Crab is known as one of the most popular and versatile seafood ingredients you can get your hands on. There are so many dishes you can cook with it.
From appetizers to entrees and even snacks, crab meat is soft, sweet, and succulent. It only makes sense for seafood lovers to always have some crab meat handy. This leads us to the question:
Can you freeze crab meat? Yes, you can freeze crab meat for up to 3 months if you cook it beforehand. Freezing your crab meat is actually highly recommended, as crab meat spoils quickly otherwise. However, freezing crab meat will alter its texture.
While freezing is undeniably the best way to ensure that your crab meat doesn’t spoil, there are some things that you need to take into account. After all, freezing your crab meat isn’t as simple as throwing it straight into the freezer.
There are proper procedures that you need to follow to ensure the best possible results. This is exactly what we’ll be delving into with this freezing guide.
So, be sure to keep reading as we explore the most effective way to prolong the quality and freshness of your crabs.
Why Should You Freeze Crab Meat?
Crab meat is incredibly prone to spoilage. This is especially true if you leave it at room temperature. Doing so is not so much a recipe for tasty crab cakes, but it is a perfect recipe for disaster.
Of course, your refrigerator is also a viable storage option for your crabs. If you have any leftover crab meat and are planning to eat it in the next few days then your fridge should be up to the task.
Just remember that cooked crab meat usually lasts up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
If you are looking to preserve the freshness of your favorite seafood for months on end, then freezing is the best option available to you.
While the actual period may vary, properly frozen crabs are known to last at least 3 months in the freezer.
However, it should be noted that you should never refreeze your crab meat once it has already been thawed out.
Should You Freeze Live Crabs?
Now, even though the answer may seem obvious, we must tackle this question first: should you freeze live crabs?
After all, some chefs believe crabs are best cooked alive rather than killed right before boiling or steaming. So, at first glance, the idea of freezing live crabs to ensure their freshness might make sense.
However, nothing can be further from the truth. So, as a rule: you should never freeze live crabs. Under no circumstances should you try to do this unless you are planning on getting food poisoning.
This is because, while the crab may be alive going into your freezer, we guarantee that it won’t be when it comes back out.
While crabs are known to survive cold temperatures in their natural habitats, the conditions in your freezer are entirely different.
Lack of oxygen, coupled with the icy temperatures which quickly freeze moisture in the crab’s gills, ultimately suffocates them.
Now, if you have eaten crabs before, then you know the most important rule: never cook a crab that’s been dead longer than 10-15 minutes. This is a well-known fact that we must reiterate.
This is because it poses a major health hazard. You should know that the quality of crab meat rapidly deteriorates soon after the crab dies.
Take note that unwanted bacterial growth will inevitably start once the crab is dead. This is the natural process of decay, after all.
While this is happening, any undigested food inside the crab will now also start rotting – contaminating the meat even further. Put together, you will have more bacterial growth and quicker deterioration of meat.
Put simply, the crab will continue to rot, despite being in the freezer.
Freezing Cooked Crab
Now, with that out of the way, it’s time that we delve into the proper ways to freeze crab meat. Cooked crab, to be more specific. In fact, you can even freeze crab cakes.
As the previous section has made abundantly clear, we can’t overstate the importance of going about this task in the proper way and never freezing raw or live crab.
As with any other type of meat, freezing helps preserve the freshness of cooked crab. However, it should be made clear that it is not without its consequences. If you are not careful, then you run the risk of ruining the flavors of the crab.
That said, there are two ways to approach freezing cooked crab. The first method entails freezing the whole thing, including its shell. The second method will show you how to properly freeze crab meat that is no longer in its shell.
If you’re hoping to have fresh crab meat around whenever you need it but end up deciding the freezing process isn’t for you, we recommend checking out our article on the best crab meat in a can for crab meat that’s ready in a pinch.
Method 1: Freezing Whole Crabs
The first method requires cooking the crabs before freezing them whole. This method is perhaps the simplest and most straightforward way to approach this task. If done correctly, the cooked crab meat should last for as long as 6 months.
Aside from saving you the effort of having to pick apart the crab before freezing, keeping the crab meat in its shell helps preserve some of the sweet flavors of the meat. It also helps ensure that its texture stays intact.
After all, the crab’s shell serves as a protective covering for its soft insides. For our purposes, it will help hamper the natural degradation of the meat over time.
The difference between the longevity of shelled crab meat over exposed crab meat is made incredibly apparent when put in the fridge. The former can last for 5 days while the latter only usually last no more than 12 hours.
Make sure to follow these steps as you work on freezing whole crabs:
- Cook the Crab – The first thing you need to do is to cook your crab as if you were planning on eating it that same day. Steaming or boiling it for 10-20 minutes should do the job, as that will give you enough time to kill any lingering bacteria inside the crab.
