What’s in Imitation Crab and How It Gets Its Shape—Do You Really Wanna Know?
It's actually easier to find imitation crab than real crab meat these days. One reason is, the younger generation is perfectly fine with imitation crab as that's all they know as "crab". although that may be less true in Louisiana. Another reason for the imitation crab boom is...it's cheap.
Imitation crab is in almost everything these days, from baked potatoes to sushi.
And it hardly even tastes like real crab. Most imitation crab tastes like a cheap fish molded in the form of a crab claw with painted-on food coloring.
The reason imitation crab tastes so much as fish could be because of what's in it. The reason it's in the shape of a crab claw is not by accident. And as for the fake color...well...you can see where this is going.
So what exactly is in imitation crab meat? Usually, a cheap fish that is available in abundance, like Alaskan Pollock. The fish is made into surimi. A past made from mincing and pulverizing the fish parts. After the shredding, mincing and pulverizing, the fish is heated and pressed into the shape of a crab leg or claw.
To bind the surimi, manufacturers will use products like egg whites, starches, oils and or sugar to help everything clump together. Orange or red food coloring is added to make it look like real crab. And of course, a preservative. Many manufacturers have used monosodium glutamate (MSA) for ages. That's the stuff that makes food last longer, tastes better and you feel horrible. They also use pasteurization, that's why it's safe for you to eat it without cooking it. You can eat it in the car on the way home from the grocery store if you'd like.