Are dead crabs safe to eat?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question, “Are dead crabs safe to eat?” We will discuss the health risks of eating dead crabs. We will also look at the safest ways to store and cook crabs.

Are dead crabs safe to eat?

No. It’s better to cook them after 10 to 15 minutes of death to keep the flesh as fresh as possible. Crabs can be prepared 24-48 hours after they have died, if they are kept cool, however, the flavor and texture will decrease. If you’re not sure whether the crab is living or not, assume it’s dead and toss it out.

How to tell if a crab is dead?

People use a variety of methods to determine whether or not a crab is dead. When crabs are extremely cold, they may appear to be dead, or they may be near to death and not stir at all.

If you touch one of their eyes and it moves, you can know if they’re alive.

You can also examine their mouthparts closely and prod them to check if they move. 

Sprinkling a bit of water on the crabs will sometimes start them moving as well. 

What are the risks of eating dead crabs?

There are two reasons why you should avoid eating dead crab. The main reason is that it may induce food illness (shellfish poisoning), and the other is that crabs taste much better while they’re alive or have just died than when they’ve been dead for some time.

Shellfish poisoning

Let’s start with the worst-case scenario. When crabs die, they decompose in the same way that any other animal does. This degradation is followed by a significant rise in bacteria and the waste products produced by the bacteria.

The bacteria themselves, as well as the byproducts they create, can make you sick, which is known as shellfish poisoning. The bacteria and enzymes in the crab’s midgut can travel throughout the animal in 30 minutes, contaminating it totally.

Shellfish poisoning occurs when bacteria or viruses are present in crabs, shrimp, clams, oysters, and other shellfish. A rotten or putrid stench will often indicate that the shellfish is infected, however, this is not always the case.

Keep the crab in a dark and cool environment, preferably below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, to slow down the decomposition process.

Shellfish poisoning usually occurs 4-48 hours after eating contaminated meat.

Foul taste 

The second reason why eating dead crab isn’t a good idea is that the taste and quality of the meat can be ruined. The flesh of a dead crab will become mushy, and the delicate flavor of fresh crabs will be lost.

The digestive juices that leak from the crab’s intestines start to decompose the crab’s meat.

How long can you store live crabs?

Brown crabs can be kept alive for 3 to 4 days if kept cool and moist, preferably in the bottom of your fridge with a wet cloth covering it. 

Spider crabs are just a little trickier since they seem to die for little or no apparent reason, so it is not recommended to keep them alive.

Do not immerse the crabs in freshwater. 

They must be checked frequently so that if the crabs die, they are cooked right away. There’s no need to be concerned; once cooked, they may be kept in the coldest area of the refrigerator for up to 4 days, just like any other cooked meal.

How to safely store and cook crab?

Killing the crabs

Always kill the crabs before preparing them. This approach is the most gentle on the crabs and causes no pain.

If you drop a crab into hot water right away, it will lose its legs and claws, and it will suffer.

The meat of the crab becomes rough if it is not killed, and the shell holds too much water.

Cooking the crabs

Fill a large pot halfway with clean water and a good amount of salt. Half a cup of salt to a gallon of water is usually used, and it is brought to a rapid boil.

Add the crab.

Return the pot to a boil with the crab.

Begin timing when the water returns to a boil. For a crab up to 2 pounds, use 20 minutes and add 5 minutes per pound after that.

When the timer goes off, carefully pour everything into the sink and wash the crab with cold water to eliminate any excess protein.

Here are a few other ways to cook crab.

Storing cooked crabs

The cooked crab should be refrigerated within two hours. Refrigerate cooked crab by simply placing it on a plate and covering it with saran wrap. To keep the saran wrap fresh, place ice cubes on top of it.

Arrange cooked crabs in ziplock bags or airtight containers to freeze them. Let frozen crabs defrost overnight in the refrigerator before cooking and/or eating.

Other FAQs about Crabs that you may be interested in.

Can you cook crab legs in an air fryer?

What do crabs eat?

Can you eat coconut crabs?


In this brief guide, we answered the question, “Are dead crabs safe to eat?”. We discussed the health risks of eating dead crabs. We also looked at the safest ways to store and cook crabs.

If you have any questions or comments, please let us know.