Crab legs are one of the most popular types of shellfish to eat and can be served as a starter or as part of a main meal in a salad, fish stew, or seafood pie.
Like most fresh fish produce, crab legs have a short shelf life when kept in the refrigerator, but you can extend their shelf life considerably by keeping them in the freezer. They will maintain peak condition for up to 6 months in the freezer, and will still be safe to eat beyond this.
Can You Freeze Crab Legs?
Crab legs can be frozen as a way of preserving them. This delicious shellfish delicacy is best eaten at the peak of freshness, and won’t keep for very long in the fridge.
Therefore, if you don’t plan on eating crab legs within a few days of bringing them home, storing them in the freezer will ensure they don’t go bad.
Keeping crab legs in the freezer will extend their shelf life for several months. You should use the crab legs within six months of them being frozen to enjoy the best taste and texture, however, crab legs can be kept indefinitely in the freezer and will still remain safe to eat.
How to Freeze Crab Legs
Most crab legs you buy from a seafood market, fishmongers, or grocery store, will have been cleaned, cooked, and prepared for you, so they are ready to warm up and eat.
If you aren’t going to eat these crab legs very soon, you can save them by storing them in the freezer. Crab legs need to be kept in an airtight container such as a freezer-safe sealed tub or a freezer bag. Label your crab legs container with the date so that when you return to the freezer you will know how long the crab has been there.
How Long Do Crab Legs Last?
The shelf life of crab legs will depend on how they are being kept and the type of crab legs they are.
Cooked crab legs are safe to keep at room temperature for no more than two hours. After this time, bacteria will grow rapidly, making the crab legs unsafe to eat. For this reason, you should avoid serving crab legs at a buffet where they might be left at room temperature for more than two hours unless you have an ice bucket you can keep the crab legs in at the serving table.
Crab legs should last for up to three days in the refrigerator and maintain their freshness. In most cases it will still be safe to eat crab legs after they have been in the refrigerator for as long as five days, however, they may have started to lose taste and texture by this time. If you aren’t going to eat your crab legs within the first few days of bringing them home, it’s best to keep them in the freezer instead of the refrigerator.
Crab legs kept in the freezer will last for up to six months at peak conditions. They can be kept in the freezer for longer than six months and will remain safe to eat, but there may be some texture and flavor loss.
The freezer is often considered the best place to keep crab legs because it maintains their freshness, and they are so quick and easy to defrost that they won’t cause much of an inconvenience when you want to eat them.
How to Defrost Crab Legs
Crab legs can be defrosted in several different ways, according to your preference.
Defrost in refrigerator
Crab legs defrost fairly quickly in the refrigerator, which is good news if you’re making a crab dinner and you forgot to get them out of the freezer the night before. Typically crab legs will need between 6 and 8 hours to thaw out in the refrigerator, so you can move them from the freezer to the refrigerator in the morning when you want the crab legs ready to eat in the evening.
Leave the crab legs in their freezer bag or container, as this will catch any moisture which melts as the crab thaws. Defrosting in the refrigerator is the most recommended method for thawing crab legs because it ensures the seafood remains at a safe temperature throughout the whole process. If crab legs get too warm while defrosting, bacteria can grow and make the food unsafe to consume.
Defrost in cool water
If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to defrost crab legs in the refrigerator, you can instead thaw them in cool water. Place the crab legs in a colander and put them under a cold running tap. Allow the water to wash over them and thaw the iced crab, and continue until there is no sign of ice left. This should take no more than ten minutes.
Alternatively, you can save water by submerging the frozen crab legs in a bowl of cool water to thaw. The water should be changed every ten minutes. Overall, you can expect thawing the crab legs in this way to take around 30 minutes.
Defrost in microwave
It is not recommended to thaw crab legs in the microwave because it can make them take on a rubbery, chewy texture. If you need the crab legs defrosted quickly, use the cool water method instead.
Defrost at room temperature
Crab legs should never be defrosted at room temperature because they can reach levels that encourage bacteria to multiply quickly.
Can You Cook Frozen Crab Legs?
Crab legs can be cooked frozen, by extending their cooking time by around 50%. The main issue with cooking crab legs from frozen is that it is easy to overcook them, which will result in a rubber-like texture.
Since crab legs can be defrosted very quickly using the cool water method, it won’t really save you much time by cooking crab legs from freezing. Your crab legs will taste better and be more evenly cooked when they have been thawed and then cooked.