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Recipes may differ for these delicious cakes, but they all share the same base
These crab cakes are baked and can be assembled ahead of time and then heated at the last minute. - photo by Bob Chamberlin

With warm weather here to stay, folks are turning their attention to beach vacations and the delightful meal options provided by the surf’s bounty.

Crab cakes tend to be a crowd pleaser, but if you ask 10 people for the best recipe, you’ll likely get 10 different answers.

Some people use the recipe on the can of Old Bay Seasoning — called a classic Maryland-style crab cake. It’s a mix of crab meat, mayo, mustard, Old Bay, an egg and parsley flakes.

Others prefer recipes that call for a few drops of Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, salt and pepper. To bind the cakes together, they use egg and mayonnaise, but mixed in a separate bowl and then folded into the crab cake mixture.

Some recipes also call for dredging the crab cakes in bread crumbs or cracker meal before pan-frying or broiling.

What to pair with crab cakes is another issue.

You can serve them alone, with a side of steamed vegetables or sandwiched in the middle of a freshly baked bun.

Some purists say crab cakes need no sauce or perhaps just some lemon wedges. Many recipes call for serving them with a Cajun remoulade — just don’t make it too spicy. You don’t want the crab to compete with many other flavors.

Crab cakes are easy to make and great to have on hand when you need something quick and easy for dinner or an appetizer. The best ones use good-size pieces of crab, so use lump crab if you can.

Lump crab is the most expensive — about $16 for an 8-ounce container. Crab labeled "special" and claw meat is about $8 for an 8-ounce container. To cut cost, you can use a mix of all three. But don’t use imitation crab. It just isn’t the same.

To prepare ahead, make, shape and freeze the crab cakes without cooking. If you cook and then freeze them, they may get soggy.

Once you’ve mixed all the ingredients together, shape the crab cakes into desired size. Use an ice cream scoop to make dinner portion size crab cakes, about 3 ounces each. Shape the mixture gently and don’t press it.

Crab cakes should be about a half-inch thick. To make small ones for appetizers, use small measuring cups or tablespoon measures.

Place crab cakes on a tray lined with parchment or wax paper and place in the freezer.

Once they are frozen put them in a freezer bag labeled with the date and store in the freezer. You can also layer them in a container, separating the rows with a sheet of wax paper.

Some cooks prefer broiling their crab cakes. You can pan-fry them, too, but use an oil like canola so it doesn’t compete with the crab flavor. Or for a richer flavor, pan-fry in clarified butter.

MCT Information Services contributed to this article.

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