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How To Store Cooked Crabs And How Long Can They Last

Crab lovers delight in the rich and delicious taste of fresh, cooked crab meat during crab season, no matter the kind of crab. 

While this type of seafood is a good source of protein that can last for some time, leftover crabs and leftover crab legs have a chance to go bad if not stored properly. 

Knowing how to store cooked crabs and leftover crab meat correctly is crucial in order to preserve their flavor and texture and avoid a slimy texture and a sour smell. 

To help seafood lovers make the most out of their crab dishes and achieve the best results, we’ve put together some essential tips on storing cooked crabs and preserving fresh leftovers. 

Storing cooked crabs can be conveniently done in various ways, including using a refrigerator or a freezer, depending on the desired storage time. 

The fridge is considered the best option if you’re looking to enjoy the cooked crab within a short time frame, while the freezer is the best method for extending its shelf life to several months. 

Proper storage techniques will ensure that your crab stays fresh and delicious, ready for your next seafood feast.

cooked blue crabs

Different Types of Crab Meat

Before diving deeper into the specifics, it’s important to note that the storage methods and timelines slightly vary for different types of crab meat, such as crab legs or whole-cooked crabs. 

The type of crab meat determines how the crab freezes and how it appears the following day after refrigerating the fresh meat. 

Before delving into the methods for storing cooked crabs, remember to check if the meat is still raw or undercooked after the cooking process, as uncooked crab meat is dangerous to consume. 

Raw crab legs and dead raw crabs should never be eaten, and if you suspect the meat has not been cooked properly, do not store the crab at all. 

With this in mind, we will be providing tailored advice for each type, allowing you to make the most of every delicacy in the best way.

Storing Cooked Crabs in the Refrigerator

Preparing Cooked Crabs for Refrigeration

Before storing cooked crabs in the fridge, the first step is to ensure they have cooled down, as they’ve been cooking in hot water.

If you have cooked the whole crab in boiling water for the first time, one of the best options is to break down the entire crab into smaller portions, such as crab legs, into smaller pieces to speed up the cooling process. You can also use ice water to speed up the cooling process.

Once cooled, wrap each crab or crab part tightly with plastic wrap or cling film to preserve the taste and texture, and prevent air and moisture from causing spoilage.

If you want to store the crab sections in the freezer, store the sections using freezer wrap or heavy-duty freezer bags. 

Proper Storage Containers

To maintain freshness, store your wrapped cooked crabs in either air-tight containers or a Ziploc bag. 

For extra protection, one great option to consider is vacuum-sealed bags. This will cause a lack of oxygen that will keep the bacteria at bay. 

These storage methods also will help minimize exposure to air, reduce the risk of cross-contamination, and keep the seafood at its best quality.

Storage MethodProsCons
Airtight ContainerResistant to odors; easy stackingTakes up more space
Ziploc BagMinimal space required; flexible useSusceptible to tears
Vacuum-Sealed BagProlongs shelf life; compact storageRequires additional equipment

Temperature and Shelf Life

When storing cooked crabs in the refrigerator, it’s essential to maintain the proper temperature. 

A constant temperature of 40°F (4°C) or below is ideal for preserving the freshness and safety of the cooked crab meat.

If stored correctly, cooked crabs should last between 3 to 5 days in the fridge. This may even extend to 5-7 days if properly stored. 

To further extend their shelf life and avoid bad crab meat after a few days, consider freezing your cooked crabs on a bed of ice. 

However, be aware that this can impact the taste and texture of the meat once it has thawed. 

Store them in airtight containers or vacuum-sealed bags to maintain quality during freezing.

Remember, when enjoying your refrigerated cooked crab, always check for any signs of spoilage, such as an off-odor, sliminess, or unusual color, before consumption. 

stack of cooked crab on a plate

Freezing Cooked Crabs

Preparing Cooked Crabs for Freezing

Before freezing cooked crabs, it’s essential to prepare them properly to maintain their taste, texture, and safety. 

Start by removing the meat from the crab shells and claws since some parts might not freeze well and can attract bacteria. 

Next, rinse the crab meat thoroughly and pat it dry with paper towels to remove any unwanted residues.

Freezer Storage Containers

To prevent freezer burn and preserve the tender texture of your cooked crabs, use appropriate storage containers such as an air-tight container. 

The most popular way is to wrap the crab meat in aluminum foil, followed by cling film to create an airtight seal. 

Alternatively, you can vacuum seal the crab meat using a vacuum sealer or place it in a Ziploc bag or airtight container. 

Regardless of your chosen method, make sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing to prevent freezer burn.

It’s a good practice to label your storage containers with the date of freezing to help you keep track of when to consume the crab meat.

Freezing Time and Shelf Life

When storing cooked crabs in the freezer, it’s crucial to maintain a temperature of 0°F (-18°C) or below to prevent bacterial growth. 

