5 Steps on How to Keep Blue Crabs Alive for Freshness

Storing live blue crabs properly is crucial for fresh, safe eating. Keep them alive in a cool, damp area, not submerged in water, to maintain their freshness and prevent spoiling.

how to store blue crab

If you know how to store blue crabs the right way, they can make for some good eating. The key is to keep them alive so the meat is at its freshest when you’re ready to cook them to a restaurant freshness level.

Here’s why and how to store your blue crabs for survival.

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Why Keep Caught Blue Crabs Alive?

You may be wondering why it matters if blue crabs survive outside of the water when you’re going to chow down on them anyway.

The short answer is that no one wants to eat spoiled, smelly crabs. That’s exactly what will happen if they die too long before you cook them.

If you leave the crabs in standing water for more than a few minutes, they run out of oxygen and die. That starts the spoiling process of the crab meat and can make anyone who eats it sick. That’s why it’s also important to buy quality canned crab meat – they have to process it quickly.

How to Store Blue Crab

You have a few options for the best way to store your live, fresh caught blue crabs (same with crawfish). Each one includes storing them in a cool, damp setting without completely submerging them in water. 

  1. Dampen a sturdy, light towel or burlap and use it to line an old crate or container with air holes in it. Place the crabs in the crate and cover them with another layer of damp towel or burlap. Set the crate in a cool and shaded area until you’re ready to use the crabs, making sure you keep the lining and covering damp.
  2. Keep the crabs cool in the refrigerator. Put the live blue crabs in a wet paper bag and put it in the refrigerator, making sure the bag stays damp. 
  3. Line the bottom of a cooler with ice and cover it with damp newspaper. If you don’t have newspaper, you can also cut open a sturdy paper bag. Add the blue crabs on top of the paper, and then place another sheet of damp paper over the crabs. Finish with another layer of ice on top of the damp paper. Tilt the lid to give some airflow inside the cooler. Open the drain plug to let the water from the melted ice flow out. 

Are Blue Crab Freshwater Or Saltwater?

Blue crabs can exist in freshwater, saltwater, a mixture of the two known as brackish water. Studies have tracked that blue crabs can successfully grow and harvest in a freshwater pond. However, it may be helpful to occasionally add saltwater or brackish water to the freshwater pond. 

Are Blue Crab Soft Shell?

Blue crabs do have a hard shell. However, as they grow they begin to shed their hard shell in a process called molting.

According to NOAA Fisheries, males molt several times throughout the years, while females molt one time right before they prepare to mate.

Can You Freeze Blue Crab?

You should only freeze blue crab once you have cooked it while it’s still alive and properly cleaned it. Freezing blue crab or placing it directly on ice will kill them and cause the meat to spoil.

If you have fresh blue crab meat, you can store it in the coolest part of your fridge for a week to 10 days. If the meat is pasteurized, you can do the same for up to six months. 

Can You Eat Raw Blue Crab?

Health and safety experts do not recommend eating raw crabs or any kind. Many people have tried serving and eating raw crabs, specifically marinated crabs.

They use sauces or spices such as soy, wine, vinegar, chili or garlic to liven up the raw crabs. However, these dressings do not kill or protect from harmful bacteria and parasites, microorganisms, and pathogens.

Therefore, eating raw blue crabs can cause diseases that can affect the lungs, cause food poisoning, or lead to more serious illnesses. Fully cooking your crabs will prevent these diseases. 

Safety Tips for Storing and Cooking Blue Crab

I’m addition to knowing how to store blue crabs, you should follow these guidelines when handling seafood while prepping and cooking it:

  1. Keep raw and cooked seafood separate. Also make sure you handle the raw seafood sow rare from handling the cooked seafood.
  2. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after prepping your blue crab. Wash them for 20 seconds or longer.
  3. Start with a pot of boiling salt water. You should drop the live crabs directly into the boiling water and cook them for 15 minutes to make sure they’re well done. Fully cooked crabs will have a bright red shell and solid meat. 
  4. Begin the cleaning process by removing the claws and shell. Then scrape out the internal organs, cut off the face, and remove the skeleton. From there, you should be able to start removing the crab meat. 
  5. Be careful while handling the crabs. The claws and shell can have sharp pieces that can damage your skin. Wear gloves and use utensils if needed. 

FAQs About How to Store Blue Crab

Do you keep blue crabs in the fridge?

You can keep fresh blue crab in the fridge for 7-10 days. If the blue crabs are store bought or pasteurized, you can keep them refrigerated for up to six months. Always keep blue crab in the coldest part of your refrigerator.

How do you store uncooked blue crabs?

Uncooked crabs should be kept alive in a cool damp area. You can use a container with airflow in it or an open, damp paper bag. Keep them in a shaded area, in a cooler, or in the refrigerator.

