When it comes to eating creatures from the sea, it is all too easy to get confused about whether they can be eaten raw or should be cooked! After all, sushi is made from raw fish, so does this mean that we can eat crab raw?
Can you eat raw crab? Crabmeat should not be eaten raw as it can contain harmful microorganisms including two types of illness-inducing bacteria and a parasite that causes lung disease. Raw crab is also very unpalatable, as the flesh is moist and mushy. The crab served in sushi rolls is normally imitation crab meat.
Want to find out more about how to ensure crab meat is safe to eat? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about this delicious and highly nutritious aquatic creature!
What Is Crab Meat?
Crabs are water-dwelling creatures that have prehistoric origins, dating back to the Jurassic period! They are found all around the world, in oceans and fresh water, and on land.
These unusual crustaceans have a body covered in a thick shell. They have several pairs of legs and a well-developed set of claws with sharp pincers. Crabs are notorious for walking sideways, as it is easier for them to get around this way!
In many countries, crab meat is considered to be a delicacy. These aquatic creatures are consumed in many different ways around the world and have been enjoyed by humans for centuries.
However, eating a crab is not an easy task!
The fleshy parts of a crab are hidden inside the thick outer shell of the body and claws, and it takes some skill to learn how to extract the meat in the best possible condition.
Once the crab has been cooked, the shell needs to be removed, and the edible parts carefully removed from the body. The legs and claws are also cracked open, and the meat picked out.
Luckily, it is possible to buy prepared crab meat, so you don’t need to go through the effort of doing this yourself!
However, fresh crab meat straight from the shell is the tastiest way to eat this delicate meat, so we’d recommend trying it at least once.
Can You Eat Raw Crab?
Most of us will be used to eating our crab meat cooked but will have come across other types of fish and seafood that can be eaten raw.
Raw fish is a whole different sensation in terms of taste and texture. This food preparation style is the basis of popular cuisines such as sashimi and sushi. But can crab meat also be eaten raw?
Crabmeat is never eaten raw, as it can be potentially harmful to human health. The texture and flavor of crab meat also change considerably when it is cooked, making it more palatable.
You might be feeling puzzled now, as it is not unusual to see crab on the menu of a sushi restaurant. How did a crustacean that cannot be eaten raw end up being served in a raw fish restaurant? Let’s find out!
Why Is It A Bad Idea To Eat Raw Crab?
The reason that raw crab is not safe to eat is that it can contain several microorganisms that may be detrimental to human health.
These include parasites, such as Paragonimus westermani, a type of lung fluke. Raw crab meat may also be contaminated with bacteria including Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio cholerae.
Not all crab meat will carry these microorganisms, but it is enough of a risk for the food safety authorities to advise that crab meat is cooked before consumption.
Cooking the crab thoroughly is the only way to get rid of these microorganisms.
The symptoms that may occur after eating raw crab will depend on the type of pathogen that is ingested.
Bacterial contamination will likely lead to food poisoning, with severe vomiting and diarrhea. It is also possible to contract cholera from eating raw crab contaminated with bacteria.
Lung fluke in raw crab meat can cause lung disease, which may take several years to recover from. This can also progress to the brain, leading to meningitis.
OK, so you’re probably feeling a bit queasy right now! However, it is important to remember that suppliers of crab meat will do everything they can to ensure it is safe to eat.
Most of us will buy crab meat that is already cooked, but it is possible to buy raw crabs to cook at home.
But if we’re buying a fresh raw crab, it is our responsibility to ensure that it is thoroughly cooked and safe to eat.
What Does Raw Crab Taste Like?
The other reason that raw crab is not commonly included in sushi dishes is that the texture is not at all like a cooked crab. The flesh of raw crab can be watery and mushy, and many people find this unappetizing.
Crabmeat develops a much more appealing flavor and texture when it is cooked.
So, not only will raw crab meat most likely give you a nasty stomach upset or long-term lung problems, but it also doesn’t taste particularly pleasant either!
There is one exception to this, but it is not one we’d recommend trying. In some countries, such as South Korea, marinated raw crab is served as a delicacy.
Some foods are perfectly safe to eat when marinaded, but this does not apply to crab meat.
When it comes to crab meat, we’d recommend that you don’t take the risk and make sure it is cooked thoroughly.
Is Crab In Sushi Cooked Or Raw?
If you’re a fan of sushi, you’ll be well aware that this popular Japanese cooking style involves serving fish, often raw, with vegetables and rice.
The intricate rolls of fish are then dipped in sauces, and the whole experience is somewhat mystical and serene!
It is very common to see crab included as part of a sushi meal, so is this served raw or cooked?
In most cases, the crab in sushi is actually imitation crab—often spelled as “krab” on the ingredients list.
This is fish that is dyed and flavored to make it look and taste like crab. You may see this for sale in the frozen section of your local store, labeled as crab sticks or seafood sticks.
And just in case you haven’t tried them, they are a very tasty snack or sandwich filling!
They normally come as a pack of rectangular sticks, white on the inside and pinky-red on the outside. They are made with fish meat (most commonly Alaskan Pollock) but generally do not contain any crab.
