Crabs are highly perishable commodities and cannot last a single day at room temperature after being cooked. Thankfully though, they can easily be packaged and preserved in the refrigerator to further extend their unimpressive shell life. Learn how to properly do so in this article so you don’t end up wasting any more crabs! — Dungeness crabs to be specific.
How long will Dungeness crab keep in the fridge?
Fresh Dungeness crab cleaned and prepared will keep in the coldest part of the refrigerator for no more than 3 days according to a seafood preservation guide published by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
Similarly, crabs cleaned and prepared (not picked from their shells) will keep in the freezer compartment for up to 4 months but will retain optimal quality only within the first 1 or 2 months of freezing.
How to store Dungeness crab
Depending on whether or not you’re freezing or refrigerating, crab meat may not be picked from its shells prior to packaging and storage.
In addition to this, the crab in question must be perfectly alive and then killed first, before cooking, because that’s the only way to guarantee the safety of the meat as well as its quality after storage.
Dead crabs can be poisonous when cooked and ingested, and even if they are not, they are likely to develop off taste, texture and aroma after storage and then cooking.
Below, you’ll learn how to properly freeze and refrigerate a Dungeness crab.
How to refrigerate Dungeness crab
If you’re looking to store some leftover Dungeness crab for a brief period of time say a few hours or some days, then refrigerating the crab meat is your best bet.
At this state, i’ll be expecting that the crab meat must have already been picked from its shells, and the good news is that you can perfectly refrigerate them in this state without imparting any significant change to their texture or taste since no ice crystals are being formed, unlike freezing.
Dungeness crab cleaned, cooked, picked and put in the refrigerator will store for no more than 3 days according to most health authorities.
But this limit is only given to eliminate any little possibility of spoilage bacteria growing on the food and causing it to spoil.
Dungeness crabs can actually last for up to 5 days in a properly working refrigerator that is kept shut for most part of the day.
For optimal quality however, the crab meat is advised to be consumed within 48 hours of storage as that’s when its the best tasting.
Preparing and Refrigerating a Dungeness crab (beginners): (as published by the Alabama Cooperative Extension System).
- Place live crab in a sink and spray with plenty of cool tap water using a kitchen sink sprayer until the water collected and drains at the bottom is no longer dirty. Use a tong to pick up the crab and maneuver it. Or, use your hand. Your choice!
- Remove the crab from the sink and turn it upside down on a chopping board. Place the blade of a sharp knife directly on its midsection and use a mallet or a rolling pin to quickly drive the blade through the mid-section, instantly killing it.
- Separate the two halves of the crab from the shell, clean and cook them in a solution containing salt and any seafood seasoning of your choice.
- Immediately chill the crab halves in iced water for about 10 minutes and proceed to separate all the leg components apart, together with their adjacent meat, or, leave the legs bonded to the core. Pick the meat protected by the shells on the legs (if you like), by cracking the shell with a rolling pin or crab cracker.
- Place each half of the crab meat (or the picked meat) in a plastic freezer bag and top them with ice. Keep in the refrigerator for no more than 3 days. Make sure to cut any sharp tips to prevent puncture.
How to freeze Dungeness crab
Dungeness crab is best frozen when the meat hasn’t been picked from the shells.
Picked crab meat tends to be more susceptible to damage resulting from the formation of ice crystals and freezer burn. Leaving them in the sturdy shells helps minimize the effect of these on the crab meat considerably.
If for some reasons however, you’ve already picked the meat prior to landing on this how to freeze crab meat guide, then feel free to package and store the picked meat (use step three for the storage), and then implement the lesson learnt in future cooking.
Freezing Dungeness crab:
- Follow the steps in the previous section until step 4.
- Separate the crab halves or parts (if you have sectioned it) into two half-gallon waxed milk cartons and pour cool tap water to within 1 inch of the top. Leave at least ½ inch head space for ice expansion. Fold over the top and hold firm with a tape. Freeze for up to 3 months. You can also use other containers like glass or plastic, but first, freeze the crab parts individually (un-wrapped), and then place in the container and add small amount of water to cover the content. Put the container in the freezer and store.
- Alternatively, pop each portion of the meat into separate loose plastic bags and freeze. After the meat has frozen, remove from the freezer and cover with a protective glaze of ice i.e. by dipping the entire crab in cold water which will coat the entire surface with a thin layer of ice. Immediately put back into the storage container, suck out any air, and freezer for up to 4 months. Use a vacuum sealer if you have one. With this method, you’ll need to make sure you’re packing no more than 1 pound meat per freezer bag which will cause the meat to freeze slowly. You also want to cut any sharp tips on the crab i.e. claws and shells to prevent any punctures on flexible storage containers.
- The reason for the protective glaze is to prevent freezer burn which naturally deteriorates the quality of meat.
- Another alternative is to use a heavy duty aluminum foil as the wrapper and storage bag.
- For best results, ensure to freeze the meat as fast as possible. This includes spacing out the freezer to surround the cartons or bags with as much air as possible so it freezes quickly. Another quick way to speed up freezing is to ensure the storage containers are in direct contact with the freezer walls and floors and far away from the door, which has areas with fluctuating temperatures.
- Ensure to package crabs as per your requirements or family’s requirements. Crabs can’t be thawed and refrozen again!
- Ensure you label containers with the name of the item, the state of the item i.e. cooked or raw, and date of freezing and expected thaw date.
How to use refrigerated Dungeness crab
Boil dungeness crab for as much time as needed until it completely warms up, usually less than 3 minutes for sectioned crabs, and up-to 5 minutes for large halves in boiling water. Use the crab directly from the refrigerator and do not wash under running water!
How to thaw Dungeness crab
In my humble opinion, it’s best to use Dungeness crab from frozen (without washing), in which case, you’ll have to add an additional half the cooking time to the total cooking time.
That’s one plus half the cooking time. If you wish to thaw before cooking however, it’s still possible, but take note, if you had issues freezing the meat as fast as possible in the first place, you’ll suffer great loss in texture and flavor due to the formation of large ice crystals that destroy the cell walls of the meat and cause a deterioration of quality.
To thaw Dungeness crab, remove from the freezer and let sit overnight in the refrigerator. Use directly without washing otherwise you risk washing away some of the flavors.
Can you refreeze Dungeness crab?
Dungeness crab should never be refrozen after it has been thawed. It loses so much in texture and taste because of the moisture lost during thawing that you’d wish you chewed on sand than the crab meat. Not really, but you get what I’m saying!
How long will store bought, previously frozen cooked crab last in the fridge?
Because the crabs have already been frozen and then thawed, you should use it immediately after purchase to be on the safer side in terms of safety and taste.
How long will canned crab keep in the fridge?
Canned crab will keep in the fridge for up to six months.