Unfortunately, we need to advise against refreezing crab legs. Refreezing any protein after it has thawed or been cooked is dangerous and could lead to consumption issues.
Keep in mind it’s not a good idea to pull protein, raw or cooked, out of the freezer if you are not committed to using it that day.
However, we will break down everything you need to know about the safe way to freeze crab legs and the best way to keep your crab fresh for as long as possible.
And in case you are determined to refreeze your thawed crab legs, we will discuss the best to go about this if you absolutely have to. We get it. Nobody wants to waste good crab.
So here’s the long answer to whether or not you can refreeze crab legs and the right way to do it if you’re going to do it.
Steps to Freeze Crab Legs
Follow these steps to safely and effectively refreeze your crab legs.
This step only applies if you cooked the crab legs beforehand. Let them drop to room temperature.
2. Clean the Crab
Cleaning the crab involves removing the legs and discarding the body. Storing crab legs is easier than storing a whole crab.
Put the crab legs in an airtight or watertight container to keep the air in the freezer from compromising the freshness.
Put the legs neatly in your freezer, and you’re all set!
Tips For Refreezing Crab Legs
Once again, we suggest you avoid refreezing crab legs, but we know some of you are stubborn and will do it anyway, so do it as safely as possible. Follow our tips to successfully and safely freezing crab legs below:
- Make sure the legs are as tightly sealed as possible. For the best results, you should use heavy-duty freezer bags that will help lock in freshness and keep out freezer burn. If you have a vacuum-sealer, this is definitely the time to use it.
- An air-sealed bag is super important, but crab legs are pointy and often puncture the freezer bags. A broken bag will be no good at maintaining freshness. To avoid this, it’s a good idea to chop off the extra-pointy parts that don’t have any meat in them. For extra precaution and added protection, tightly wrap the legs in plastic wrap before putting them in the freezer bag.
- Never, ever put warm or hot crab legs straight into the freezer. If you freeze crab legs after cooking them, make sure you give them plenty of time to cool off completely.
- If you aren’t sure about using the legs when you pull them out, let them thaw in the fridge. Thawing food in a water bath or on the counter makes it much harder to safely refreeze later.
Risks of Refreezing Crab Legs
Aside from quality risks, like chewier meat, dry spots in the meat, or a bland taste, there are more serious risks of consuming bad seafood. When seafood begins to rot, it produces a chemical called domoic acid.
When humans consume this acid, they often experience nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. These symptoms are just the beginning, as they can then develop into a headache, dizziness, confusion, and motor weakness.
In severe seafood poisoning cases, it can cause short-term memory loss, coma, brain damage, and even death.
The Lifespan of a Crab Leg
A general theme with shellfish is that they don’t last very long for consumption after dying. The rapid deterioration of shellfish once it dies is the reason that lobsters, crabs, and other shellfish are kept alive until right before dinner.
The ideal time to cook a crab is within the first fifteen minutes after they die. If not, the crab can be kept in a fridge for 24-48 hours. After that, the crab meat begins to go rancid and is not safe to consume.
How Long To Freeze Crab Legs
Properly frozen, crab legs will keep their best quality for two to three months in the freezer. Properly frozen means you followed all of the freezing tips above.
If you do not vacuum seal or skip other steps, the crab will likely lose quality and flavor much faster.
After three months, the frozen crab legs will still be edible and safe, but the quality will begin to roll downhill. So if you leave crab legs in your freezer for over a year, they’ll likely be flavorless and bland when you finally get around to enjoying them. But the texture should hold up well!
Dungeness crab legs are more resilient and may last closer to four or five months without sacrificing any quality. Snow crab legs are the most sensitive and will lose quality after two months.
And king crab legs fall right in the middle.
Cooking and Then Freezing
Many people wonder if they should freeze raw crab legs or if it’s best to cook them before putting them in the freezer. Both methods are acceptable and safe.
However, it does change the flavor of the crab a bit, depending on how you do it.
If you are going to eat the whole crab legs right from the shell, you’re going to want a fresh-from-the-sea kind of flavor. For this situation, it’s best to freeze the raw whole crab legs.
But if you plan to use the crab meat in a dish like a casserole or crab cakes, you can get away with cooking it and then freezing it. People often do this to save them time when it comes time to make the meal, and freshly cooked crab can be hot to handle.
Crab Freezing FAQs
If you still have questions about freezing or refreezing crab legs, check out the frequently asked questions below to get your answer!
Is freezing lobster the same as freezing crab?
Yes, the process and rules for freezing lobster are essentially the same as crab. The shellfish meat is very similar, but lobster has more flavor, and crab has a flakier texture.
So, your lobster may noticeably lose more flavor after freezing, while the crab quality loss will be less significant.
Is freezer burn on crab legs bad?
Not really; people attribute more severity to freezer burn than is necessary, at least in the case of shellfish. The shell protects the protein from the freezer burn, so your crab was likely not impacted at all.
How can I tell if crab meat is bad?
Crab leg meat should always be white. The crab body can be a dark brown or green color, but the meat you consume should always be white. If the leg meat looks to be discolored, either yellow, brown, or green, then it should be thrown away.
Throwing away crab is the worst, but trust us, discolored crab meat is not your friend, and you will not enjoy it.
Can I freeze a whole crab?
Sure, why not? It will take up more room in your freezer, but it could also keep the leg meat slightly fresher. However, this has not been proven, so if you don’t want to save the body but feel like you have to, we can safely tell you to toss it and freeze the legs.
How long can raw crab legs sit out?
You should never leave raw crab legs out of a temperature-controlled area, like your fridge or freezer. But if you make an oopsie and they wind up sitting on your counter for a few hours, it’s probably okay.
The crab legs should be fine as long as they smell normal and are still cold to the touch or below room temperature. But get them into the fridge or freezer immediately!
What should crab meat smell like?
Crab is still seafood, so it will likely still have a strong fish odor. A fishy smell is fine, but anything sour or similar to vinegar is a bad sign, and you should get rid of it.
Not everything in life is perfectly timed or convenient, we understand. But it’s always best to purchase crab the day of or the day before you plan to eat it. When it comes to shellfish, the more recently it was crawling around, the better!
And if you plan to use it for something like a casserole where it doesn’t need to be as fresh, remember that canned lump crab meat is also a good option to get that seafood flavor in your dish.