Imitation crab is a highly processed food with a lot of artificial additives, so many people tend to steer clear of it. However, they do taste amazing, and are a great alternative to crab if you are making sushi!
The reason that imitation crab can be used in sushi and other dishes straight from the packet is that it has already been cooked. You can reheat it and cook it with other foods, or eat it chilled without any further preparation.
Imitation crab meat is never sold raw, so you don’t need to panic that you need to cook it first. It is pre-cooked and perfectly safe to eat straight from the packet.
How To Buy Crab
There are several different ways in which crab can be sold, and you need to make sure you know what you are buying so that it can be prepared correctly.
One key point to remember about crab meat is that it should be consumed when as fresh as possible. Once a crab has been caught, it should be cooked as soon as possible; otherwise, the meat may start to deteriorate.
Freshly cooked crab meat is also best consumed within a few hours unless it has been preserved in some way.
Let’s take a look at your options when buying crab meat:
The easiest way to buy crab is to opt for crab meat that has been cooked and prepared on the day you purchase it.
You will find crab meat prepared in this way on the fish counter at your local store or market; it is normally sold in tubs stored over ice.
This crab meat will be as fresh as you can get, without taking a live crab home and cooking it yourself! However, you can rest assured that it has been safely prepared and pasteurized to ensure it is safe to eat.
Fresh crabmeat should be kept in a refrigerator and consumed on the day of purchase.
Whole Cooked Crab
You can also buy a crab that has been cooked but not yet prepared, for you to pick out the meat at home. This is a fun skill to learn but does take some practice.
The time spent picking out pieces of shell from the crab meat would test anyone’s patience!
An alternative is to buy a cooked, dressed crab. This is one where the shell has been taken apart, the inedible parts removed, and the tasty parts placed back in the shell. This can make an attractive centerpiece to a seafood feast.
A whole cooked crab should be refrigerated and consumed on the day of purchase.
Freezing crabmeat is a great way to preserve the freshness of this flavorsome delicacy. For this method, the crabmeat is cooked and frozen on the day it is caught. This means it is as fresh as possible, locking in the flavor.
Aside from buying freshly cooked crab from the fish counter, this is the best way to consume cooked crab.
It is also much more convenient, as you can ensure that you always have a bag of cooked crab meat in the freezer, for whenever you fancy it!
Most people will be familiar with seeing canned crabmeat at the store, and for many of us, this may be the only way we have ever eaten crab.
However, the quality of canned crab meat can vary widely. In a worst-case scenario, the meat will be mushy, watery, and lacking in flavor.
Good-quality canned crab meat will have visible chunks of flesh, and a sweet, fishy flavor. If it looks like a fish puree, it is not a good can of crab meat!
This is a convenient way to buy cooked crab, and it can be stored on the pantry shelf until you are ready to use it.
One important thing to remember when using canned crab meat is that it should not be rinsed before you use it. This will wash away a lot of the flavor, and risk turning your crab meat watery and bland!
Whole Live Crab
Now, this is not for the fainthearted! Remember how we said that crabs should be cooked as soon as possible after they have been caught? Well, the reason for this is that once the crab is dead, the meat starts to deteriorate.
So, to get around this problem, it is very common for crabs to be caught and stored alive until the time comes to cook them.
In the past, the normal method for cooking crabs was to plunge them into boiling water whilst they were still alive.
Recent research has shown that crabs can feel pain, so they should be humanely killed before being cooked. But once this is done, you have just 10 minutes to then get them into the pot before they start to deteriorate!
So, while you can buy live freshly-caught crabs from the market to prepare at home, you need to be 100% sure that you can prepare and cook them humanely.
You wouldn’t be the first person to balk at the sight of dispatching a crab waving its claws at you!
Can You Eat Cold Crab?
Cold crab is perfectly safe to eat, once it has been cooked and prepared. Cooked crab meat will deteriorate quickly, which is why it is normally kept on ice on the fish counter.
Keep your cooked cold crab meat refrigerated, and consume it on the day of purchase.
Now we’ve figured out everything you might want to know about crab, let’s take a look at some other fishy questions!
Can you eat shellfish raw?
Many people eat raw shellfish such as oysters or clams, but this is actually very dangerous! Eating raw shellfish can cause an infection called Vibriosis, which can cause serious illness or even death.
In fact, it is estimated that over 50,000 cases of illness occur annually from people eating raw or undercooked contaminated shellfish!
To minimize the risk of infection, shellfish should be refrigerated before consumption, and any with open shells should be discarded.
If cooked in the shell, they should be boiled for 5 minutes after the shells open. Shellfish removed from the shell should be boiled for at least 3 minutes.
Can you eat any fish raw?
Some fish are very dangerous to eat raw, whilst others are safe to eat without fully cooking them. If you want to give eating raw fish a try, the best place to start is with salmon and tuna.
These two types of fish have very little or no risk of parasite infestation when eaten raw. However, there are certain other precautions you should take when eating raw fish.
Bacterial contamination is a big risk in uncooked fish, and steps must be taken to keep bacterial contamination to a minimum.
Ensure that the fish is as fresh as possible, and it should be kept chilled at all times until you are ready to consume it.
If you’re looking to try out a new crab recipe, definitely give this video from Gordon Ramsay a watch!
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