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Cooking with Fire

Cooking With Fire: Crab Cakes

Justin Cary

Crab cakes have become a staple in restaurants across the U.S., but it wasn’t that long ago that crab was seen as a difficult and dangerous crustacean that wasn’t worth the time and effort it took to catch them.

Crabs that were caught in fishermen’s nets in the Chesapeake and along the New England coast were tossed to the side and dealt with only after the main haul was sorted out, mostly due to the lack of meat in a crab and the fact that their claws could easily pierce skin and, once attached, became tough to remove.

But as with most great things, the good eventually outweighed the bad, and the difficulty in fishing for crab was weighed against the joy they brought when cooked up properly. Soon enough, fishermen had devised ways to fish for crab quickly and efficiently.

But it was in 1930 that crab cuisine changed forever when Crosby Gaige released the "New York World’s Fair Cook Book." This was the first time the term “crab cake” was used in print, though it is believed that crab cakes had been popular along the East Coast and in the south for many years. Gaige’s recipe for Baltimore Crab Cakes took what had been handed down within Maryland families for generations and gave the gift to the world.

And while fried and broiled crab cakes are most popular in Maryland, we all know that everything tastes better when it is cooked on the grill. So here's the latest episode of Cooking with Fire where Chef Tom and I prepare a fantastic grilled crab cake:

Crab Cakes


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup green onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 lb jumbo lump crab meat
  • 1 1/2 cup panko (coarse breadcrumbs), divided
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated, divided
  • 1/3 cup roasted piquillo pepper, diced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 4 tsp steak seasoning
  • olive oil for pan frying


  1. Preheat a small cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and allow to warm. Add the green onion and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently just until softened, about two minutes. Remove from the heat.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl combine the softened green onion and garlic with the crab meat, 3/4 cup panko, 1/4 cup parmesan, the diced piquillo pepper, eggs, mayonnaise, mustard and 3 tsp steak seasoning. Mix until well combined.
  3. Divide the mixture into seven 4 oz portions and place on a parchment lined pan or plate. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, mix together the remaining 3/4 cup of panko, with 1/4 cup parmesan and 1 tsp steak  seasoning. 
  5. Form the 4 oz portions into patties and press each crab cake into the panko mixture on both sides.
  6. In a large cast iron skillet, warm a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Cook the crab cakes in batches until the browned, about 3 minutes per side. Add more olive oil as needed.