How to Cook Crab Cakes in a Frying Pan


Crab cakes are delicate patties, especially if your recipe shows off the moist, tender crab meat by using little filler. Cooking them in a frying pan gives them a light, crispy exterior which complements the pillowy inside. Use a high quality cast-iron or stainless steel frying pan, one that distributes heat evenly and has been well seasoned to prevent sticking. Also use a thin and flexible spatula, one that you can slide deftly under the cakes to flip them without breaking them.

Things You'll Need

  • Cooking oil
  • Spatula
  • Shape crab cakes that are about an inch to 1 1/2 inches high, thick enough to hold together when you flip them in the frying pan, yet thin enough to fully cook in the middle. Mold the patties with your hands by pressing them together firmly enough to hold their shape, but not so firmly that the tender crab meat breaks down to the point that it is unrecognizable.

  • Bread the patties if desired, by dipping them in flour or bread crumbs. Use enough to create a thin layer that will get crispy, but not enough for a dense coating that overpowers the delicate flavors of the patty.

  • Preheat your frying pan to medium-high. Generously coat the bottom of the pan with oil. Liberal (but not excessive) use of oil will help prevent the crab cakes from sticking and breaking apart when you try to flip them. Use an oil, such as safflower or canola oil, that stands up well to moderately high heat. Butter also works well, adding extra rich flavor as the crab cakes cook.

  • Add the crab cakes once the oil is hot enough to sizzle lightly when you place them in the pan. Transfer them gently to avoid breaking them. Leave enough space between them for you to easily access them with a spatula.

  • Cook the crab cakes for 3 to 4 minutes, then flip them and cook them for another 3 to 4 minutes. They should be lightly browned and just crispy on the outside, and heated all the way through on the inside.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid olive oil, which has a low smoke point and will start to degrade by the time it reaches a temperature hot enough to cook the crab cakes.

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