Simply delicious. These Maryland-style smoked crab cakes are everything you want and more making them the perfect lunch or dinner recipe.
Step up your crab cakes with a kiss of smoke. These cedar planks smoked crab cakes are as good as you will find in any restaurant…actually better!
These crab cakes are super easy to prepare and packed with jumbo lump crab and just enough filler to hold them together perfectly.
Smoked Crab Cakes Recipe
This recipe was born out of necessity but turned out so good that I’ve been making crab cakes this way for years!
A few years back, my family and I took a vacation to the beach. Unfortunately, the oven at the house we rented broke. We were sitting there with all this fresh crab meat and no way to cook it.
When I looked on the deck, I noticed the house had an old beat-up gas grill. It wasn’t ideal but I knew I could make it work.
I ran out to the local grocery store and pick up some Cedar Planks. You can typically find these at any grocery store either near the fish counter or in the grilling supply section.
Cedar planks are perfect for grilling fish but make a great surface for cooking crab cakes on your grill or smoker.
Pro-Tip: If you are going to use a cedar plan MAKE SURE you soak them in water for at least 30 minutes so they don’t burn. It is so important not to skip this step.
As the planks heat they will start to bow and release a mild wood flavor into the smoked crab cake.
Ingredients for Smoked Crab Cakes
Crab Meat: You can’t make crab cakes without crab! For this, I used 2 pounds of jumbo lump crab meat and 1 pound of Backfin crab meat.
Wet Ingredients: Chock-full of flavor, we are going to be using ½ cup of mayonnaise, 2 eggs, the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tbsp of dijon mustard, 2 tsp of Old Bay, 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tsp of Tabasco Sauce.
Dry Ingredients: Hold it all together with 1 sleeve of Ritz Crackers and garnish with 2 tbsp of freshly chopped parsley.
How to Make Smoked Crab Cakes
Soak. Soak cedar planks in water for 30 minutes.
Combine and whisk. In a large mixing bowl combine mayo, eggs, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, and lemon. Whisk until smooth
Crush the Ritz crackers. While still in the sleeve crush up Ritz crackers and pour them into a separate bowl along with some parsley and Old Bay Seasoning.
Remove shell pieces from crab meat. Gently pick through the crab meat looking for bits of shell. Make sure not to break up the lumps too much. Then add to the cracker mixture.
Fold and combine. Gently fold the crab meat with the cracker mixture until combined then pour half of the wet mixture. Fold gently and then add just enough of the mixture so that you can form a ball that holds together. Let the mixture sit for about 15-20 minutes in the fridge to set.
Form crab cakes. Portion out your crab cakes and place them on cedar planks, brush with butter, and sprinkle with a dusting of Old Bay Seasoning.
Smoke the crab cakes. Smoke at 350 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Look for an internal temperature of about 150 degrees F.
Garnish. Garnish with some freshly chopped parsley and some lemon juice.
Enjoy. Serve and enjoy!
Let’s Talk Smoked Crab Cakes
Now, when I’m not on vacation trying to make due I’m at home smoking killer crab cakes. At home, I’ve also got my favorite piece of grilling equipment my Rectec 700, and truth be told, it is my personal cooker of choice for this recipe.
Unlike meat where we famously say, “slow and low” for the best meat. When you are smoking fish or crab cakes I recommend using higher heat and a shorter time. The goal is to just add a subtle kiss of smoke to the delicate meat.
Unlike large thick cuts like brisket and butts, seafood does not and won’t benefit from a long smoky cook.
Remember with fish, there is no connective tissue to break down so the goal is just to impart a little flavor during the cooking process.
Ritz Crackers are the best Binder for Smoked Crab Cakes. Prove me wrong!
I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants in my 20+ year career and have seen plenty of crab cake recipes. Let me first say that if you put bell peppers or cheese in your smoked crab cakes then you need to stop immediately.
That’s an abomination and disrespectful to the crab. Sorry but I have a strong opinion about that. If you do it, please don’t ever tell me about it; I don’t want to know.
