Imitation crab is also known as crab sticks or surimi. It is a processed seafood product that doesn’t usually contain crab meat. Still, imitation crab looks like real crab sticks with the same appearance that has been artificially achieved.
Cooking imitation crab is an easy process, and the cooking method you choose will depend on the dosh that you want to make. You can steam, sautee, air fry, deep-fry, bake, and microwave imitation crab.
Is Imitation Crab Cooked?
Imitation crab is a ready-made processed seafood product that is sold cooked and ready to eat and is made out of steamed or cooked white fish meat, such as in Simply Surimi Sticks from Trans-Ocean Products. Trans-Ocean imitation crab products are available without crab meat and in products that contain some crab meat.
The fish meat is compressed into fish sticks and sold as imitation crab sticks at fish markets or grocery stores. Due to regulations on the sale of raw processed meat and the risk of salmonella poisoning, imitation crab sticks are always precooked. You may eat raw or freshly cooked imitation crab at a restaurant that especially makes these faux crab sticks in-house.
How to Cook & Prepare Imitation Crab Meat
The most popular cooking methods are to microwave, sautee, air fry, and steam or boil the crab sticks. Of these methods, microwaving is the easiest way to cook imitation crab sticks, while sauteing the fish is the most involved and time-consuming method.
Sauteing crab sticks offer the most flavor. Imitation crab is often sauteed in butter, enriching the fish’s texture and flavor. However, microwaving, air frying or steaming imitation crab sticks are the most healthy cooking methods.
Microwaving Imitation Crab
To cook imitation crab or crab sticks in the microwave, you will need a packet of imitation crab sticks, a microwaveable dish or plate, and a microwave oven.
Imitation crab sticks are pre-cooked, so microwaving these sticks will make them more palatable than eating the sticks cold.
To do this without drying out or burning the fish sticks, you should reduce the power setting of the microwave to 50%. Then, defrost the fish sticks and heat them in the microwave. Check the fish sticks in the microwave every 30 seconds.
Air Frying Imitation Crab
Cooking imitation crab in an air fryer gives the crab sticks a crispy texture. To cook imitation crab in an air fryer, gather the following ingredients: surimi sticks, vegetable oil, spices to taste, a bowl for mixing, and an air fryer with a wire mesh baking tray.
- Preheat the air fryer to 320℉ for 5 minutes.
- Cut the crab sticks lengthwise.
- Add sticks to a bowl with a drizzle of oil and coat well.
- Place in the air fryer on a tray.
- Toss the sticks every couple of minutes with tongs.
- Fry for 10-12 minutes.
Air frying is not the healthiest method to cook imitation crab, but it produces a pleasant snack version of the sticks that you can enjoy with a dipping sauce.
Sauteed Imitation Crab
Sauteing is one of the best methods for cooking imitation crab sticks. You can try making stove-top sauteed imitation crab because it is quick and easy to make.
Ingredients include imitation crab meat, cooking oil, finely diced onions, garlic, bread crumbs, and spices. Equipment required includes a mixing bowl, a frying pan, saran wrap, and a refrigerator.
- Cut the imitation crab into small slices.
- Mix in a bowl with chopped garlic, mayonnaise, an egg, and bread crumbs.
- Thoroughly mix the ingredients and shape them into patty-size servings.
- Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate to set the patties.
- Place a frying pan or shallow pot on a stove plate.
- Heat a drizzle of good quality cooking oil and add the imitation crab patties to the oil.
- Turn until golden brown.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes, depending on heat and size of patties.
Steamed Imitation Crab
Another healthy method of cooking imitation crab is to boil or steam the crab sticks. You will need a pot, a colander, or a steamer to cook the surimi.
Make sure you use a steamer or a pot with a colander to keep the surimi out of the water. Never submerge the imitation crab in the boiling water, as this will lead to the portions disintegrating.
