When you eat whole blue crab in Maryland, chances are it's going to taste like Maryland crab, even if the crab doesn't come from Maryland. This is because Marylanders tend to prepare their crabs a certain way.
Unlike in Louisiana, where local crustaceans served whole are almost always boiled, whole blue crabs in Maryland are steamed. The difference between the preparations can be difficult to detect, particularly when you're busy probing beneath the carapace for lump meat.
The real distinguishing features of Maryland steamed crabs begin with the spice blends favored in the region. Old Bay makes the most famous local blend, which Marylanders apply to everything from crabs to pizza to Bloody Mary's. L.P. Steamers, a respected neighborhood crab house in Baltimore, favors J.O., another local spice company. ("It's less salty, and cheaper," according to a waitress there.)
These brands are to eastern Maryland what Tony Chachere's and Zatarain's are to southeast Louisiana, and while not all Maryland crab houses employ them, the locally manufactured seasonings fairly represent a flavor profile unique to the region. It's mellower than a typical Louisiana crab boil, with black pepper getting a heavier hand than cayenne, which allows subtler tingles of clove and allspice to ring through.
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