How long can you keep blue crab on ice?

You should never put blue crab directly on ice, but you can place them on dampened brown paper or burlap that rests on top of the ice. They should stay in this condition for 12-24 hours.

How long can you keep blue crabs out of water?

Blue crabs will keep out of water for 12-24 hours if you store them correctly to aid in their survival.

How long can crabs live in a bucket of salt water?

Crabs can live in a bucket of salt water for up to 8 hours, as the salt water provides them with the necessary oxygen to breathe. Cooking your live Dungeness crab right away has the advantage of eliminating the need to keep them alive, thus reducing any potential stress.

Do blue crabs have to be alive when you cook them?

Blue crabs must be alive when you cook them. It is crucial to note that you cannot cook crabs that are dead, as they begin to rot and become toxic. Therefore, if you are cooking fresh crabs, they must be alive. Additionally, it is much easier to clean crabs after cooking when the meat has loosened from the shell.

Do blue crabs need salt water to survive?

Blue crabs do not necessarily need salt water to survive, but they thrive better in mildly salty water. They tend to become less active and lose their appetite when placed in unfavorable conditions.

How long do you boil live blue crabs?

The live blue crabs should be boiled for approximately 20 minutes until all of the shells turn red and the meat is no longer translucent. To do this, fill a pot 3/4 full with water and bring it to a rolling boil over an intense flame. Then, add the blue crabs to the pot, cover it, and stir occasionally to ensure even cooking.

How long do blue crabs stay fresh?

Blue crabs stay fresh for a period of 3-5 days when stored in the refrigerator. To ensure optimal freshness, it is recommended to surround the crab meat with ice. To do this, clear out the vegetable or meat keeper in the refrigerator and place the crab meat inside, along with a generous amount of ice. If the crabs have been steamed, they can be kept in the refrigerator for a slightly longer period of 5-7 days.

How do you store live crabs to eat for later?

To store live crabs for later consumption, it is important to keep them cold and damp. Ideally, place them in the bottom of your fridge and cover them with a damp cloth. Avoid putting them in fresh water. Regularly check on the crabs to ensure they are still alive. If any crabs die, it is crucial to cook them immediately.

Do you wash blue crabs before boiling?

The blue crabs are usually washed before boiling to ensure a cleaner dining experience and enhance the absorption of seasoning flavors into the body meat during cooking. Cleaning the crabs beforehand is a simple and efficient process that reduces mess at the table, although for crab boils, it is common to leave the crabs whole.

How long can live crabs stay in refrigerator?

Live crabs can stay in a refrigerator for approximately 1 to 2 days, but their moisture starts to diminish rapidly, leading to their eventual death. Therefore, it is advisable to cook them within that time frame.

How long to soak blue crabs after boiling?

The blue crabs should be soaked for 30 minutes to 1 hour after boiling in order to bring down the temperature and halt the cooking process. Adding enough ice to the pot will help achieve this. The longer the crabs soak, the spicier they will become. Once soaked, remove the corn and potatoes from the pot and place them in a large bowl for serving. Finally, serve the crabs on a large platter.

Do you have to clean crab right after boiling?

The crab should be cleaned right after boiling. After removing the crab from the pot, it should be rinsed under cool water in the sink. This will effectively halt the cooking process and allow the shell to cool down to a manageable temperature. Additionally, it will wash away any undesirable crab guts that may have been released during the cooking process.

How long can you keep live blue crabs in a freezer?

You can keep live blue crabs in a freezer for up to three months if you freeze the whole crab. However, if you want to extend their freshness beyond three months, it is advisable to separate the meat and legs and freeze them individually, as this may allow them to last longer than three months.

How do you know when blue crabs go bad?

Blue crabs go bad when they have a strong, sour, or off odor and when there is discoloration or spoilage on the shell or meat. A fresh blue crab should have a mild ocean-like aroma and the meat should be white or light gray, not yellow or brown.

Can you leave cooked blue crabs out overnight?

Cooked blue crabs should not be left out overnight if you want to consume them safely. It is important to refrigerate crab legs and any seafood dishes overnight to ensure their freshness and prevent the growth of bacteria.

Do you keep blue crabs in the fridge?

Blue crabs should not be kept in the fridge because the temperatures in a refrigerator are too cold and can kill them. It is important to keep them cool, but the optimal temperature is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures colder than that can be fatal for blue crabs.

How long can you leave crab unrefrigerated?

The maximum amount of time you can leave crab unrefrigerated is two hours in order to maintain its quality and shelf life.

Can you freeze blue crabs to eat later?

You can freeze blue crabs to eat later by separating the meat and legs and freezing them individually. This method can help preserve the freshness of the crab for more than three months. Freezing them separately is advantageous as it prevents the spoilage of the entire crab in case any parts go bad.

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