Are dead crawfish safe to eat?

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

Are dead crawfish safe to eat?

No, it is not safe to eat dead crawfish. You can get serious food poisoning from eating dead crawfish. Crawfish should only be cooked within a few hours of death, or you risk acquiring food illness. The bacteria that coat the shells of crawfish are a type of Vibrio bacteria that, after rapidly reproducing following death, cannot be completely eradicated by boiling.

What are the risks of eating dead crawfish?

Food poisoning is commonly caused by eating crawfish that haven’t died within an hour or that haven’t been frozen soon after death. This is owing to the presence of the Gram-negative Vibrio bacteria family in the waters where crawfish thrive (particularly coastal waters).

As a result, bacteria commonly penetrate and dwell in the lining.

As a result, the bacteria normally penetrate and live in the membrane of the crawfishs’ shell, where they multiply fast after the crawfish dies. These bacteria cause a foodborne ailment known as vibriosis, often known as food poisoning if consumed. 

The symptoms of gastroenteritis that arise will appear within 12-24 hours and persist for 1-7 days. Fever, chills, vomiting, stomach cramping, and nausea are some of the symptoms. These indications can be life-threatening if you are either dehydrated or have other health issues.

How to identify if crawfish are safe to eat?

Smell: The strongest indicator of freshness, like with any meat, is the smell. The strong odor of ammonia emanating from decaying shellfish is a clear indication that bacteria have begun to destroy the flesh. It’s better to avoid anything with a little sour scent, even if it’s not overpowering.

Appearance: Examine the shells of the crawfish to see if it is still intact. If it’s cracked, it’s been dead for a few hours at the very least.

Cooked texture: The consistency of the cooked flesh is a good measure of the shellfish’s vitality. If the cooked meat is mushy in any way, the meat is rife with pathogens and should be avoided at all costs. Here’s a good recipe for cooking crawfish.

How to safely store crawfish?

Raw crawfish

Keep the crawfish alive for no longer than two days before cooking them. Keep them in refrigerated storage, between 46 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit, for the best results. Place these in a ziplock bag and place them in a cooler with ice. 

Alternatively, you can put them in an open container and cover them with a damp cloth or paper towels before storing them in the refrigerator.

Cooked crawfish

Make sure it’s stored in the fridge for at least two hours after it’s been cooked. Using airtight, sealed boxes in the refrigerator is the method of storing freshly cooked crawfish. This will last up to 4 days in the fridge.

Frozen crawfish

The easiest way to get crawfish is to buy it frozen. These are usually peeled and cooked, and with tails removed and frozen as well. You can store them for about 3 months in this state. These are ideal for adding crawfish to meals such as gumbo, or soup. If you’re the one peeling and frying the crawfish for long-term storage, make sure you use heavy-duty ziplock bags. 

Don’t overfill the bags with crawfish. Only approximately 3/4 of the way should be filled with crawfish. If you’re concerned about freezer burn, you can cover the meat with water.

How to keep crawfish alive for a few days?

Here are some tips to keep your crawfish alive and healthy until you are ready to cook them.

  • A newspaper should be used to line a large cooler.
  • To hold your fish cool and fresh, place closed bags of ice or cold packs on wet burlap or towels.
  • Place the crawfish sack on its sides in a big cooler away from the sun.
  • The crawfish will be lethargic after being chilled. Allow them to warm up to room temperature.
  • To rehydrate crawfish, spray them with water.
  • Allow water to run out of the cooler by leaving the drain open and slightly elevating the opposite side.
  • Maintain a temperature range of 36°F to 46°F.
  • Allow the crawfish to breathe by leaving the cooler cover cracked open.
  • Crawfish bags should not be stored or soaked in water since they will perish.
  • Crawfish can be kept on ice for a few days without being killed if the ice is replaced daily.


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

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


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