If properly prepared and stored in airtight containers, cooked crab meat can last for up to 6 months in the freezer.

However, for optimal taste and texture, consider consuming the frozen crab meat within 3 months. 

When thawing, avoid refreezing the crab meat after it has been thawed once, as this can lead to a decline in quality and potential bacterial growth.

By following the proper preparation, storage, and freezing guidelines, you can enjoy your delicious cooked crab meals at your leisure while ensuring the quality and safety of your seafood dishes.

Reheating Cooked Crabs

steamed crabs in a pot

Methods for Reheating


Steaming is a favorite way for cooks to reheat cooked crabs. 

To steam the crabs, you need a large pot or large bowl and a steamer basket or crab pot. 

Place the steamer basket inside the pot and add enough water, just enough to cover the bottom of the basket. 

Bring the water to a boil, then add your cooked crabs.


You can also reheat cooked crabs in the oven. 

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Place the crabs in a pie pan or casserole dish, add a small amount of water or a splash of white wine to the bottom of the dish, and cover the pan with foil or an oven-safe covering. 

Bake for 2-3 minutes.


Another option is to reheat cooked crabs using a roasting method. 

Preheat your oven to 350-375°F, place a wire rack inside a large roasting pan, and fill it with water just under the rack (approx. 1 inch). 

Place the crabs on top of the wire rack, and loosely tent the pan with aluminum foil. 

Cook the crabs for 10-15 minutes or until they are hot.

Safe Reheating Temperatures

When reheating cooked crabs, it’s important to ensure they reach a safe internal temperature to prevent foodborne illness. 

The ideal temperature for reheating crabs is 165°F (74°C).

Steamed Crab

For steamed crabs, it’s best to use a food thermometer to check the temperature in the thickest part of the meat, away from the shell or any bones. 

If the temperature reads lower than 165°F, continue steaming until it reaches a safe temperature.

Baked or Roasted Crab

When baking or roasting crabs, checking the temperature may prove more difficult due to the presence of the shell. 

Some may use the shells on soft-shell crabs, for example, as an indicator of doneness, such as when they turn a bright red color. 

However, when you are cooking crabs, using a food thermometer is still the most accurate method to ensure they’re appropriately reheated.

Remember that reheating cooked crab leftovers should always prioritize food safety, while also preserving the quality, texture, and taste of these delicious seafood treats.

crab legs on fancy plate with sauce

Signs of Spoilage

When storing cooked crab meat, it’s essential to know the signs of spoilage to ensure that you’re consuming safe, high-quality seafood. 

In this section, we will discuss various indicators such as visual, odor, taste, and texture that can help you determine whether your cooked crabs have gone bad.

Visual Indicators

One of the easiest ways to check for spoilage is by examining the appearance of the cooked crab. 

Look for any discoloration, such as dark spots or a dull, faded color, which could indicate that the crab meat is no longer fresh. 

Additionally, if you notice any mold or sliminess on the crab’s shell or meat, it’s a sure sign of spoilage and should be discarded immediately.

An uncooked blue crab, for example, will appear a greenish-brown color. 

Odor Test

Before you cook crabs, a fresh, cooked crab will have a mild, sweet smell, which is a sign of its quality seafood. 

However, a crab that has gone bad will produce a strong, unpleasant odor, such as an ammonia or sulfur scent. 

If your cooked crab has an off-putting smell, it’s best to throw it away to avoid any risk of food poisoning.

Taste and Texture Warning Signs

Even if the appearance and smell of the cooked crab seem fine, it’s essential to pay attention to its taste and texture before consuming it.

Spoiled crab meat may have a sour or bitter taste, which is a clear indication of bacterial growth. In terms of texture, fresh crab meat should have a tender, yet firm texture. 

If you find the cooked crab to be stringy, mushy, or overly soft, this can be a sign that it has gone bad and should not be consumed.

Proper storage plays a crucial role in preserving the freshness and quality of cooked crab meat. 

Make sure to store the cooked crab in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in heavy-duty aluminum foil or plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 5 days. 

To keep cooked crab meat for a longer duration, consider freezing the meat. The shelf life in the freezer can be between 6 to 9 months. 

By continually keeping an eye on these signs of spoilage, you can prevent bacterial growth and avoid seafood poisoning while enjoying your delicious crab meal.

crab meat

Potential Risks and Food Safety

Preventing Food Poisoning

When dealing with cooked crabs, it is essential to take proper measures to prevent food poisoning. 

Bacteria, such as Listeria, can be present in seafood and cause foodborne illness if not handled correctly. 

To maintain the freshness and quality of cooked crab, it is important to consider proper storage methods. 

Make sure to keep cooked crab below 40°F in the refrigerator or below 0°F in the freezer, as suggested by Seafood Health Facts.

Storing cooked crabmeat separately from other foods, especially raw seafood, helps reduce the risk of cross-contamination. 

