How To Cook Imitation Crab Like A Pro: Barb’s Handy Guide

Did you ever try cooking a full-sized crab? So much work and so much time spent on it, for such a small portion of meat!

But guess what – there’s an alternative!

Relatively recently I was browsing the web for some tips and tricks on how to properly boil a crab, but instead of finding my solution I’ve stumbled upon an entirely new way of making seafood fun again:

I’ve learned how to cook imitation crab!

It was a delighting revelation for me, as it let me treat my sons and hubby with delicious crab meat with much less work than before.

I’ve given it a go, and after a few tries, I told myself I’d never cook a regular crab again in my life! Imitation crab is faster, easier and it tastes just the same; and if you follow a few tips and trick that I’ll leave down below, it will be even more delicious!

What’s An Imitation Crab, Anyway?

First of all, you must know what you’re cooking and eating. Imitation crab, also known as Crab stick is white fish meat that is shaped and cured to look like crab meat from a Snow crab.

Due to high demand of crab meat in China and low supply of original crab meat, the Chinese chefs came up with an idea to create something very similar, but more cost-efficient and available to more people.

I can tell you that this is the best replacement that I’ve found – it tastes just the same, but it’s easier to get your hands on it and way easier to cook and prepare.

It’s perfect for quick-and-easy weeknight meals when seafood is on the menu, and it’s a real game-changer for those eating it for the first time!

My way of doing it is a quick and easy road; prepare to fill the tummies of your loved ones with delicious seafood, and not get tired of cooking in the process!


How To Cook Imitation Crab: 4 Simple Methods You Can Try

I promised you a quick and easy road to dinner, and I plan on delivering on that promise! Without further ado, I give you four different ways to cook imitation crab – you can try one of these methods tonight!

Method #1: Steamed

If you're a healthy eater, and you want to know how to cook imitation crab, look no further – steaming is the perfect method for you: Fat-free and delicious!

Things You’ll Need

All you need are these three things:

  • Imitation crab meat
  • Water (two cups or more, depending on the amount of crab meat)
  • A steamer (a large pot and a strainer will do if you don’t have one)

Instructions

Okay, this one’s super simple:

  1. Start by setting everything up and filling the steamer with water.
  2. Now, place the crab sticks on the strainer, but make sure to distribute them as evenly as possible. Otherwise, they won’t cook properly.
  3. Lastly, you have to plug in and turn on your steamer and sit there patiently, waiting for your imitation crab to be done.
  4. Depending on whether you’re steaming "fresh" or frozen imitation crab meat, the process can take from six to ten minutes, respectively.

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Method #2: Sauteed

If you want to bring a bit of extra flavor to the imitation crab meat, while still keeping it somewhat healthy, sautéing is the way to go.

Things You’ll Need

Here’s what you’ll need if you opt for method #2:

  • ½ pound of imitation crab meat, sliced
  • Two tablespoons of butter (any kind will do, but I like salted butter the most)
  • Two cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
  • Non-stick pan

Instructions

Get your ingredients ready, and let’s get down to cooking!

  1. Heat the pan over medium heat – that should be the first step whenever you’re sautéing food.
  2. When the pan becomes hot enough, add the butter, and spread it around using a spatula. You want to cover the bottom of the pan entirely.
  3. Now it’s time to add in the garlic. Remember to stir continuously to prevent it from burning or sticking to the surface of the pan.
  4. Once the garlic turns golden brown, carefully add the sliced crab sticks in there, too, and sauté them for around five minutes or so.

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Method #3: Deep Fried

It’s no secret that I try my best to cook healthy, nutritious meals for all three of my boys, so deep fried stuff doesn’t come up on our weekly dinner menu that often.

However, every once in a while, I surprise them with deep fried imitation crab!

Things You’ll Need

If you decide to go with method #3, you’ll need:

  • Imitation crab meat (get the pre-sliced kind to save yourself some time)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Flour, half a cup per pound of crabmeat
  • Corn starch, half a cup per pound of meat
  • A pinch of baking soda
  • Milk as needed (the amount depends on the batter consistency)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A deep fryer (if you don’t own one, a deep, large pot will do fine, too)
  • Some paper towels

Instructions

Here’s how to deep fry imitation crab meat:

  1. Heat the cooking oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure you use enough oil so that the crab sticks are fully submerged.
  2. To make the batter, mix the following ingredients – flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, pepper, and milk – in a large bowl. Add milk gradually, and pay attention to the consistency of the mixture.
  3. Use the batter to coat the imitation crab meat.
  4. Put them in the deep fryer (or the pot, whatever you have at hand) and let them cook for a few minutes. The outside of your crab sticks should turn golden brown – that’s how you know they’re done.
  5. When you remove them from the oil, let them sit on paper towels for a few moments before serving – the paper towels will soak up the excess grease.

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Method #4: Oven-Cooked

The best thing about method #4 is that it's quick. I've already told you that, so let me prove it:

The time imitation crab meat needs to spend in the oven is around 10 minutes, 15 tops! The same time you needed to prepare them is the same amount of time you’ll need to cook them!

