Can You Freeze Crab Meat?



Hi, I'm Maggie. I love cooking for my family and sharing my experiences from the kitchen.
Crab meat in a glas bowl

I love crabs more than I have ever loved any other seafood. This is because they have a unique flavor that tastes great with creamy, buttery sauces. Now that I have learned the proper way to do it, I cook crabs with the greatest of ease and without hesitation.

Whether you cook them whole or cook just crab legs, they make a great dinner meal. That said, when I first started cooking crabs, I was a bit confused about whether you were supposed to cook them before freezing and if you can even freeze cooked crabs.

So can you freeze crab meat? It is highly recommended to freeze crab meat, otherwise, the crab meat spoils quickly. However, freezing crab meat will change its texture. While freezing is hands down the best way to ensure your crab meat doesn’t spoil, there are a few things to keep in mind. After all, freezing crab meat isn’t as simple as throwing it straight into the freezer. 

There are proper procedures that you must follow to ensure the best possible results. This is exactly what I will be dealing with in this freezing guide. So, be sure to read on as I explore the most effective way to prolong the quality and freshness of your crabs.

Crab meat is incredibly prone to spoilage. If you are looking to preserve the freshness of your favorite seafood for months, then freezing is the best option available to you. But, how to freeze crab meat?

How to Freeze Crab Meat?

It’s time to learn about the right ways to freeze crab. Cooked crab, to be more specific. I always cook crab before freezing.  There are two ways of freezing cooked crab. The first method involves freezing everything, including its shell. The second method will show you how to properly freeze crab meat that is shelled. 

Method 1: How to Freeze Whole Crabs

This method is perhaps the simplest and most direct way to approach this task. Be sure to follow these steps while freezing whole crabs:

  1. Cook the crab – The first thing to do is cook your crab as if you were planning to eat it that day. Steaming or boiling it for 10 to 20 minutes should work, as that will give it enough time to kill any lingering bacteria inside the crab.
  2. Submerge the crab in ice water – make sure to submerge it completely to ensure the cooking process stops completely.
  3. Wrapping the crab – Take some paper towels and carefully wrap your crab. This step is crucial, as it prevents the pointed ends of the shell from puncturing the bag.
  4. Storage: Put it in sealable bags or vacuum seal. A vacuum seal is the most effective option. Otherwise, take a freezer-safe sealable bag, place the wrapped crab inside, and squeeze out any excess air before sealing.
  5. Label the bag – You need to make sure your bag of crab is properly labeled. You will need to write the freezing date in clear, bold letters. This way you will never lose track of when you first froze the crabs.

If done correctly, it will keep crab meat fresh for up to four months or more. 

Method 2: Freezing Shelled Crab Meat

The second method is perfect if the crab meat has already been removed from the shell. As you may have noticed, this method is commonly used for leftover cook.

  1. Prepare a  vacuum-sealable bag.
  2. To protect crab meat from freezer burn wrap it in aluminum foil.
  3. Place the crab meat inside, squeeze out the air, or use a vacuum sealer, and close the bag.
  4. Label the bag. Make sure the freeze date is marked and visible.
  5. If you follow these instructions closely, your crab meat will be able to last at least 3 months.

Just keep in mind that crab meat stored this way works best as a side ingredient for soups and sauces, rather than as a main dish.

What Happens if You Freeze Crab Meat?

In addition to saving you the effort of having to disassemble the crab before freezing it, keeping the crab meat in its shell helps preserve some of the sweet flavors of the meat. It also helps ensure that your texture stays intact. After all, the crab’s shell serves as a protective shell for its soft interior. For our purposes, it will help hinder the natural degradation of the meat over time.

The difference between the longevity of shelled crab meat to overexposed crab meat becomes incredibly apparent when placed in the refrigerator. The first can last 5 days, while the second usually only lasts no more than 12 hours. 

It should be noted here that freezing will always harm crab meat. It can lose a considerable amount of its flavor in the freezer and the texture can become stringy. These effects will only get worse if you don’t follow the steps we’ve listed above. It is also worth noting that, if properly frozen, the detrimental effects of freezing will be kept to a minimum and of no consequence.

While the actual shelf life may vary, properly frozen crabs are known to last at least 3 months in the freezer.

How to Defrost Crab Meat?

Since I have covered the topic of freezing extensively in this guide, we can now move on to the next step, which is defrosting. 

