Freezing Live Crabs is a Bad Idea: Here’s Why

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Crabs are one of the best types of seafood you can eat. They’re tasty, they’re healthy, and they have a lot of variety depending on where you live. 

But did you know that there is an easy way to ruin your crab dinner? Freezing them! There’s no better way to make sure that crab meat tastes awful than freezing it before cooking it. 

In this article, I’ll explain why freezing live crabs is a bad idea so that hopefully more people will stop doing it and enjoy their crabs instead!

Freezing live crabs blog post feature image

Why can’t you freeze live crabs?

Freezing live crabs leads to dead crabs that have not been cooked or properly prepared before freezing.

It’s commonly known that you should never cook a dead crab. Not only is it unsafe, but cooking crabs alive ensures what is left of your meal doesn’t have an awful texture or taste. The longer the crabs been dead before being cooked, the worse its meat quality will be, additionally, it will lack the fresh flavour it may previously have had.

The reason this bad taste arises is due to the crab’s natural enzymes that are still active after death. These enzymes cause a chemical reaction that changes how the crab meat tastes.

Crabs are often eating a range of different things within their habitat and can exist in heavily polluted waterways. The pollutants and chemicals they pick up in their bodies also stay with the frozen crab if not properly handled.

The longer you wait to cook your crabs after they’ve been killed the more of these reactions happen inside them – so if they’re frozen before being cooked then all those bad-tasting chemicals present when you begin to cook it after thawing.

This creates a poor eating experience and is quite noticeable as the crab will have a stale, musky, and or dank taste to it that is generally unenjoyable.

So how should you treat your crabs after catching or purchasing them?

Related Articles: What’s the yellow stuff inside a crab?

How should you handle live crabs?

It really depends on what you intend to do with the crabs. If you are going to be eating them the week you buy them then you likely won’t be freezing them.

With this option, you can refrigerate your crabs for 1-2 days before cooking and or freezing them. Or alternatively, you can keep them in a bushel basket for 1 day. If you choose to keep them in their basket you should aim to cook them within the same day.

If you’ve decided you are going to be freezing your crab either because you want to store it for later or you have too much, continue reading as we break down your options for freezing crab below. 

frozen crab

How to properly freeze crab meat

When preparing crab meat for storage you will generally have 3 options, each with its own pros and cons. 

1. Cook, Clean, Pick and Freeze Crabs

This is a great option for those who want crab that’s ready to go once thawed out of the freezer. For this method, you cook and remove the guts of the crab.

Once the crab has been cooked and cleaned, you pick the meat and place it in a vacuum seal bag prior to freezing it.

Then freeze the crab.. It’s really that easy. The one main downside of this approach is that you lose some of the rich flavours and texture found in the fresh crabmeat.

  • Main Benefits
    1. Crab meat lasts up to 6 months
    2. The crabmeat is ready to eat once thawed

2. Cook, Clean, and Freeze Crabs

Similar to the method above. You will cook and clean the crab but this time you don’t pick the meat. You just move ahead with freezing the crabs once cleaning them.

This provides the best of both worlds between not fully processing your live crabs prior to freezing them and overly processing them at the risk of having the crab meat potentially lose flavour. 

  • Main Benefits
    1. Crab meat lasts approximately 3 months
    2. Crab meat is prepared and ready to be picked from the shell

3. Cook and Freeze Crabs

Keep the crabs in their shell and cook them at the appropriate temperature for 10 to 20 minutes before vacuum sealing the crabs and freezing them. This is a great option for those who like to eat the crab mustard and don’t want to sacrifice on this.

Just be aware that because you’re potentially keeping more “bad bacteria” within the crab when freezing it, the shelf life will be shorter at approximately 3 months.

  • Main Benefits
    1. Crab meat Lasts up to 3 months
    2. Maintains the crab mustard


Ultimately you should not freeze live crabs as it causes them to die in the freezer and rot from the inside creating an unpleasant eating experience.

With that being said properly handling live crabs and freezing their meat is incredibly easy for even the most inexperienced chefs.

We hope you found this article helpful, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to drop a comment below and our team will do their best to get back to you!


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Ryan W

Ryan is the owner of Fisherman First and manages the team of expert writers on the site. He's fished his entire life and has been to locations across North America to catch a range of fish and crustacean from crabs and prawns to minnow and trout.