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Measure Stone Crab Key West

Key West Stone Crab

It’s stone crab claw season in Key West, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on these tasty critters. Key West stone crabs are a local delicacy that few tourists know about, so here’s a look at these Florida crab claws, how to eat them, and where to find the best stone crabs.

And, since I’m feeling extra generous today, I will throw in my world-famous Key West stone crab mustard sauce recipe.

Measure Stone Crab Key West

What Is Key West Stone Crab?

The stone crab, or Menippe mercenaria to those who just met him, is a species of tasty crustacean that lives in Florida, The Bahamas, and a few other spots on the East Coast. But they’re best known to come from the Florida Keys and Key West. 

Stone crabs are about six inches wide, brown or red, with grey spots and a tan underside. They eat oysters, mollusks, and other crustaceans.

You can usually find stone crabs near dock pilings in shallow water. They live in holes that they decorate with shells. Actually, they use the shells to help dig the hole, then just leave their tools lying around. Messy buggers—reminds me of my college roommate.

The History of Florida Stone Crab

You might not have heard of stone crabs; they are not nearly as famous as their cousins, the king, snow, or even blue crabs. But stone crabs have been caught in Florida for a long time, since at least the mid-1800s.

They weren’t very popular and were usually only enjoyed by the fishermen who found them in their traps. Most visitors and locals didn’t even know that stone crabs were edible.

But, as the Florida legend goes, eating stone crabs caught on as soon as they appeared on the Joe’s Stone Crab menu in the 1920s. It was just Joe’s Restaurant back then, but the crabs were such a hit that the place became world-famous. The Miami Beach restaurant literally put the stone crab on the menu and remains the top buyer of stone crab claws to this day. 

What is Joe’s secret? Other than being the first to try, there doesn’t appear to have been one. In the early days, they served the crabs chilled and cracked with hash brown potatoes, coleslaw, and mayonnaise. It wasn’t until later that mustard sauce for stone crabs was introduced.

Today, stone crab claws are enjoyed by nearly everyone around South Florida as a trademark local delicacy. You’ll find it on the menu of many local Keys restaurants during season.

Key West Stone Crab Trap

Key West Stone Crab Season

Stone crab season in Key West and all of Florida runs from October 15 to May 15 each year. 

Here’s an interesting fact about our stone crabs—only the stone crab claws are harvested. The claws must be at least 2-7/8 inches in length. Crabs are usually trapped, and then one claw is snapped off. The critter is then set free, and it will regrow the lost claw in time.

It’s still legal to take both claws from the crab, but this is a bit harsh since it leaves them unable to defend themselves and even makes it hard for them to eat. By only taking one claw per crab, stone crabs are a sustainable seafood product.

Getting You Some Fresh Stone Crab Claws

Looking for a Keys restaurant with great Florida stone crab? There are quite a few spots to check out that offer stone crabs for sale and crab claws at market price. There are even a few fish markets that will ship fresh Florida stone crab right to your door!

You can try searching for “where to buy stone crabs near me,” but a few spots where you can definitely catch your limit include:

Half Shell Raw Bar
Eaton Street Seafood
Keys Fresh Seafood
The Stoned Crab

How much is stone crab per pound? 

In 2023, the crab claws market price was around $35 per pound. The price varies depending on your location and the size of the claws. The large stone crab claws, whether they’re called ‘large,’ ‘jumbo,’ ‘colossal,’ or ‘ginormous,’ fetch the highest prices. And, of course, prices vary from season to season.

Stone Crab in Ice Bath
Stone Crab Claws

How to Eat Stone Crab Claws

Stone crab claws are usually boiled as soon as possible. The approximate time to cook the meat is about eight minutes, but it depends on the size of the claws. Once it’s cooked, the meat should be chilled. Claws are best enjoyed cold, just like revenge.

To get at the good stuff, you gotta crack the shell. A wood mallet is the traditional stone crab cracker. A plier-type cracker will likely shatter the shell and push it into the meat, making it harder to get it out cleanly.

Whomp the claw with the mallet a few times on each side. Once the shell is cracked, you can pick it off and remove the meat. 

Dip it in mustard sauce and enjoy. That, my friends, is how to eat stone crab.

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