Crab and lobster are two of the most popular types of shellfish to consume. You probably can tell them apart by their very different looks, but what else makes these two sea creatures different? How do they compare in price, flavor, and the way they behave in the wild?
As seafood connoisseurs, we have the answers. Learn how crab and lobster compare, what types of species of each are some of the best to eat, and how to use each one in your favorite dishes.
Difference Between Crab and Lobster: 8 Comparisons
Crab meat and lobster meat can be used interchangeably in many dishes, but these two sea animals are more different than you might think.
Lobsters and crabs both belong to shellfish a subphylum known as Crustacea, making them crustaceans, or animals with an exoskeleton that molts occasionally for the animal to get bigger. Like most crustaceans, these two live in aquatic environments. To break them down even further, their order is Decapoda, making them decapods. A decapod crustacean has multiple appendages that attach to their body segments.
Now, let’s get into some key differences between crabs and lobsters.
This is where you’ll notice the most significant difference between crab and lobster. If you’re at all familiar with the two, you know that they look quite a bit different from each other.
Crabs have rounder bodies than lobsters with several long legs that extend out from their shell-like exterior. They have one pair of claws at the front of their bodies. Crabs come in a variety of colors, sizes, and even shapes, but you can almost always tell that it’s a crab just by its looks. Contrary to popular belief, many animals with “crab” in their names aren’t true crabs, like the hermit crab, porcelain crab, and horseshoe crab.
A lobster has a longer, narrower body than a crab, and its legs don’t usually appear as long and extended, although they often are. A lobster’s claws can be massive, sometimes looking almost as big as the lobster itself. Lobsters can also come in many sizes and colors, but they generally have a very distinct shape.
Another difference that’s easy to spot immediately when you observe crabs and lobsters is the way they walk. Lobsters walk forward and backward, but crabs usually walk sideways.
We generally think of clawed lobsters as hanging out in the ocean and crabs strolling along tropical beaches. And that generalization isn’t too far off from the truth. Crabs and lobsters are both mostly ocean creatures, but some crabs do spend a lot of time on land if they’re in warm, tropical areas.
However, you’ll usually find both crabs and lobsters in the ocean, either near the shoreline or on the sandy ocean floor. Some crab species live in freshwater environments, too. Although some lobsters can be found in freshwater, it’s much more common to find them in saltwater areas.
You can find crabs and lobsters in any ocean in the world, from warm to cold, but cold water lobster is the kind we tend to think of when we want a lobster treat. In fact, Maine lobster is some of the most well-known in the world!
Feeding and Social Habits
Some crab species live alone, but others prefer to live in groups. They’re quite active when they are in groups, too, using communication techniques to work together toward a common goal. However, it’s likely that you’ll see males fighting with each other for dominance if there are too many in one group.
Lobsters are mostly solitary and rarely interact with one another. Interestingly, lobsters still have somewhat of a social hierarchy in which some are higher up in “importance” than others. These are usually males, and they’re the ones who get to be the primary stud for breeding season.
As for feeding, lobsters and crabs are both omnivores, meaning that their diets consist of meat and plants. Crabs eat a lot of smaller animals, like worms and other tiny mollusks, but they also feed on bacteria and algae. Lobsters are similar, but their diets usually contain more animals than the crab diet does, like mussels, sea urchins, and even small crabs.
Lobsters are also known to eat other lobsters, but this usually happens when confined or stressed.
There are many, many types of popular crab and lobster — you might just not know it when you’re eating a new variety! Most crabs and lobsters just get lumped into “crabs” and “lobsters,” but like most shellfish and sea creatures, each animal has several types that look pretty different if you were to compare them.
Here are some crab varieties you might have heard of:
- Spider crab
- Rock crab
- Chesapeake blue crab
- European green crab
- Snow crab
- Dungeness crab
- Jonah crab
- Florida stone crab
- King crab
And then there’s a soft shell crab, which can mean any crab that’s been pulled from its water soon after molting and before its shell has hardened. This is a popular type of crab in the culinary world because the shell is much easier to pull apart than hardened shells.
Here are a few well-known lobster varieties:
- Norway lobster
- Spiny lobsters
- Reef lobster
- Squat lobster
- Furry lobsters
- Pacific lobster
- Australian lobster
- Maine lobster
- Canadian lobster
Taste and Texture
Despite being able to use lobster meat and crab meat in many of the same meals, these two animals do have some distinct flavor profiles. As anyone who really loves one or the other, and they’ll tell you what’s so great about their pick!
Both lobster meat and crab meat have tell-tale seafood flavor. But crab meat is usually a bit on the sweeter side. Lobster is a little more seafood-y and briny. Add them to a buttery bath, though, and you probably won’t be able to tell much of a difference between the two.
As for texture, crab meat usually flakes apart while lobster meat holds together. It can be challenging to eat either one with a regular fork, but you’ll notice that crab meat is more delicate overall.
The cooking methods used for these two crustaceans are mostly the same. Steaming and boiling the live animals are some of the most popular methods. From there, you can break down the animal to get its meat to use in several ways, like tossing the meat into chowder or making it into a seafood salad to enjoy on a toasted bun.
Some people enjoy eating just crab legs or lobster tails. They’ve both become somewhat of a luxury in the culinary world. Even if you’re only eating these parts of the animals, steaming and boiling the full animal is usually the way to go. Once you do that, you can always transfer the tail or legs to the grill to get a perfect char and a little more flavor.
The nutrition of both lobster and crab can’t be argued. They’re both low-calorie, low-fat, high-protein foods. They also contain lots of nutrients our bodies need, like selenium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. In a 100-gram serving of either, you can get around 17 grams of protein for less than 100 calories, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) FoodData Central.
Which crustacean is more affordable? They both can be relatively expensive, but that’s generally the case for seafood. You can expect to see lower prices for crab than lobster, but pricing depends mostly on where you live, what species are around, and what you’re buying.
King crab legs, for example, might cost you more per pound than lobster because of how desirable they are. But, you’ll also be getting mostly meat for the price, whereas a whole lobster might not give you as much meat.
It’s a good idea to comparison shop each time you want to buy crab or lobster because prices can change depending on the season and the current population of each.
Buy Fresh Lobster Online
Now you know the difference between crab and lobster! Did you also know that you can buy both online? Maine Lobster House has Maryland crab cakes and live Maine lobster for sale for you to buy online and get shipped to your home. It’s never been easier to enjoy your favorite crustaceans.
Be sure to sign up for the reward program before you place you order to earn points on your purchase to put toward gift cards!