Cold water should be used to clean the crabs and remove any gills, as bacteria can settle in these areas. 

Moreover, it is essential to recognize signs of spoilage, such as a sour odor, to avoid the consumption of potentially harmful seafood.

Handling Leftovers Safely

Properly handling cooked crab leftovers is crucial in preventing food poisoning and bacterial growth. 

When storing cooked crabmeat, make sure to separate the meat from the shells and claws, as some parts of the crab may be difficult to freeze and can attract bacteria, according to Valuable Kitchen.

Consider using the following methods for safer storage:

  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours of cooking
  • Use airtight containers to store cooked crab meat
  • Label the containers with the date
  • Consume refrigerated leftovers within two to three days
  • Freeze-cooked crabmeat for extended storage

When serving leftover cooked crab, or any seafood boil, ensure that it is thoroughly reheated to an internal temperature of 145°F before consuming. 

Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature, as mentioned by Seafood Health Facts.

In conclusion, adhering to proper food safety guidelines is crucial in preventing potential risks associated with cooked crabs, such as food poisoning and bacterial growth. 

By following these precautions, one can enjoy cooked crab and seafood dishes while maintaining their health and safety.

Creative Ways to Use Cooked Crabs

Cooked crabs are a delicious, versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. 

There are multiple types of crabs that can be used for multiple delicious dishes, including stone crab, snow crab, as well as blue crabs. 

King crab legs and live Dungeness crab found on the west coast are also great options. 

While live crabs might look like a challenge, the variety of choices you can cook and prepare is worth it. 

We’ll explore some creative ways to use cooked crabs in your meals, from crab cakes to seafood boils.

Crab Cakes

Crab cakes (or crab rolls, depending on where you’re from) are a classic dish that highlights the sweet, delicate flavor of crab meat. 

They’re simple to prepare, and a great way to use up leftover cooked crab or lump crab meat. 

To make crab cakes, combine cooked crab meat with breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, spices, and an egg. 

Then form into patties and cook them in a hot skillet with some olive oil until they’re golden brown on both sides. 

They can be served with a variety of sauces or dips, such as rémoulade or aioli.

You can experiment with different seasonings and add-ins to make your crab cakes unique. 

For example, try adding minced scallions, bell peppers, or fresh herbs from your local market for added flavor and color.

Crab Soups and Salads

Crab meat can be a delicious addition to soups and salads, adding an element of sophistication to your meal. 

In a crab bisque, cooked crab meat is combined with a rich, creamy tomato base and flavored with sherry and fresh herbs. 

Chilled crab salads are an elegant choice for a starter or light meal, especially when tossed with crisp greens, avocado, and citrus or creamy dressing.

In addition to bisques, crab meat can also be used in Asian-inspired soups, such as a crab and corn chowder or a Thai crab and coconut milk soup. 

For a lighter option, try adding crab to a green salad, pasta salad, or grain-based salad, like Tabbouleh.

Seafood Boils

A seafood boil is a fun, communal meal where a variety of shellfish, sausages, corn, picked meat, and potatoes are cooked together in a flavorful broth. 

Cooked crabs can be easily incorporated into a seafood boil by simply adding them towards the end of the cooking process, since they’re already cooked and just need to be heated through.

To make a seafood boil, start by simmering a fragrant broth with spices, such as Old Bay seasoning or a Cajun spice blend. 

Then, add vegetables, such as corn, potatoes, and onions, along with sausages or other meats if desired. 

Towards the end, after about 15-20 minutes, add your cooked crab and any other shellfish you’d like. 

Cook until heated through, and then serve the entire feast family-style on a large table lined with newspaper or a disposable tablecloth for easy cleanup.

By incorporating cooked crabs into crab cakes, soups and salads, or seafood boils, you can create impressive and satisfying meals that showcase the versatile and delicious nature of this prized ingredient.

crab cake with salad and lemons

Final Thoughts

Storing cooked crab properly is essential to maintain its freshness and taste.

Following the appropriate storage practices can help extend the shelf life of your cooked crab, enabling you to enjoy it for up to 3 to 5 days when stored in the refrigerator.

It’s essential to store cooked crab in an airtight container or tightly wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent bacteria from spoiling the meat. 

Placing the container in the coldest part of the refrigerator ensures the temperature remains constant, reducing the risk of fluctuations.

If you need to store cooked crab for a more extended period, freezing is an option, although this method may not fully preserve the texture of the crab.

To prepare cooked crab for freezing, make sure to remove the shells, as they can trap bacteria that may cause spoilage.

Remember, always refrigerate your cooked crab within 2 hours of cooking so there is not enough oxygen for bacterial growth at room temperature.

By following these storage tips, you can enjoy delicious cooked crab while minimizing food waste and ensuring food safety.

how to store cooked crabs

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