For many people, imitation crab is a bit of a guilty pleasure! This popular fishy ingredient is not regarded as the most nutritious way to eat seafood, but it has a phenomenal flavor which we just can’t get enough of!
But what exactly is imitation crab, and how do you eat it? Imitation crab is made from reformed fish meat that has been seasoned and flavored to taste like crab meat. It is perfectly safe to eat imitation crab without any further preparation, as it has already been cooked. So, you can eat your imitation crab straight from the packet, add it to salads and sandwiches, or reheat it for use in other dishes.
Are you a big fan of these fishy sticks? Or maybe you’ve never tried them and are curious to find out more! Let’s take a look at what imitation crab is all about and find out the best ways to eat it.
What Is Imitation Crab?
Imitation crab is normally found in the chilled section of your grocery store. If you’ve never seen it before, it normally comes as a pack of rectangular sticks, which are white on the inside and pinky-red on the outside.
This fishy snack is not a recent invention—in fact, it was first created in Japan about 50 years ago! Imitation crab was designed to be a low-cost alternative to real crab meat, which is often too expensive and not widely available.
You may not realize it, but imitation crab makes its way into many dishes. So, even if you think you haven’t tried it, you quite possibly have!
Imitation crab is a common ingredient in sushi and seafood salads. You might also come across it in seafood sandwiches and breaded fish products.
But what is actually in imitation crab? And how is this fishy product made? And does it contain any crab at all?
Imitation crab is made with fish meat but generally does not contain any crab.
The fish used is commonly Alaskan Pollock, with the trimmings and waste collected from making other fish products. This is then deboned and formed into a paste.
This fishy paste is highly seasoned and will contain natural and artificial flavors, as well as starch, sugar, and salt.
For this reason, many people steer clear of eating imitation crab, as it is a highly processed food. However, it does taste amazing, and we all deserve a guilty pleasure sometimes!
The fish mix is then formed into rectangular molds, which is why they are often called fish sticks. To make them look like crab meat, the white fish mix is painted with a thin layer of a pinky-red dye.
So, what does imitation crab taste like? Well, it isn’t exactly like crab, but does have a similar flavor. The fishy taste and smell are quite intense, and it also has a delightful sweetness to it. The texture is soft but not mushy.
If you’ve brought a packet of imitation crab home from the store, you’re probably wondering what to do with it. Let’s find out!
Is Imitation Crab Raw Or Cooked?
You’ll be pleased to hear that imitation crab is already cooked. These fishy sticks are cooked at the time of manufacture and are sold as ready to eat.
This makes them a great snack to eat on the go, and also pack for picnics and outdoor events.
So, if you wanted to, you could eat your imitation crab sticks in the car on the way home from the store!
(And yes, we speak from personal experience here—don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!)
Can You Eat Imitation Crab Raw?
When you buy imitation crab meat from the store, it is already cooked. Imitation crab meat is never sold raw, so you don’t need to panic that you need to cook it first.
The imitation crab meat you purchase is pre-cooked and perfectly safe to eat in its current state.
It must be stored safely and correctly in a refrigerator, otherwise, it may be unsafe to eat. Never eat imitation crab which has been left out at room temperature.
Do You Need To Prepare Imitation Crab Before Eating It?
The only preparation you need to do before eating an imitation crab stick is to unwrap it! They are normally contained in a plastic container, with each stick individually wrapped in plastic film.
Simply open the package, remove the film and your imitation crab is ready to eat!
However, these fishy sticks are so much more versatile than this! So, if you can make it home from the store without eating them all, we’d suggest that you investigate the many ways in which imitation crab can be prepared.
You don’t need to go to great lengths to make imitation crab into a new and exciting ingredient. These fish sticks can be sliced, shredded, or mashed, and they can be eaten cold or warm.
Their delicious seafood flavor can be used to add a whole new dimension to a huge range of different dishes!
Can You Cook Imitation Crab?
Your imitation crab sticks are already fully cooked, but you can reheat them and also use them as an ingredient in hot dishes.
Just remember that it is best to eat your imitation crab as soon as possible once it has been warmed up.
If you just want to enjoy your imitation crab warm, they can be reheated easily in several ways.
Unwrap the imitation crab sticks and place them on a microwavable plate. Heat at 50% power for 30 seconds. This should be sufficient to warm them through but pop on for another 10-20 seconds if you want them piping hot.
This is the best method if you have a large amount of imitation crab to reheat. Unwrap the sticks and place them into a pan, with a splash of cold water in the bottom.
Put a tight-fitting lid or cover on the pan, and heat on a low setting for 5-10 minutes.
Prepare your imitation crab as above, in an oven-safe pan. Place the pan into a preheated oven at 250°F until they are thoroughly heated.
Lay your unwrapped imitation crab sticks in a single layer inside a steamer basket. Pop the basket on top of a pan of boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Do not exceed this time as the fish sticks may start to degrade in quality.
Best Recipes For Imitation Crab
Imitation crab sticks are great snacks, but they are also a brilliant ingredient for many recipes! Here are some of our favorite ways to use imitation crab meat:
- Seafood Sandwiches – mash the imitation crab meat into a paste, and add a generous dollop of mayonnaise. Serve inside a crusty white roll with crisp lettuce leaves.
- Seafood Salad – slice or shred the imitation crab meat and add to a summer salad of lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. Drizzle with a zesty vinaigrette to compliment the subtle seafood flavor.
- Seafood Enchiladas – simply swap meat for crabsticks in your favorite enchilada recipe for a fishy twist on this family favorite!
- Imitation Crab Cakes – use imitation crab sticks to make sweet and delicious fish cakes. Bind together with egg and potato, and cover in breadcrumbs for a golden finish. These fish patties make a great seafood burger too!
- Crabby Pasta – whip up a batch of your favorite pasta sauce, whether this is a creamy Alfredo or rich, tomato Ragu. Add shredded imitation crab meat during the last few minutes of cooking, and serve over a plate of perfect pasta.
Now that we’ve looked at why it’s okay to eat imitation crab raw, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
How long does imitation crab last in the refrigerator?
As with all prepackaged processed food, check the date on the packaging. This will tell you how long imitation crab sticks can be stored in the refrigerator.
Normally, an unopened pack of imitation crab will last for up to 3 months if stored correctly.
Once opened, the imitation crab meat will start to quickly deteriorate. Store it in an airtight container and consume it within 5 days. Check for signs of deterioration, such as a slimy texture or unpleasant aroma.
Imitation crab which has been reheated should be consumed as soon as possible. We would not advise storing this in the refrigerator, as the risk of bacterial contamination is quite high.
Can imitation crab be frozen?
Imitation crab meat will store well in the freezer, and this is a great way of extending its shelf life. So, if you have a pack of imitation crab which is approaching its expiry date, simply pop it into the freezer!
Using the correct method to freeze imitation crab is essential to preserve the quality of the product. It should be left in its original packaging, placed inside an airtight container. If this precaution isn’t taken then freezer burn may occur.
Imitation crab stored in this way will remain safe to eat for up to 6 months. This means that the next time imitation crab is on offer at the store, you can stock up ready for your next summer party!
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