How long does cooked crab last? [Answered]

Published Categorized as Fish Or Seafood, Guide Tagged

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Crab comes in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes you can cook a large batch of crab and realize there is absolutely no way that everyone is going to eat all of that crab meat.

Cooking crab is a task in itself, and like a lot of seafood, crab can be expensive and so it is difficult to let it go to waste after putting in the time and effort to prepare it.

Cooked crab meat tends to go bad very quickly if it isn’t stored correctly. If you do have leftover crab it is important to look after it and store it in a way that makes it last for longer and makes it safe to eat at a later date.

If you do not store your cooked crab meat properly, the meat can go rancid and can potentially cause food poisoning.

Today I am going to tell you how long your cooked crab meat will last under different conditions and you can use it as a guide to enjoy your cooked crab meat for as long and as safely as possible!

Table of Contents

Storing Cooked Crab in the Fridge

If left out at room temperature, your cooked crab meat will only stay good for about 2 hours. After a certain amount of time, bacteria begins to grow on the meat and this will eventually cause the meat to go bad.

Room temperature sits at around 40F to 140F, and this is the prime temperature for bacteria growth.

To prevent this, you can ensure you store your crab in colder temperatures within 2 hours of cooking the crab meat. If properly stored in a refrigerator, your crab meat can last between 3 to 5 days, giving you a lot more time to finish it!

The shelf life of your crab meat will also depend on what you store it in, within the refrigerator.

When refrigerating crab meat you need to store it in an airtight container. Either this, or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminium foil. This helps to stop air getting in and the bacteria spreading, meaning it can stay fresh for longer.


Storing Cooked Crab in the Freezer

Although storing crab in the fridge can keep it fresh and safe to eat for 3 to 5 days, your cooked crab meat will last even longer if it is kept in the freezer.

Frozen crab will stay at its best for around 2 to 3 months. Past this, it is still safe to eat, however the quality will begin to decrease.

If crab meat is kept at exactly 0F it will stay perfect indefinitely, however at colder temperatures or warmer temperatures it will slowly grow bacteria.

You can then thaw frozen cooked crab meat in the refrigerator and this will last for about 3 to 5 days. However, if you thaw your cooked crab meat in the microwave or at room temperature then it should be eaten immediately – within 2 hours similar to when it is stored at room temperature. 

To store crab meat correctly in the freezer, again it should be put in an airtight container or heavy duty freezer bags. Again, it can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, but for freezers it is recommended to use a proper freezer container or bag.

Storing crab meat in its shell

Freezing and refrigerating crab meat when it is still in its shell is a great way to help preserve the meat. The shell helps to lock in the flavor of the meat but also stops the meat from losing its tender texture.

Without the protection of the shell, the meat will deteriorate faster and the meat will become stringy. If you are able to store the meat in the shell within an airtight container then this is the best option.

Safety When Cooking Crab

When cooking crab, its internal temperature should reach a minimum of 145F. the colour of the crab’s skin should turn a bright red and it is important to remember that the type of crab you are cooking can affect the shelf life.

`Fresh, uncooked crab meat will stay okay for 1 to 2 days if stored in the refrigerator – again in an airtight container. Alternatively, it will last up to 4 months if stored in the freezer using the same storage technique as that used for cooked crab meat.

Live crab is very similar and will survive for about 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator before it begins to go bad, and about 2 to 3 months if frozen.

Contrary to this, pasteurized crab meat will last about 6 months if left unopened, but like cooked crab meat, it will only last around 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator once it has been opened.

Based on the above,  crab meat will last the longest in either storage condition, however many people prefer the taste and experience of fresh crab.

How to tell if your crab has gone bad

Despite the effort to store it correctly and keep it at the correct temperatures in the perfect storage conditions, sometimes our crab will still go bad and it is important that we can identify this.

This can be down to a number of reasons, whether it be because it was left out of the refrigerator in the typical kitchen temperatures, or whether you had left it for too long in the refrigerator and forgot to finish it. Either way, it is worth knowing if your crab is ready for the trash.

The best way to tell if your crab meat has gone bad is firstly by the smell. When crab meat is beyond its edible timeframe, it will develop a very sour smell. In fact, if your crab smells of anything other than crab then you definitely should not eat it.

Secondly, if you notice a slimy texture on your crab then this is a clear sign that it has started to go bad and probably is no longer safe to eat.  

Finally, if the crab meat looks discolored then it is ready for the trash. If you end up with blue crab or greyish crab meat, this means you definitely should not eat it.

What happens if you eat bad crab?

Bad crab meat contains domoic acid which can cause food poisoning. This will cause you extreme sickness, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps shortly after consumption.

Within 48 hours this can turn into headache, dizziness, and confusion.

Food poisoning usually does not go on much longer than  48 hours, but if you do eat bad crab meat and experience severe reactions that do not go away, you should seek medical help.

Final Thoughts

Crab meat, much like lots of meat, needs to be stored at the correct temperature in the correct container and then consumed within a specific amount of time.

Crab meat needs to be refrigerated or frozen in order to be kept fresh, otherwise it should be consumed within 2 hours of cooking it.

Make sure it is stored in an airtight container in both the freezer or the fridge.

Look out for any change in appearance, texture or smell, and these are the clear signs that will help you decide whether or not your crab meat is good to eat.

Overall, crab meat is best when eaten as close to preparation as possible, but if you store it properly and keep it fresh then you can enjoy your crab meat for a lot longer and hopefully it won’t have to go to waste!



Can you eat cooked crab after 5 days?

If you freeze your cooked crab it can last for a few months. If refrigerated properly then there is a chance it can last up to 5 days, but definitely no longer than this.

How can you tell if crab is bad?

If there is a change in smell, color, or if you crab begins to look slimy, then these are all indications that your crab has gone bad.

How long will crab keep in the fridge?

Cooked crab will last 3 to 5 days in the fridge if stored correctly in an airtight container or wrapped up properly.

Can you refrigerate cooked crab in the shell?

Yes, you can refrigerate cooked crab in the shell. Freezing or refrigerating crab meat in its shell is actually better as the shell helps to protect the meat from going bad.