tangy taste, but it won’t really be noticeable. 

Of course, this all depends on how much you add to the boiling process. If you go for a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water, then the vinegar flavor will be more detectable. 

Can You Use Something Else Instead of Vinegar?

Something else that is popular (perhaps even more so than vinegar), is beer! We don’t personally know anyone who loves seafood and doesn’t think it tastes even better with some cold beer. 

Well, now you can add it to the cooking process! It will leave the meat with a very delicious flavor. You can also add seasoning while your crab is cooking. The ratio is up to you, but most people use more beer than water. 

What Type of Vinegar is the Best to Use for Cooking Crabs?

Regular white vinegar is the best and the easiest. But during seasons when you feel the crab meat isn’t as sweet (sometimes in the summer), you can try apple cider vinegar to balance it out.

Final Thoughts

Thanks for reading all the way through! We joke around a lot but really love your company and to help you elevate your dishes by imparting some of our culinary wisdom. 

Now seafood feasts at home can taste professional and even more delicious with the help of some vinegar or beer.

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