Americans just love to eat crustaceans, and the Dungeness crab delivers on flavor and quantity of meat, making the Dungeness crab a family favorite. The Dungeness crab business is worth around 180 million USD each year, and with the crabs becoming a little harder to catch due to regulations, they will get more expensive. So freezing Dungeness crab has never been more important.
Did you know a mature Dungeness crab has a pinch force of approximately 60 lbs per square inch? Pound for pound, the Dungeness crab’s claws produce some of the highest forces measured in any animal on the planet.
In this article, we explore how to best store Dungeness crab so you can enjoy the meat from this crab when it is at its finest. We answer frequently asked questions to equip you with the answers you need.
Let’s dive in.
Does Dungeness crab expire?
Yes, they do. These crustaceans look like tough critters and, with a pinch, could easily make you yelp with pain and even break a pinky.
But despite the appearance of these bottom-feeding ocean dwellers, they are pretty delicate when they are out of the water and expire fast if you do not treat them correctly.
If you have a Dungeness crab, the time is ticking until he expires, and the key is to keep the crab alive so you can enjoy the fresh meat.
If you do not dispatch the crab immediately, you will need to keep the crab cool and moist. You can place the crab in the salad compartment of the fridge (remove the salad).
Before you place the crab in a salad tray that is deep, you will need to place some salt water in the tray. If you have ocean water with you, that is great, but to emulate the brine of the ocean, put 35 grams of salt in a beaker and pour in 1,000 grams of tap water while swirling until the salt is completely dissolved.
Many natural minerals present in seawater, like magnesium and calcium, can be found in large quantities in tap water.
Without the sea water or brine solution, the crab will die quickly.
Even taking care of the crab by placing it in salty water that emulates its natural habitat, the crab will still perish in about a day.
The Oregon species of Dungeness crab seem to be hardier and can be kept alive with lobster for 5 to 7 days, but it’s essential to operate the critters, or they will kill each other.
Once the Dungeness crab is cooked and the meat has been picked from the crab, it should be placed on ice in a sealed container in a fridge that is 333 to 35℉. The picked meat should be good for a week, give or take a day.
Does Dungeness crab need to be stored in the fridge?
Yes, if alive, and yes, if cooked. Crab meat is very delicate. It smells sweet and light and has a unique flavor profile.
A live Dungeness crab stored in salt water in the fridge will last for 24 hours, maybe longer, before it dies, so it’s essential that you dispatch the crab and cook it.
Once cooked and cooled, the crab can be picked, discarding the gills and lungs. They are not poisonous but just damn awful to try and eat.
Once the meat is picked, it’s time to find suitable airtight containers and place a layer of crushed ice before laying the crab meat on the ice. Keep the fridge cold, colder than you usually would. It should be at 33 to 35℉ to keep the crab meat in good condition for up to a week.
Does it make a difference to cover the Dungeness crab in the fridge?
It does make a difference, and here’s why, Crab meat will absorb intense flavors from the fridge, such as cut cucumber and onion, which damages the flavor of the crab.
Crabs naturally carry bacteria that are harmful to humans. Crabs pretty much eat anything, so they must be appropriately cleaned. Plus, crabs can live in contaminated waterways and survive easily, so it’s essential to know where your crab comes from.
But covering the crab will insulate the meat and will help to prevent the proliferation of bacteria.
How long can crab sit out on the side?
Two hours. If you check, everyone says the same, and there is a good reason for this. It’s not from empirical evidence of old seamen, but it comes directly from the scientists at the USDA.
Crab meat is a perishable food, and as such, if left at room temperature sitting out, it will become contaminated with bacteria. The room’s temperature will accelerate the bacteria growth to such proportions that after two hours, the crab is inedible and should be discarded.
Does that put you off eating crab? It should t cause the rule applies to all perishable foods, such as deli meats and fruit cocktails.
How long does Dungeness crab last in the fridge?
If the crab is alive and kicking, it should last a day if stored in salt water, and the low temperature should sedate the crab and prevent any unexpected surprises when you open the fridge door.
Once the crab is cooked and the meat is picked, the Dungeness crab meat can last for a week in the fridge if stored on ice in an airtight container.
If you buy cooked Dungeness crab, the crab meat may not last a week, depending on the freshness of the crab.
Does frozen Dungeness crab go bad in the freezer?
In theory, anything stored℉ below 0 should last indefinitely, and the Dungeness crab does have a considerable time in the freezer before it degrades. But does the crab go bad? It depends on your interpretation that bad or rotten is bad, so the Dungeness crab does not go bad in the freezer.
However, freezing a raw Dungeness crab can present challenges, and the crab meat should be broken down into components. In other words, clean the crab before peeling it and separate the legs.
Some crabs do release an enzyme that sends the meat rancid.
The Dungeness crab should be cleaned and then placed in an airtight container, such as a Tupperware or even a large Ziploc bag will suffice. Mark the bag with the freezing date to monitor the length of time the crab has been in the freezer.
If you freeze the crab for more than 1 year, it will start to degrade at some point, its texture will change, and the flavor profile will diminish completely. If this happens, discard the frozen crab.
Should I thaw frozen Dungeness crabs before cooking?
The Dungeness crab is a heavyweight, and the freezing flesh will be deep inside the crab. It’s best to that the crab in the fridge for maybe 24 to 48 hours if the crab is large. The idea is when you cook the crab, the meat cooks evenly.
You can place the claws under a running faucet to assist in thawing.
Why do you use vinegar when cooking crabs?
Adding a splash of white vinegar to the boiling water will impart an incredible flavor to the crab that will enhance the flavor of the crab meat, making it extra succulent and delicious.
You can use red or red wine vinegar if you don’t have the vinegar. Avoid the likes of balsamic. It is for a different application and will spoil the crab meat.
How do you cook pre-cooked Dungeness crab?
For those of you who are not close to fishing ports or a good fish market, you may have to buy pre-cooked crabs from the grocery store, hey, they taste great, so there are no problems with the crab meat itself.
Cooking pre-cooked crabs is easy, but you must pay attention to the cooking time.
- Bring a suitable-sized pot of water to a boil and add some salt for flavor.
- When you have a rolling boil, add the crab. If the boil stops, increase the heat until the boil starts, and then simmer for 3 to 5 minutes only.
- Cooking the crab longer than 3 to 5 minutes will make the meat less tender and even a little chewy, so watch the time.
- Finally, drain the crab and serve it on a platter.
Is it better to steam or boil Dungeness crab?
Steaming is preferable when cooking crabs. It retains more of the flavor in the crab. It only takes 12 minutes to steam a crab, and it can be served the old-school way on a newspaper with bread and butter and some dressings to spice things up.
Dungeness crabs look like monsters for the deep, but they sure do taste good.
With the prices of food increasing through inflation and tighter controls on Dungeness, keeping them for longer has become a necessity if you have more than a couple.
The good news is when appropriately prepared, the Dungeness crab will store for 9 months to a year in the freezer and will not lose any flavor and will keep its texture.
Cooked Dungeness crabs last for approximately a week in the fridge at 33 to 35℉ and stirred on ice.