Can you freeze snow crab legs?

If you are familiar with a popular TV series about fishing for crab in the Bering sea, you may have been watching the snow crab on your plate being caught before your eyes. Snow crabs, similar to king crabs, are incredibly popular, and many of you tick into them and enjoy the sweet meat found in the legs. But can snow crabs be frozen?

Did you know the snow crab fishing season in the Bering sea for 2022 has been canceled? The population of snow crabs has dramatically diminished, allegedly from overfishing. So, if you have snow crabs, it’s time to find out if they can be preserved long-term by freezing.

In this article, we look at the delicious crustacean, the snow crab, and its plentiful bounty of sweet meat stored in the legs. We answer many frequently asked questions providing you with factual information.

Let’s dive in.

Do snow crab legs expire?

These long-legged spiky crustaceans live 600 feet below the ocean’s surface in water that is 40℉ and below, and they thrive in these conditions. Still, when it comes to bringing these legs home from the fish market, these critters are fragile and delicate and can spoil in the fridge after just two days.

The best way to enjoy snow crabs is as soon as you bring them home from the market, boil them and enjoy the sweet meat.

If you have leftover snow crab legs, you should place them in aluminum foil wrapped tightly and then place them in an airtight container in the fridge. They should last for four days stored this way. 

It’s not just snow crabs with a short shelf life in the fridge; it’s all crab species.

Removing the meat from the grab legs seems to make no difference to the longevity of the snow crab’s legs in the fridge. In fact, it makes it harder to reheat.

The good news is snow crab legs can be frozen, but with one caveat, they are best frozen when cooked; if they are not cooked, the crab meat seems hard to remove from the shell of the legs.

In contrast, the cooked snow crab will remain perfectly frozen for up to six months and still taste sweaty and fresh, and it can be reheated easily.

Do snow crab legs need to be refrigerated?

Yes, regardless if the crab legs are cooked or uncooked, they should be refrigerated at all times. Prior to cooking the fresh legs, there is little to consider, maybe bodied or steamed is the most significant decision to be made.

Once the crab legs are cooked, they should be allowed to cool to room temperature if they are being stored. Once at room temperature, wrap the cab legs in foil and place them in an airtight container.

Keep the fridge temperature around 35℉ for the best results. Stored this way, the freshly cooked snow crab legs should last for four days in the fridge.

However, because crab meat does have a short shelf life, you should be prepared to discard crab that has a funky smell or is discolored in any way.

Storing snow crabs in the fridge is not a long-term storage solution.

Do snow crab legs have to be covered? Does it make any difference?

It’s been established that these fearsome-looking critters are delicate and need special treatment. The meat will pick up any odors from the fridge, like onion or garlic, that can detract from the sweet taste of crab, so covering does protect the crab meat from intense aromas.

Crab meat being delicate is susceptible to bacteria, so any protection to the meat will make it last longer. 

Cover raw and cooked snow crab while it is stored in the fridge.

Can you put warm snow crab in the fridge?

If the snow crab legs are cooked and warm, the answer is no, and it is not just about the snow crab. Placing warm food in the fridge is a bad idea.

If you read online that you can’t put warm cooked sashimi in the fridge because of condensation coalescing into water droplets that will drip and make your snow crab meat soggy and less appealing, you are being misled.

Your fridge temperature will be 40℉ -18℃ or a little lower. Placing warm snow crab legs in the fridge will elevate its temperature while it radiates heat.

Your fridge may not be as efficient as you might have thought at removing heat. Most fridges take hours to come to 40℉ after being switched on after cleaning.

So, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that food sitting at a temperature of 40-140℉ is in the food danger zone. It’s not just your warm snow crab legs. It is the contents of the entire fridge.

Above 40℉-18℃ bacterial growth on perishable foods will accelerate exponentially. It should be discarded if the food remains at an elevated temperature above 40℉-18℃ for just two hours.

Seems harsh? According to the USDA, after two hours in the food danger zone, perishable foods contain enough bacteria to cause food poisoning.

How long can snow crab legs sit out?

2 hours. The snow crab legs should be placed on ice, but even then, sitting at room temperature, the fish will only be able to be served for two hours.

Raw snow crab legs and cooked snow crab legs are perishable goods containing bacteria. At room temperature, the bacteria in the snow crab legs will multiply exponentially over two hours, making the bacteria load of the crab meat so high it has become dangerous to eat.

According to the USDA, perishable foods such as sashimi sitting in the food danger zone where the temperature is  40℉-140℉ should be discarded after two hours.

Does unopened snow crab meat go bad?

There are two answers here. If the crab is out of the water, it will go bad as soon as it does, so don’t think that an intact crab preserves its meat. It doesn’t. In fact, many crabs release an enzyme to make the meat inedible.

Canned crab meat is familiar and delicious. It can last stored in a cool, dry environment for up to 5 years and possibly longer.

The expiry date or best-before date in canned products is a prediction from the producer as to when the crab meat is at its best before the meat changes in the can.

You should not consume canned crab meat if the can shows signs of leakage. It is rusty. It is swollen.

Once canned crab meat is open, it will last for a few days in the fridge. It should be removed from the can and placed in an airtight container.

How long do snow crab legs last in the fridge?

Fresh snow crab legs last for 1 to 2 days in the fridge. Cooked snow crab legs last for 3 to 4 days in the fridge if they are wrapped in aluminum and stored in an airtight container.

Snow crab has a short shelf life, fresh and cooked, which should be consumed immediately after being purchased.

Do frozen snow crab legs go bad?

It’s reasonable to expect food stored in the fridge at 0℉ and below continuously to have an indefinite shelf life. Snow crabs live in extremely cold temperatures, but when frozen, They only last for 12 months before the crab starts to degrade and lose its texture and sweetness, but will it go bad? No.

To freeze snow crab legs, follow the guide.

Freezing whole snow crab legs

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  • Place the crab legs in the water for 3 to 4 minutes, or place a steamer of the rolling boiling water and place the crab legs on the steamer.
  • Place the snow crab legs in ice water for 5 minutes to stop cooking.
  • Dry the legs with a paper towel.
  • Put the snow crab legs in a Ziploc bag and remove as much air as possible from the bag.
  • Mark the bag with the freezing date and use by date, then freeze.

Snow crab legs can take up space in the freezer, so freezing the leg meat could be a better option.

Freezing snow crab leg meat

  • Assuming the crab legs are cooked, break the shells and remove the meat.
  • Place the crab meat in a bowl and cover it with whole-fat milk. This will protect the mat while frozen from freezer burn, and the meat will retain its texture and texture.
  • Pour the mixture into an airtight freezer bag such as Ziploc.
  • Ensure the bag does not leak. Remove the air from the bag and seal the bag. You may want to double bag or use a rigid Tupperware-style container with a snap-close lid.
  • Mark the bag with the freezing date and the best-before date, and then freeze.

Crab meat can remain frozen for 3 to 4 months.

How to thaw snow crab legs?

Place the freezer bags in the fridge overnight and allow the crab legs to thaw thoroughly.

Final thoughts

Crab has a short shelf life, so the best way to maximize the life of snow crab is to cook it and place it in the freezer using the method above, where it can store for 12 months.

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