How to Tell if Crab Has Gone Bad

If you want crab, you want crab. Whether that be frozen, imitation, or fresh––which by the way, fresh is the best. Maybe you have a leftover crab meal in your fridge or you ordered frozen crab but forgot about it. Perhaps even you ordered live, fresh crab and didn’t end up cooking it until a few days after purchasing it. still want to eat it.

You’re hungry and want to hurry up and eat that delicious crab before you become hangry! 

How can you tell if your crab has gone bad so you can get on with your meal?

Let’s take it back a few steps and ensure you understand the different ways crab can be bought and how to handle, care for, and hold crab until you’re ready to eat. 

Step One: Purchase the Best

The first step is deciding what type of crab you want to purchase for the type of meal you are planning. 

There is imitation crab, which is actually a seafood paste containing zero crab, called surimi. An 8-oz. bag of imitation crab runs anywhere from $3 to $10, and you get what you pay for. It’ll probably take quite a while for imitation crab to go bad. 

How about you skip the fake stuff and go for the good stuff.

You can purchase Dungeness crab either frozen, picked meat in a container, or fresh at a market, or you can purchase it live and fresh through Fathom Seafood

Regardless of what you choose, make sure it is of excellent quality. 

Harvesting live dungeness crab

Step Two: Handle With Care

The next step that comes before consuming a delectable Dungeness crab––or any type of crab––is ensuring that it is handled properly either straight from the ocean to the home or while being shipped directly to your home by a company. Hey, that’s what Fathom Seafood does! 

Crab meat spoils quickly, which is why they are only sold live or already frozen. 

If catching Dungeness crab and transporting them home, keep them cool, damp and well aerated until their time has come to meet the Big Crab in the sky. Filling a cooler with cool saltwater and covering it with a towel is best. Make sure to stir the water every once in a while, as this aerates the crab’s environment. 

The same is true if bringing home a live crab from a market. You do not want to put them on ice, but you can put them in an ice cooler with some salted water to hang out in for a while until you are ready to cook them. It is best to keep the crab alive before you clean, boil, and freeze them. 

However, the most convenient thing to do is to order your live crab online and skip the handling part. Just get to cooking the second it lands on your doorstep from Fathom Seafood. 

Step Three: Know the Shelf Life

It’s definitely better to be safe than sorry...and terribly sick from seafood. Sea-food-sickness is the worst. 

Uncooked frozen crab meat in general lasts in the freezer safely for about 6 to 8 months. After that, be wary of the outcome. 

In an article by Southern Living on the topic of crabs, culinary experts say:

“It's best to freeze crab in the shell, or in preparations such as crab cakes or casseroles for up to three months. Without the protection of the shell or other ingredients, frozen crab meat loses its tender texture and becomes stringy. Cook the whole crab before freezing, and never thaw and then refreeze.”

Raw crab meat that you have bought at the store or you have harvested yourself and has been in the fridge can spoil quickly. Crab meat should smell a bit sweet; if it has a strong, fishy, sour odor––it’s time to toss it. The shelf-life in a fridge is 3 to 5 days and in the freezer is 6 to 9 months. 

Whole cooked crab that is frozen can last from 9 to 12 months. 

Cooked crab that has been sitting on a plate at a dinner table should be consumed within 2 hours. 

Live, fresh crab can remain in a refrigerated environment for about 1 to 2 days, although they begin to quickly lose moisture and will eventually die after that time. After that, it’s time to cook them up.

Step Four: Remember the Basics 

There are four things to remember in step four so that you may avoid a crab-tastrophe. 

1. Sniff for unusual odors. 

A rancid, sour, or bitter smell is not what you want.

2. Look out for dull colors.

Bright, white, and a little red is nice––anything else is a no go. 

3. Do the slime test.

Ew. But yes, you must. Feel it to determine if it has a slimy texture. 

4. Feel for firmness.

Soft and mushy crab needs to be tossed; feel for firm and bouncy flesh. 

We now have faith that you can venture out in the world (or online at Fathom Seafood) and pick out a nice little crab or two and be safe while consuming it. 


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