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Can You Overcook Crab?

Shellfish and seafood are some of the hardest things to cook due to different steps compared to meat, but nothing to fear.

We will help build up your confidence with the knowledge we offer to have you cooking crab like a professional!

Like every dish, the two things that can bring about heartache when cooking crab are overcooked crab and undercooked crab.

This raises the question: Can crabs be overcooked? The answer is a simple and definitive yes. You can overcook crabs just as well as any other meal. When this happens, the crab becomes rubbery and tough to eat.

The essential and easy way to watch for perfection is the color, but do not rely on color alone. Raw crabs have a brown to a greenish tint, almost like camouflage. Look for a bright red-orange color, and it is the sign it is nearly time to turn the burners off. 

Ways to Tell You Have Overcooked Crab 

As we mentioned in the introduction, the color will change to a red-orange color when the crabs are almost done. When they have reached a pinkish tint, that is the sign you have gone too far. Unfortunately, this is the point of no return because it will be a disappointment when the first bite is taken.

If the cook goes by the color, let’s look at what one of the professional cooking authors says. Stuart Farrimond, MD, wrote “The Science of Cooking,” said, “Cooking reveals the orange color, but should not be a guide for doneness. Larger shellfish, such as lobster and crab, will change color before they are fully cooked. Always make sure the cooked meat is white, firm, and opaque.”

So what we notice is size can throw everything off when cooking crabs. When you see the color change, it means do not go too far away from the pot. Crabs that are overcooked will be hard to chew and will not have the texture to fall apart or have that melt in your mouth feeling. 

Ways to Tell You Have Undercooked Crab

There are two ways to tell if the crab you have on your plate is undercooked or if you are unsure while it is cooking. The first and most noticeable way is by the color of the crab. If it is a brown or greenish color, then it is not thoroughly cooked. 

The second way is by the temperature test. Use a thermometer to test the internal temperature of the crabmeat. If the temperature is below 145°F, then it is not cooked all the way through.

We strongly discourage anyone from doing a taste test. If by chance the crab meat is not cooked through, you risk severe food poisoning and possibly death from eating raw crab meat. The outside piece of meat may look fine and harmless, but the inside may be a different story.

The Different Types of Edible Crabs

Crabmeat is a delicacy across the world, and these are the most popular that are cooked and eaten by the public at home or in a restaurant:

  • Dungeness Crabs;
  • King Crabs;
  • Snow Crabs;
  • Peekytoe Crabs;
  • Blue Crabs;
  • Soft Shell Crabs;
  • Stone Crabs. 

All of these are different sizes, and cooking times vary. However, for all shellfish, the USDA requires no less than an internal temperature of 145°F. Listed below are some safety tips we recommend, along with the USDA, to keep from contamination if you choose to cook the listed crabs yourself:

  • Keep your hands and all surfaces clean;
  • Keep raw meat separated from other foods and items;
  • Cook each one at the correct temperature;
  • Keep on ice or cold until it is time to cook. Seafood and shellfish can become poisonous if the temperature drops, and they fall to room temperature. 

How to Cook Crab to Perfection

There are four methods on how to cook crab. They are as follows, and we can walk you through each of them:

  • Boiling;
  • Grilling;
  • Steaming;
  • Roasting.

Boiling Crabs

Among the many ways to cook crabs, boiling is a favorite among many. The amount of seasoning is totally up to you and the types of seasoning. It also depends on how many crabs and boiling water the pot will hold. 

Step 1: Boil and Prep the Water 

Take a large pot and fill it with water. Bring the water to a hard boil with a high flame. Add salt and seasoning to the water. Some people like to add white wine or beer to the mix for added flavor. 

Step 2: Add the Crabs

When the water reaches its highest boil, quickly add the crabs without splashing. Do this one at a time, but do it consistently, so they have the same cooking time. 

Step 3: Remove the Crabs 

When the crabs change color and begin to float, they are done. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how big the crabs are. Remove the crabs with thongs and let them cool off a bit for serving and handling. 

Grilling Crabs

Before beginning, ensure all the crabs are well cleaned. We recommend steaming or boiling first to cook them partially, then finish on the grill.

Step 1: Boil or Steam the Crabs

Boil or steam the crabs for about five minutes, then clean them when they cool off enough to handle. 

Step 2: Oil and Season  

Use olive oil or butter to grease the crabs and season them with your choice of seasoning. We recommend your favorite spices with herbs like garlic, thyme, and rosemary.

Step 3: Grill the Crabs

Grill the crabs on each side for about 4 minutes. Ensure they are thoroughly cooked and browned well.

Special Note: Softshell crabs are different, and the gills and the apron must be removed and grilled on each side for five minutes. 

Steaming Crabs

Steaming is a method where the crabs retain the juices and prevent water-logging. Follow the directions below to steam properly:

Step 1: Add Water 

Inside a large pot, fill the bottom up to an inch with salted water and bring it to a boil. 

Step 2: Add the Crabs

Place the crabs inside a steamer basket. If you do not have a steamer basket, don’t panic. You can place them directly in the water, and the bottom crabs will boil. The others will still get the proper amount of steam.

Step 3: Steam the Crabs 

Cover the crabs and steam for up to 20 minutes, depending on how big the crabs are. Remove with thongs when done. 

Oven Roasting Crabs

The oven must be preheated to 450°F, then follow these instructions: 

Step 1: Clean the Crabs

Boil or steam the crabs for about five minutes, then clean them when they cool off enough to handle.

Step 2: Add Butter and Seasoning

Add butter and your choice of seasoning. We also recommend herbs like garlic, ginger, and green onions. 

Step 3: Oven Roast the Crabs

With the oven set at 450°F to 500°F, place the crabs in a roasting pan and roast until browned and sizzling. It should take about 10 minutes, but make sure the crabs are no less than 145°F in the middle with a thermometer.

We hope you enjoyed and got a brighter side of cooking crabs as we wish you all the best dishes!