Now another area of heated debate is what fillers to use to bind your smoked crab cake. Some folks say cubed white bread or saltines are best. Others use cornmeal or breadcrumbs.
Those all do a fine job but just don’t bring any flavor to the game. Ritz Crackers not only have that buttery flavor but they also absorb other flavors of the crab cake.
I also love to use Ritz crackers because one sleeve is the perfect amount for this recipe. You just crush them up while still in the sleeve then pour them into the mixing bowl.
If you are gluten-free or low carb I’ve got a great keto crab cake recipe from Culinary Lion that you can check out as well.
What’s the Best Crabmeat to Buy?
Crabmeat is expensive, it doesn’t matter where you live or who you know. At the date of writing this blog, the going price for jumbo lump crab was about $37 and backfin was $30.
With the cost of food on the rise, there’s no shame in using all backfin crab in your smoked crab cakes, especially if you’re using fresh crabmeat.
Personally, when I am making crab cakes, I like to use a combination so that I can get those big beautiful lumps from the jumbo and fill in the blanks with the Backfin.
However, if that doesn’t matter to you, save yourself a few bucks and use all Blackfin crab meat.
Depending on the time of year or the region you live in fresh crab meat may not be an option. Your next best bet is to use pasteurized crab meat.
Though pasteurized crab tends to be a little blander you can compensate with the other ingredients in your crab cakes. Most pasteurized crab meat is going to come from the far East.
Regulations can vary a lot but I try to look for crab meat that is cooked on board and pasteurized immediately. Crab meat from the Philippines and Vietnam tends to be the best. I try to avoid any crab meat from China if possible.
Size Matters … Well, kinda!
I portioned out these crab cakes and got ten 6 oz. crab cakes.
Depending on how many people you are serving you can adjust the portion size. I think 5-6 oz is perfect because it’s a generous portion and will cook evenly.
If you want to serve these as an appetizer as opposed to a lunch or dinner portion, then I recommend breaking them out into 2 oz portions.
The 2 oz appetizer portion makes for a fantastic tailgate snack that everyone will be talking about!
Now, if you really just want to show off or if you are making a romantic meal and are looking to impress someone, you can portion out a few 10 oz crab cakes.
When they are split into 10 oz, they will take longer to cook so be sure to reach an internal temperature of 150 degrees F. before serving.
Cocktail or Tartar Sauce … Can’t we have both?
I have to admit I’m a dipper. I’m sure purists will say that if you need cocktail or tartar sauce then your crab cakes aren’t good, but that’s just nonsense!
Just as a French fry can be enhanced by ketchup so can a dab of sauce compliment the flavor of your crab cake.
I’ll even cross the streams sometimes and have a cocktail and tartar sauce in the same bite, because, well, that’s what kinda guy I am.
Either way, I’ve got you covered with recipes for both cocktail and tartar below. If you need a quick side to serve alongside the crab cakes I would recommend these BBQ Spaghetti Squash Rings!
More Amazing Crab Recipes!
- Creamy White Crab Chili
- Chesapeake Crab Butter Sauce
- Jumbo Lump Crab Burgers
- Ultimate Guide To Steamed Blue Crabs
- Chesapeake Crab Dip
- Chesapeake Crab Stuffed Morel Mushrooms
Cedar Plank Smoked Crab Cakes
- Soak cedar planks for 30 minutes
- In a mixing bowl combine mayo, eggs, Dijon, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and lemon. Whisk until smooth
- While still in the sleeve crush up Ritz crackers and pour into a separate bowl along with parsley and old bay
- Gently pick through the crab meat looking for bits of shell. Make sure not to break up the lumps too much. Then add to the cracker mixture.
- Gently fold the crab meat with the cracker mixture until combined then pour half of the wet mixture. Fold gently and then add just enough of the mixture so that you can form a ball that holds together. Let mixture sit for about 15-20 minutes in the fridge to set up.
- Portion crab cakes and place on cedar planks, brush with butter and sprinkle with a dusting of old bay.
- Smoke at 350 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Look for an internal temperature of about 150 degrees F.
- Whisk all ingredients to combine
- Whisk ingredients to combine.