How Long Do Cooked Crabs Last in the Fridge?

August 30, 2022
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Count on a Few Days for a Crab Leg in the Fridge, Much Longer in the Freezer

When you decide to go all out and make a seafood boil or treat yourself to delectable crab legs at a restaurant, you might have some leftovers. You may wonder, how long do cooked crabs last in the fridge?

How you prepare the meat matters, but in general, cooked crab meat will last in the refrigerator for between three to seven days.

As for the freezer, it can last for up to six months or more if concealed correctly.

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However, aside from the storage place, there are multiple ways to store the crab meat once you decide to preserve it. Depending on how someone cooked the crab can also add a few variations to this answer.

Keep reading to learn more about potential hazards when storing and reheating crab. There are a few factors as to how long cooked crabs last in the fridge.

So Just how long does crab last in the fridge?

It gets a bit complicated based on the type of crab meat and how it was prepared or packaged. Keep reading to learn more about potential hazards when storing and reheating crab.

There are a few factors as to how long cooked crabs last in the fridge.

Can You Freeze Cooked Crab Meat?

Unless you got the meat from a restaurant or made a meal and want to keep some for the next day, it's critical to ensure that any live crab you catch or receive gets cooked before freezing.

Frozen King Crab Leg in a Store Display Counter

The primary reason to cook the meat is that you don't want to get seafood poisoning from all of the bacteria and pathogens that are known to be in raw crab legs.

Aside from those factors, freezing crab meat is an excellent way to preserve it, with a few caveats. You have to semi-prepare. Cook crab into soup, crab cakes, or whatever other recipes you like.

Keep in mind that refrigerating, especially freezing fresh crab meat, alters the texture. It makes the meat tougher and drier when you reheat it. If you can, eat that crab cake shortly after baking as you'll notice a drop in quality after it is frozen.

If you freeze it in a can, you can be sure that the quality won't be as good as un-frozen.

You can store prepared dishes in your freezer for three to six months, but the sooner you use them, the better.

How Long To Store Cooked Crab in the Refrigerator

Crabs, refrigerated.

You Can Store Cooked Crab in the Fridge in an Airtight Glass (or Plastic) Container

You can prepare crab meat in various ways, so the following is a rundown on how long you should keep it in the refrigerator based on different processes.

Unlike fresh, uncooked crab, Pasteurized crab meat has been heated enough to kill the bacteria in the meat in a controlled atmosphere. Canned crab meat is pasteurized and canned shortly after catching the crab.

It hasn't been boiled or steamed, but the protein is still cooked in this state. The procedure makes it possible to put it in the refrigerator or freezer for up to six months, though it's still safe to consume after that time.

After opening the pasteurized crab, it will have the same shelf life as fresh crab meat, which is three to five days in the refrigerator. Optimally, you want to surround it with ice to preserve the freshness.

Steamed crab, on the other hand, can stay in the refrigerator for five to seven days, as long as you have it tightly sealed.

This figure is an estimate, as the longer you have the steamed crabs sitting out, the more compromised it becomes due to bacterial growth.

As soon as you finish consuming what you want, get them to the fridge immediately.

What is the Best Way To Store Cooked Crab?

After you've prepared and cooked the crab, you need to store the leftover crab meat within two hours at room temperature. Bacteria can proliferate anywhere from 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit in an ordinary kitchen, so after two hours have passed, you significantly increase the risk of accidental food poisoning.

You Can Generally Store Uneaten Crab Meat for Three Days or so in the Fridge

The situation becomes exacerbated if you are outside in hot and sunny weather, which speeds up the time frame.

Below is a general guideline that applies to all kinds of crab meat, whether Dungeness crab, blue crab, king crab, stone crab, etc.

How To Store Cooked Crab Legs in the Refrigerator

To keep king crab as fresh as possible in the fridge, tightly wrap the contents with aluminum foil or plastic wrap, a Ziploc bag, or an airtight container. If stored correctly, the cooked crab can stay in the fridge for three to five days without incident.

Tip: Try and find a place in the back of the refrigerator where the temperature is coldest. The temperature will be more controlled and less likely to fluctuate—ensuring that you have fresh leftovers.

How to Store Cooked Crab in a Freezer

A meat vacuum sealer is sitting on a table.

