You're stuck with some leftover crab, and letting it go to waste seems like a huge loss. Don't lose hope just yet. Freezing crab is a totally viable option, but some precautions should be taken in order to ensure optimal flavor preservation.
Below I've provided a full guide to freezing crab meat to ensure taste is preserved for months down the line. Comment below if you have any questions.
Can You Freeze Crab Meat?
Yes, like most meat, you can freeze crab to preserve freshness. But freezing isn't without its consequences. In order to ensure the best crab taste for as long as possible, certain steps should be taken.
After researching some of the most popular crab fishing companies, and sifting through countless crab forums, there seems to be two different methods to effectively preserving flavor with freezing.
Crab (Shell intact)
If the crab shell is still intact, I highly recommend keeping it that way. Crab shells are highly protective and slow the environmental degradation of the meat. Shelled crabs will last a few days in the fridge, whereas exposed crab meat will only last hours.
If the goal is to keep the crab fresh as long as possible, here's what to do:
Take all the crabs you plan to freeze and boil/steam them as if you were cooking them to eat that day. Place them in ice water to stop the cooking process. Then, vacuum seal them in a food grade bag and stick them in the freezer.
While some quality is always lost with freezing, cooking and vacuum sealing ensures the best chance of a safe and fresh tasting experience for months down the line.
Take out of freezer 2 hours prior to serving and thaw in cold water. Heat in steam/hot water if desired, and serve.
Crab Meat (Bare)
If the meat is already out of the crab, we have to work fast. If the crab meat has been in the fridge for a few days, I wouldn't even recommend freezing it. Best to save the freezer space for things that will taste good down the road. But if the crab meat is fresh and you wish to keep it that way for as long as possible, here's what to do:
Take a food grade, sealed bag (don't vacuum seal, milk will need room to expand) and place your crab meat inside. Pour milk (whole milk is recommended) until the entirety of the meat is submerged. Freeze it and enjoy crab for up to a solid 6 months (maybe longer).
Prepare the meat a few hours before serving. Put the crab meat and milk through a strainer and rinse with water. Run cold water over the crab meat until all milk crystals are gone. Then serve.
Why the Milk, you ask?
Honestly I've had difficulty finding the science behind why the "milk technique" works so effectively. I've looked everywhere trying to discredit it, but everybody seems to be on the same page.
This technique shows noticeably better flavor preservation.
Why cant you just cover it in water? It could be due to milk's slightly lower freezing point than water, but this is unlikely. Unprocessed milk's freezing point is only one degree below waters (approximately 31°F). The average freezer temperature is far below this temperature anyways.
The most probable explanation is that milk is saturated with nutrients, both macro and micro. Where water can absorb, or steal, the flavor components of the crab meat, milk is already well-saturated with sugars, fats and minerals. The osmotic effect of these elements are probably far less drastic in milk than they are in water.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Can you Keep Crab in the Freezer?
There seems to be no common length of time between crab companies here. As far as quality goes, 6 months seems to be a healthy average. Other people claim they've eaten good crab over a year after freezing, but I have my suspicions.
Can You Freeze Crab Soup?
As long as everything is safely cooked, crab soup can absolutely be frozen. I've actually heard several stories of people surprised at how good crab soup tastes after months of being frozen. The only thing to look out for is the cream you add. Cream will have a tendency to curdle after reheated. So, if you can, keep from adding the cream until served.
Does Freezing a Crab Kill it?
Yes, crabs will die in the freezer if inside for over a few hours. But to make cooking slightly easier, people will temporarily store their crabs in the freezer right before cooking. This allows the crabs metabolism and movements to slow down to keep them from getting feisty in the pot.
Can you Cook Crab Frozen?
You can, but I wouldn't recommend it. Gradually increasing the temperature (thawing before cooking) seems to reap the greatest results. Going from frozen to boiling temperatures so quickly tends to cook the crab unevenly.
I highly encourage you to at least give it a go. While I FULLY understand there is nothing like fresh crab, there are still ways to get something that resembles "fresh." Take the steps we've outlined and let me know how it goes.
Founder of Robust Kitchen