- Submerge the Crab in Ice Water – Make sure that you immerse it fully to ensure that the cooking process is stopped completely.
- Wrap the Crab Individually – Take some paper towels and carefully wrap your crab. This step is crucial, as it prevents the pointy ends of the shell from puncturing the bag.
- Vacuum-Seal or Put in Sealable Bags – If you can vacuum seal your crab, this is the most effective option. Otherwise, take a freezer-safe sealable bag, lay the wrapped crab inside, and push out any excess air before sealing.
- Label the Bag– You need to make sure that your crab bag is labeled properly. You’ll want to write the freezing date in bold and clear letters. This way, you will never lose track of when you first froze your crabs.
If done correctly, this will keep your crab meat fresh for up to six months. This should give you enough time to figure out when you plan to use them.
The best way to ensure your crab’s freshness is to use a vacuum-sealer, and if you don’t already have one, you’re missing out big time on preserving all your favorite foods for longer.
Method 2: Freezing Crab Meat without the Shell
The second method is perfect if the crab meat has already been taken out of the shell. If this is the case, then freezing it whole is no longer an option. As you may have figured out, this method is commonly used for leftover cooked crab meat.
Naturally, this poses its own set of challenges. In concrete terms, this means that time is working against you. After all, as stated earlier, crab meat deteriorates much more quickly without its protective shell.
So, you’ll need to be quick about it and work fast as you can, but the process itself is very simple.
As a rule, the crab’s freshness is of utmost importance. It is the factor that will take precedence over everything else. It will inevitably affect the crab meat’s flavor profile later on, not to mention its longevity and shelf life.
If you are working with leftover crab meat that has been left in the fridge for a day or so, we recommend that you skip this method entirely.
However, if you are working with freshly cooked crab meat, then you need to follow these steps:
- Prepare a freezer-safe food-grade bag or vacuum-sealable bag.
- Wrap your crab meat up tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil for extra protection against freezer burn.
- Place your crab meat inside, push the air out, – or use a vacuum sealer – and close the bag.
- Label the bag. Make sure that the freezing date is clearly indicated and visible.
By following these instructions closely, your crab meat will be able to last for at least 3 months.
Just take note that crab meat stored this way works best as an additional ingredient for soups and sauces, as opposed to being the main course.
Does Freezing Crab Meat Affect Its Quality?
It should be stated here that freezing will always have an adverse effect on crab meat. Crab meat may lose a considerable amount of its flavor in the freezer and the texture may become stringy.
These effects will only worsen if you do not follow the steps we’ve listed previously.
For instance, if you didn’t place your crab in freezer-safe bags, then you will likely find that it is all but drained of moisture.
This is because the air in the freezer is actually very dry. While the taste itself may not be affected, it will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the entire dining experience.
It is also worth noting that, if properly frozen, the detrimental effects of freezing will be kept minimal and inconsequential.
That is why we must reiterate that you follow the instructions presented above as closely as you can to avoid any problems during freezing.
How Long Does Crab Last in the Freezer?
The answer to this question isn’t as straightforward as you may expect. After all, the actual results may vary depending on several factors.
These include the quality of the crabs, the condition of the meat before freezing, your climate, fluctuations in the temperature of your freezer, etc.
However, the most common range has been established at around 3-6 months. This is assuming that you have followed the instructions and have followed the procedure correctly.
What Is the Proper Way to Thaw Crab Meat?
Since we have covered the topic of freezing extensively in this guide, we now need to take a look at the inevitable step that comes after it: thawing.
Similar to freezing, you will need to ensure that you thaw your crab meat properly. Failure to do so means letting your previous efforts go to waste.
The most important aspect of thawing crab meat is the gradual increase in temperature. By that definition alone, you should be able to figure out that the microwave is not an option at this point. There are two ways to approach this.
First, you can make full use of your refrigerator. This method is a bit slower and requires some foresight, but it is also much easier compared to the other method.
All you need to do is simply take your frozen crab meat and leave it in the fridge overnight.
Alternatively, you can also put the bag of frozen crab meat in cold water for at least two hours before you use it. You may have to replace the water every 30 minutes or so to ensure that the meat is able to properly thaw.
If you’ve frozen crab cakes and thawed them, we have another article on how to reheat crab cakes waiting for you.
How Long Does Crab Meat Last in Refrigerator?
As stated earlier, refrigeration serves as a viable option if you are planning on consuming the crab meat in the next few days.
If you are working with fresh crabmeat, then it should be able to last for as long as 5 days in your fridge. However, on average, most people opt to consume the meat before that – just to be on the safe side.
There you have it, our comprehensive guide to freezing crab meat. Be sure to follow the instructions closely the next time you have some fresh crabs on hand.