- Place a medium pack of imitation crab sticks in a third of a cup of water in the steamer and use a steaming rack to keep the sticks out of the water.
- If you decide to use a pot and a colander, add two cups of water to the pot, setting the colander in place in the pot.
- Add the surimi.
- Bring the water to a boil over medium heat.
- Cook the imitation crab for 10 minutes and check if the crab is tender and warmed through.
Deep Frying Imitation Crab
Deep frying is the most appropriate cooking method for crumbed imitation crab sticks. This cooking method requires a deep pot, enough cooking oil to deep fry the crab sticks in, and a drip rack to drain excess oil.
- Place a large pot on a stove-top.
- Add sufficient oil to deep fry the crab sticks (about two to three inches of oil is enough.)
- Test the oil temperature by placing one crab stick into the oil. If the oil immediately bubbles, the oil is ready.
- Fry until the outer edges of the imitation crab meat are golden brown.
Cooking Imitation Crab: Tips & Nutritional Information
Imitation crab is versatile and can be mixed with other flavors and foods like onion, garlic, and fresh greens. You should always cook imitation crab unless the recipe for your dish states otherwise.
Imitation crab started in Japan. In the 1970s, the Japanese market for fish and seafood products expanded to include what is known as surimi or imitation crab. With the addition of starch, sodium, and a host of artificial flavorings, the end result is now known as imitation crab.
In the U.S., imitation crab is served in the form of crab sticks or as filling in California rolls or other sushi variants. Imitation crab’s low cost and palatable taste is a bonus for restaurants that serve surimi chips or crab sticks as part of their fish platter meals because imitation crab is a cheap filler fish.
Cooking imitation crab can be tricky if a few basic guidelines aren’t adhered to:
- Cooking imitation crab is best done from frozen
- Thawing the imitation crab meat will lead to the fish puree disintegrating
- When frying or steaming imitation crab, be sure to add the meat once the water or oil has reached the desired temperature
- Wait until the air fryer has reached the correct temperature before adding the imitation crab
- Don’t overcook imitation crab as it quickly becomes rubbery
- When deep frying or air frying, be sure to leave space in the frying basket
- Freeze imitation crab as soon as you get home from the supermarket to prevent spoiling.
- Don’t refreeze imitation crab
How to Choose a Method for Cooking Imitation Crab
Deciding between the top five cooking methods depends on personal taste. Those on a diet would benefit from microwaving or steaming the imitation crab as these methods don’t add to the calorie content of the dish. For additional flavor, adding a crumbed base and deep-frying the imitation crab sticks is ideal if you want added texture and a rich flavor.
What Can Imitation Crab be Served With?
Imitation crab is a versatile seafood product. Serve imitation crab sticks with salads, as part of a seafood platter, in pasta, as an hors d’oeuvre, on salty snacks, and as a side for other seafood meals. The options are limitless due to imitation crabs’ subtle flavor and ease of preparation.
Imitation Crab Nutritional Information
While real crab meat is nutritionally dense, imitation crab meat is an inferior substitute. Here is an overview of the nutritional content of three ounces of imitation crab.
Fats — 0.4 grams
Carbohydrates — 12.7 grams
Protein — 6.5 grams
Phosphorus — 24% of the recommended daily intake (RDI)
Selenium — 27% RDI
Vitamin B12 — 8% RDI
Real crab meat is nutritionally denser than imitation crab meat because of the added fillers. Imitation crab meat also contains less of the good nutrients than real crab meat does.
When considering the fat content in imitation crab, only 25.5 milligrams of fat are Omega 3 fats, and frying the imitation crab sticks in oil increases the fat content further. The carbohydrates content of surimi also includes 5.3 grams of sugar, which is not beneficial to a healthy diet.
Imitation crab is rich in sodium and cholesterol due to the added preservatives and flavorings in the sticks. However, the low-calorie footprint in imitation crab meat is good, so this source of protein can be part of a calorie-restricted diet.