Things You’ll Need

If you want to learn how to cook imitation crab in the oven, first you’ll need to prepare the following items:

  • ½ pound of imitation crab meat
  • Thinly sliced fillets of white fish (I prefer Halibut, but any white fish works)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Mustard
  • Dill

Instructions

To prepare this dish, follow a few simple steps:

  1. Mix salt, pepper, mustard and your imitation crab meat in a large bowl. When you’re satisfied with how it looks, we can continue to the next step!
  2. Now, take your fish fillets and cut them down the middle, making two halves; do this with all of them.
  3. Spread the mixture on your halved fish fillets – and make sure you do it evenly and generously. Otherwise, some pieces will cook evenly, and some won’t because there’s too much stuffing in them.
  4. After you’ve spread the filling, it’s time to roll your yummy bites! Roll them tightly and firmly so that they don’t fall apart in the cooking process, and so that they look as nice as possible when you serve them.
  5. There’s a tip for making them stick and look nice and tight: Take a toothpick and run it diagonally through your little rolls of deliciousness. Every piece needs to have at least one toothpick holding it together and helping it survive the cooking process.

It’s one of the fastest and most delicious meals I’ve ever served on my table when it comes to seafood. 🙂

Lastly, don’t be afraid to get creative when cooking imitation crab meat: You can even try to make a burrito with it! It works very well with classic Mexican spices – just take a look at this recipe, for example!

Can’t Decide What To Serve With Imitation Crab? Here Are A Few Suggestions

Imitation crab meat is delicious enough to eat on its own, but why not back it up with an equally delicious side dish – or a glass of wine, for that matter?

1. Side Dishes You’ll Family Will Love

You can eat imitation crab meat as is, or you can add a little something that will "seal the deal" with your guests – and rice with vegetables is my personal favorite.

You can prepare it while your imitation crab meat is cooking – it takes around 10 minutes or so!

I like to use corn, beans, peas, and maybe a little celery on top – and mix that with plain white rice. The flavor profile doesn’t have to be too strong, either – imitation crab is the star of the show, after all!

Another side dish I like is plain pasta:

  • Boil the pasta with some olive oil in the water so that it doesn't stick (it's a handy little trick of mine for making perfect pasta) – and add a pinch of salt and some sliced onions, too!

It takes the same time to boil a bowl of pasta on your stove as it does to cook the crab meat.

How convenient is that? 🙂

I think rice with vegetables is a way to go, though – and here’s why: Imitation crab meat originated in China, and they used to serve it with rice and vegetables.

My boys tend to like the pasta morethey say it goes better with the crab meat – but I respectfully disagree! Plus, I think it’s only fair to respect the origins of the dish.

That said, whenever seafood is the star of your evening meal, you can’t go wrong with any of these easy-to-make side dishes:

Make Perfect Mashed Potato Every Time – Use The Best Potato Masher!

2. Don’t Skip The Herbs

So, now you know how to cook imitation crab – but do you know how to season it properly? Here are some of my go-to herbs that pair exceptionally well with all kinds of seafood, including imitation crab meat:

Make sure you don’t go overboard with the seasoning, though – the goal is to enhance the flavor of crab meat, not drown it in an insane amount of herbs and spices!

3. What About Wine Pairing?

The basics of wine pairing say: Red wines pair with red meats, and white wines pair with white meats.

So, when it comes to imitation crab, white wine is a pretty obvious choice!

I'm not a wine expert in any way, shape or form – I do enjoy an occasional glass of wine with my evening meal, but that's it – but I've picked up a few things throughout the years.

In my experience, these are the wines that usually pair well with crab meat:

  • Chardonnay
  • Riesling
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinot Gris

You’re allowed to break the rules, though – feel free to go with a light or medium-bodied Pinot Noir if you feel like it! 🙂

Tips & Tricks For Making Perfect Imitation Crab Every Single Time

I faced a couple of issues the first few times I’ve prepared imitation crab meat, which is why I wanted to give you a few heads up about it:

  • Imitation crab meat is very tender and soft, and cutting the fillets in half makes them that much more sensitive. Handle it slowly and with care to prevent it from falling apart.
  • When you’re securing them with toothpicks, you need to be careful not to make more than two holes per roll, so they don’t leak the contents. You still need to secure them properly, so that they don’t fall apart in the oven, though!
  • Keep a close eye on the crabmeat while it's cooking – check on it every, let's say, 2 minutes or so, to avoid overcooking it by accident.
  • When you’re making rolled crab sticks, and you see the outside layer, being the fish fillets, is cooked, that means that stuffing inside is cooked, too!
  • Always check the expiration dates. Seafood is very delicate, and often has a short expiration date that you might not even notice! So, to dodge a potential food poisoning, always check the labels!

Conclusion

So, there you have it – now you know how to cook imitation crab like a pro!

I want to say that I’m very excited to share this little dish with you, and make your seafood lovers at home as happy as mine are when I make this dish!

Also, this is a fast way to mix up a food rut we all fall into at some point. When you’re sick of regular crab meat or want to serve something completely different, this was undoubtedly a way to go for me, and I hope it will be for you as well!

If you’ve made imitation crab meat before, let me know what’s your favorite method of preparing it by dropping a comment below!

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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