It’s a given that the best crab cakes are made with sweet, plump meat that’s just been picked from the shell. But fresh lump crabmeat can be prohibitively expensive and hard to come by, so many cooks don’t even consider making crab cakes at home. That’s a shame, though, because they’re relatively quick and easy to throw together: You just mix the meat with seasonings and a binder, dredge the cakes in bread crumbs, and fry in a pan.
For Really Good Crab Cakes, Add Shrimp
I have some good news: Fresh-shucked meat isn’t the only option. Some brands of pasteurized crabmeat, like Phillips, make a surprisingly good alternative to the fresh stuff.
I made it my goal to come up with the best possible crab cakes–sweet, plump meat delicately seasoned and seamlessly held together with a binder that didn’t detract from the seafood flavor–regardless of whether I was starting with fresh crabmeat or not.
Sign up for the Cook's Insider newsletter
The latest recipes, tips, and tricks, plus behind-the-scenes stories from the Cook's Illustrated team.
The Best Binder for Crab Cakes
The answer, it turned out, came from thinking back to my restaurant days, when I was sometimes charged with preparing mousseline. This delicate, savory French mousse is composed mainly of pureed meat or fish and just a little cream–and it turns out that it makes a stellar binder for crab cakes. That’s because proteins are sticky, and since shrimp is mostly muscle, processing it creates a sort of meat glue, adhering to itself and any ingredients added to the mixture.
Why You Should Add Shrimp
Not only does using a shrimp mousseline to bind the cakes avoid flavor-muting ingredients like eggs, mayo, and bread crumbs, but the crustaceans actually enhance the briny sweetness and plump bite of the crabmeat. You don’t need much of it, and since the shrimp are pureed you can use whatever size is the least expensive.
How to Make the Best Crab Cakes
1. Pulse peeled and deveined shrimp in a food processor until finely ground, then add a small amount of heavy cream and pulse to combine.
2. Add the shrimp puree to lump crabmeat with seasonings.
3. Shape the mixture into cakes, and refrigerate the cakes for 30 minutes to help them set.
4. Coat each cake in panko, then gently pan-fry them on both sides until they’re golden brown and crisp on both sides.
To learn more about the other clever tips Lan came up with for crab cakes, check out the full recipe.
Start Free Trial
10,000+ foolproof recipes and why they work Taste Tests of supermarket ingredients Equipment Reviews save you money and time Videos including full episodes and clips Live Q&A with Test Kitchen experts
Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too. I've done this using a rimmed sheet pan instead of a skillet and put veggies and potatoes around the chicken for a one-pan meal. Broccoli gets nicely browned and yummy!
Absolutely the best chicken ever, even the breast meat was moist! It's the only way I'll cook a whole chicken again. Simple, easy, quick, no mess - perfect every time. I've used both stainless steel and cast iron pans. great and easy technique for “roasted” chicken. I will say there were no pan juices, just fat in the skillet. Will add to the recipe rotation. Good for family and company dinners too.
Amazed this recipe works out as well as it does. Would not have thought that the amount of time under the broiler would have produced a very juicy and favorable chicken with a very crispy crust. Used my 12" Lodge Cast Iron skillet (which can withstand 1000 degree temps to respond to those who wondered if it would work) and it turned out great. A "make again" as my family rates things. This is a great recipe, and I will definitely make it again. My butcher gladly butterflied the chicken for me, therefore I found it to be a fast and easy prep. I used my cast iron skillet- marvellous!
John, wasn't it just amazing chicken? So much better than your typical oven baked chicken and on par if not better than gas or even charcoal grilled. It gets that smokey charcoal tasted and overnight koshering definitely helps, something I do when time permits. First-time I've pierced a whole chicken minus the times I make jerk chicken on the grill. Yup, the cast iron was not an issue.