Spring is crawfish season when your mind turns to crawfish boils and gumbo. You could catch crawfish yourself, pick them up at a market, or have them delivered. Either way, you’ll want to keep the mudbugs alive until cooking. Let’s look at the best tips for safely storing life crawfish.
You can safely store live crawfish for 24 to 48 hours so long as you have clean, healthy crawfish. It would help if you kept them cool, moist, and protected from heat, freezing weather, wind, and predators. Crawfish have air-breathing gills, so they cannot be stored underwater. Never cook dead crawfish.
Also called crayfish, these tiny crustaceans are usually sold in large mesh bags (similar to crabs and shrimp). You can’t just sling the bag into your car and head off. You must keep the crayfish alive as you travel home and until you’ve got ready for your boil.
How To Safely Store Live Crawfish
It’s essential to cook the freshest crawfish possible, meaning they must be alive when cooked. Freshness is critical if you want to enjoy the tender, creamy lobster-like meat at its best and avoid food-borne sickness. What is the best way to safely store live crawfish?
Buy Clean, Fresh, Living Crawfish
The best way to keep your crawfish alive until you cook them is to start with good-quality mudbugs. Only buy crawfish from reputable dealers.
If you’re at a market, avoid crawfish covered in mud or surrounded by dead crawfish. They should be translucent, either greenish or brownish in color. Also, check that they are active and moving around, not sluggish.
Store Live Crawfish For 24 Hours
Ideally, you should cook the crawfish on the day of catching or purchase.
Once you’ve bought your crawfish, you have 24 hours to purge and cook the crustaceans. Within 48 hours, the crawfish will start dying and spoiling.
There are ways of keeping crawfish alive for a week or more, which is advice to follow only if you plan to use them as bait, not dinner.
Keep Crawfish Cool
Crawfish are sensitive to heat, so you need to keep them cool but not freezing. The ideal temperature is 36 to 46 degrees F (2-7⁰C).
Here’s how to keep them cool while transporting them home:
- When you buy the crawfish, keep them in their mesh bag.
- Place the mesh bag into a giant ice box or cooler box lined with newspaper. Ideally, use a heavy-duty ice chest.
- Make sure you have a large enough ice box to lay the bag of crawfish flat on the cooler’s base, as you’ll store them in this box at home.
- Do not stand the bag vertically, as this will crowd and damage the crawfish.
- Sprinkle the crawfish with water.
- Cover them with a soaking wet towel. (An old T-shirt or burlap sack will also work.)
- If you’ve got a distance to travel, gently place an unopened bag of ice on top of the towel.
- Do not slam the lid shut.
To keep your crawfish cool once you’re home, follow these tips:
- The crawfish may be sluggish from the journey and cold conditions. Rinse them in tepid water, still in their mesh bag.
- Store the crawfish in the ice chest, with a wet towel and ice bag on top.
- Replace the bag of ice on the crawfish every few hours. You can also use frozen gel packs.
- Place a few open ice cubes on the towel covering the crawfish. This ice will melt, keeping the crawfish damp and cool.
- Keep the ice box in full shade, for example, in the garage or kitchen. A chilly, dark place is best.
- Do not leave the crawfish outside if the weather is freezing.
- Do not place the crawfish in direct sunlight, under a radiator, or near a fire. Heat will kill the crawfish.
- Do not store the crawfish in the refrigerator, as it is too cold and airtight.
- Do not use dry ice, as this will kill the crawfish.
- Allow the crawfish to come to room temperature before cooking.
Keep Crawfish Moist
Crawfish gills are sensitive and can dry out easily. You, therefore, need to keep them moist.
- Once you’ve got the crawfish home, take the sack out and rinse the crustaceans with tepid water, not icy water.
- Replace them in the ice chest and cover them with a wet towel or cloth.
- Do not cover the crawfish with water.
- Do not let them sit in icy water, as it will kill them.
Let Crawfish Breathe
Crawfish have developed specialized gills, enabling them to breathe normal air. So long as you keep their gills moist, they will survive.
- Avoid using an airtight container. If you’re using an ice box, leave the lid open about half an inch to let in air. When home, you can lie the cooler at an angle to keep air circulating and allow the melted water to drain.
- Do not keep the crawfish underwater, as they will suffocate and drown.
- Drain water from melted ice that can accumulate in the cooler. It’s simple to keep the draining plug open.
- Turn the crawfish bag over every 12 hours.
Keep Crawfish Out Of Draughts
Although you may think a draught or fan will cool the crawfish down, keeping them out of the wind is best. Their gills are highly sensitive and can dry out in breezy conditions.
Don’t Touch The Crawfish
Keep the crawfish out of reach of pets and wild animals. Also, keep them away from children who want to play with them or drunk friends who may want to do the same.
Discard Dead Crawfish
Only cook fresh, clean, living crawfish. Do not cook dead crawfish, as you will expose yourself to bacteria and food-borne sickness.
- When unloading the crawfish, discard any dead ones.
- It is usual for a few crawfish to die during transport as they are overly stressed.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Keep Live Crawfish Alive Overnight?
Keep the crawfish in their mesh bag in a cool box or ice chest. Cover them with a damp towel and some ice. Keep the lid of the ice box ajar and open the drain so they can breathe and not drown in icy water.
Should You Keep Live Crawfish On Ice?
You need to keep crawfish cold, but don’t let them come into contact with ice, as it is too cold for them. Live crawfish need to be stored at a temperature of 36 to 46 degrees F, which is higher than freezing.
If you need to store them on a hot day, layer ice in the bottom of a cooler and cover it with a sack or garbage bag. Then lay the mesh bag of crawfish over it. Cover the crawfish with a towel and place ice bags on top of that if necessary. Keep checking that the ice has not melted or open the drain, as crawfish will die if submerged.
Can You Leave Crawfish In Water?
Leaving crawfish submerged in water will suffocate and drown them.
You can safely store live crawfish for 24-48 hours to keep them cool, moist, shaded, and protected from wind and predators. Avoid putting them directly on ice or submerging them in cold water: this will kill them.