For Long Term Storage of Crab Meat, Use a Vacuum Sealer to Properly Preserve Crab Meat

If you don't mind placing your cooked crab in the freezer—it will last longer than when stored in the refrigerator. Just use some freezer wrap or heavy-duty aluminum foil and store it in an airtight container or freezer bag.

Wrap the contents as tightly as possible, removing any excess air to avoid freezer burn. Thaw the contents, reheat, and serve the cooked crab when you're ready.

Even though crab legs freeze very well, many culinary experts believe you should not freeze lump crab meat unless it is vacuum sealed. During the thawing process, the moisture separates from the meat, giving it an undesirable stringy texture.

If you want to enjoy the best quality, be sure to eat the lump meat or frozen whole crab within two to three months. If you've properly stored your crab legs, they can last for four to six months inside a refrigerator freezer and an impressive year inside a deep freezer.

How to Defrost Crab

How Long Do Cooked Crabs Last in the Fridge? A crab in a sink with water coming out of it.

Don't Rinse Frozen Cooked Crab in Hot Water

If you've purchased a pre-cooked whole frozen crab, the best way to thaw it is to sit it inside your refrigerator overnight.

On the other hand, if you're in a hurry, you can wrap the crab in cling film and place it in a large bowl and submerge it in cold water or place it in your sink and run cold water over it from your faucet.

Do not use hot water; this will ruin the crab.

When you thaw crab legs, you can leave them in your refrigerator for twelve hours or more until they get thoroughly defrosted.

That allows the crab to stay at a safe temperature throughout the thawing process. Alternatively, you can place the crab legs in a colander under a stream of cold water for several minutes until they thaw.

Reheating Refrigerated Crab

The best method to reheat crab legs or whole crabs that you've wrapped and stored inside your fridge is to steam them.

Always Thaw Frozen Crab Meat in the Refrigerator to Reduce the Chance of Food Poisoning

Take a steamer basket and place it in a large lot, add precisely enough water to reach the bottom of the basket, and then boil it.

After boiling the water, place the crabs inside and season them and cover them. It takes just five minutes, and then they are ready.

Reheating Frozen Crab

If you have frozen lump crab meat or crab legs, thaw and boil them before consumption. Cooked crab meat that you thaw in the refrigerator will last three to five days before having to eat or dispose of it.

If you happen to thaw the meat using hot water or a microwave, it will be best to serve and eat the food right away—within two hours of cooking.

How Can I Tell When Crab Meat Becomes Spoiled?

The following signs of spoiled crab meat typically occur around the same timeframe, regardless of the type of meat you purchased and cooked.

If you notice that your crab has a sour or bitter smell, you should toss the bad crab immediately. There's a fine line for some people between that fishy smell that crabs may have, and an overly fishy smell from spoiled crab meat.

Go with your gut on this one, as a rotting smell is never a good sign. You don't want to risk consuming harmful bacteria from crab that has been in the fridge too long.

Additionally, cooked crab meat with a sticky film or a white, milky substance covering it is rotten. It may even have a yellowish tint with an ammonia odor.

Any color besides white or a red hue where the meat touches the shell is a sign of decomposition.

Remember that crab only lasts a few hours when kept at room temperature. So, if you're sure you're not going to eat it, get it chilled immediately. It’s important to know exactly how long cooked crabs last in the fridge.

How Long Does Imitation Crab Meat Last?

Imitation crab meat isn’t actually made from crab.  Instead, it is made from surimi which contains processed fish meat that is molded and dyed orange to look like crab.  You’ll want to follow general seafood guidelines and read the packaging instructions. 

Fresh imitation crab meat can last around three days, while the same general timeframe holds once a can of pasteurized imitation crab meat has been opened - or when frozen imitation crab meat has been thawed.  As with all seafood, it is best consumed fresh (or when opened / thawed)

Frank Salvatore

Hey there - I'm Frank Salvatore. I created this site as a comprehensive kitchen resource. You'll find everything you need to know about everything in your kitchen. From appliances to utensils and layout - it is covered on this site!

About Me
Frank Salvatore
I created this site as a comprehensive kitchen resource. You'll find everything you need to know about everything in your kitchen. From appliances to utensils and layout - it is covered on this site!
Learn More About Me
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