The cooking oil you choose can make or break your crab cakes. Some oils tolerate higher heat than others -- and impart flavors you may or may not find appealing. Base your choice on the cooking method you plan to use, and your preference for simple or complex flavor.
Deep-fried crab cakes need oil with a high smoking temperature. Peanut and corn oil fit the bill nicely, but they have slight flavors that can alter the taste of your crab cakes. Canola oil, on the other hand, stands up to heat and is comparatively flavorless. Deep-fry your crab cakes in a large frying pan, using about a quart of oil heated to 325 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit when tested with a candy or deep-fry thermometer.
Pan-frying involves cooking food in a small amount of oil, over medium-high heat. You can use oil with a lower smoking point for this cooking method. Olive oil is an excellent choice because of the delicious flavor it adds to the crab cakes. Use it alone, or mix it half and half with butter. Mixing the butter with oil lets you heat it over higher temperatures without burning it. Use enough oil and butter to generously coat the bottom of the pan. After you add the crab cakes to the hot pan, let them sit until the bottoms brown. Turn them, then let them continue cooking until the other sides have browned.
Broiled crab cakes don't really need extra oil. The mayonnaise has enough to allow them to brown nicely. However, brushing on a little butter or olive oil adds extra flavor. Cook the crab cakes on a nonstick pan under a hot broiler. Brush on the butter or oil after they begin to brown, then broil them for a moment longer before turning. Repeat this process with the other side.
Infused Oil Finish
A drizzle of infused oil on your cooked crab cakes gives them an unexpected burst of flavor. You'd typically infuse oil by letting herbs or spices steep in it for several days. Speed up the process by steeping the flavoring on the stove in warm oil until the oil is fragrant. Use a flavorless oil, such as grapeseed, to keep the infusion from overpowering the crab cake's delicate taste. Complementary infusion ingredients include fresh or dried chile pepper, garlic and lemon zest.