The Pacific Northwest’s commercial crab species — king, snow and Dungeness — are typically sold cooked and frozen. The primary processed forms are:

Whole-cooks: Industry shorthand for whole, cooked crabs, available fresh but more often brine frozen. A market form more prevalent for Dungeness than king or snow.

Cluster: A group of legs and a claw from one side of a crab, with the con nect ing shoulder area still attached but gills, viscera and back shell removed.Clusters are also known as sections; the terms are used inter changeably, but cluster more often refers to snow crab, while section is associated with king and Dungeness crab. King crab sections consist of three walking legs and one claw arm; snow and Dungeness have four walking legs and a claw arm. Clusters are sold cooked and frozen.

Legs: Single, whole walking legs, frozen and sold intact or as splits (halved lengthwise to expose meat) or snap- ’n-eats (prescored for easy hand cracking of the shell to extract meat). All three crabs come as whole and scored legs; king and snow legs are sold as splits.

Claws: Individual claws available in a number of forms, including cocktail claws (shell removed above the pincer), cap-on claws and broiler claws (cap-on but scored for easy removal).

Meat: Extracted from body, legs and claws. The choicest is merus, the large piece of white meat at the top of the leg.


  • Whole cooks should not have cracked backs, and all legs should be present. 
  • Discoloration in shoulder end of clusters can indicate undercooking. Yellowing suggests freezer burn. 
  • Leg-and-claw packs should be of accurate proportion (i.e., three legs for each claw with king crab). 
  • Splits should exhibit clean and even cuts. 
  • All frozen crab products should be well glazed.