Similar to freezing, you’ll need to make sure you properly thaw your crab meat. Failing to do so means wasting your previous efforts. The most important aspect of thawing crab meat is the gradual temperature rise. With that definition alone, you should be able to figure out that microwaving is not an option at this point. You can do it in two ways.

  1. First, you can use your refrigerator. This method is a bit slower and requires some forethought, but it is also much easier compared to the other method.All you need to do is simply take your frozen crabmeat and leave it in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Alternatively, you can also put the bag of frozen crab meat in cold water for at least two hours before using it. You may need to replace the water every 30 minutes or so to ensure the meat can defrost properly.

Can You Refreeze Crab Meat?

Once you thaw crab meat, I wouldn’t recommend freezing it again. Bacterial spread and meat decay can occur.

Freezing Different Types of Crab Meat

  • Can you freeze cooked crab? Yes, it is actually recommended to freeze cooked crab meat
  • Can you freeze canned crab meat? Yes, you can freeze canned crab meat by putting it in an airtight container and the freezer.
  • Can you freeze cooked crab legs? Yes, you can freeze crab leg the same way as crab meat. 

Best Tips for Freezing Crab Meat

I’ll share with you some of the tips and tricks that can help you freeze crab meat properly. Ready? Let’s go!

  • Be sure to store the crab in as many layers as possible to prevent moisture from escaping from the meat.
  • Don’t forget to break off the ends of the crab so they don’t puncture the freezer bag and cause the crabs to get freezer burn.
  • Store cooked crab in its shell or make crab cakes or casseroles, which can easily last in the freezer for about 3 months. If you store crab meat without its shell, it could lose its tenderness and become too stringy.
  • Be sure to cook all of the crabs before freezing and do not refreeze the crab after thawing it once.
  • Never cook a crab that’s been dead for more than 10-15 minutes. This is because it poses a significant health hazard. You should know that the quality of crab meat deteriorates rapidly shortly after the crab dies. Keep in mind that unwanted bacterial growth will inevitably start once the crab is dead. This is the natural process of decomposition, after all.
  • If you want small portions of meat, freezing a lump of crab meat is the best way to do it.

My Favorite Crab Meat Recipes

There are so many dishes that you can cook with crab meat. If you have the right seafood cutlery to eat crabs, it can become a real treat. From appetizers to entrees and even sandwiches, crab meat is soft, sweet and succulent. 

The most famous and my favorite dish with crab meat is of course crab cakes.

Crab cakes on a plate with lemon
Yummy crab cakes

Their preparation is very simple. This is how I do it. 

To make crab cakes:

  1. Combine 1/3 cup mayonnaise, onion, red bell pepper, celery, lemon juice, egg white, and crab meat in a bowl.
  2. Stir well and spice with salt and pepper.
  3. Form 6 flattened balls from the crab dough
  4. and roll in the breadcrumbs until well coated.
  5. Heat little butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.
  6. Add 3 crab cakes to skillet and cook 5 minutes on each side until golden brown. Repeat this step with the rest.

Serve with lemon, with mayonnaise, and a salad with vinegar and oil. I also like to use crab meat in salads, add vegetables and spices and have a quick dinner.

How do you store crab meat

You can place it in the fridge in airtight containers. 

How long can crab meat last in the refrigerator

Crab meat in the shell can last 5 days, while shelled crab meat usually only lasts no more than 12 hours.

How do you know if crab meat is spoiled?

You can tell that crab meat is spoiled by a slimy texture and sour smell. Meat should not be consumed if you notice any of these signs.

Why do you freeze crab meat in milk? 

Freezing crab meat in milk is great because the meat that way keeps all the freshness. It’s easy, peel the crab, put it in an airtight container and pour in the milk.

Can you freeze imitation crab?

Freezing fresh imitation crab isn’t recommended. We covered this in detail here: Can you freeze imitation crab?


I hope this guide has answered the question of, “Can you freeze cooked crab?” Follow the steps I mentioned above to freeze cooked crabs for a long time. Be sure to follow the tips and tricks to extend the life of your frozen crab and thaw crab the right way before eating it, preferably within 2-3 months. If you have any other questions, you can write them in the comment section.


About Maggie

Hi, I'm Maggie. I love cooking for my family and sharing my experiences from the kitchen.
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