Eating fresh crabs is one of the best experiences for beach lovers ever. However, in unfortunate cases, your seafood may die before you can try it. What should you do then? Can you eat dead crabs?
This article will tell you if dead crabs are safe or unsafe. Let’s check this guide and learn pro tips for handling dead crabs if you buy them by mistake!
Can You Eat Dead Crabs?
Yes, you can, but ensure they have been dead for a very short time and there aren’t any spoilage signs. Otherwise, you will suffer from food poisoning.
Dead crabs won’t taste as good as the live ones, but it’s not the biggest problem. Bacteria may accumulate in spoiled seafood and cause many health problems.
On dead fish, bacteria and other harmful microorganisms rapidly multiply, spoiling the meat and giving it a harsh, unpleasant flavor.
Moreover, when cooked, the flesh will have a mushy texture. It’s such a terrible experience to try this off-flavor crab.
Risk of Food Poisoning
Even if you don’t mind the change in their taste, avoid eating dead crabs because they carry potential risks for your health.
Eating a crab that has been dead for too long may cause shellfish poisoning. This issue is common in many types of seafood, such as clams, shrimp, and oysters.
When the shellfish become infected with bacteria, poisoning occurs.
An infected shellfish typically has an overwhelming rotten odor that makes you want to vomit. It’s a noticeable sign to check if the shellfish is still fresh or not.
If you don’t realize the odor, you will experience awful symptoms after 4 to 48 hours of eating the infected crabs. That’s the amount of time harmful bacteria need to thrive.
Here are some common bacteria and viruses found in dead crabs, each with particular signs and consequences.
Dead seafood, such as crabs, may easily pick up harmful bacteria like Salmonella or Escherichia coli (E. coli). They cause severe food poisoning, such as diarrhea, fever, vomiting, nausea, and abdominal discomfort.
Some crab species may contain parasites like nematodes and trematodes that, if eaten, might be dangerous. These parasites can lead to numerous health disorders, including chronic infections and digestive disorders.
Crabs may produce a lot of histamines. Poisoning can result from consuming too much histamine and induce symptoms, including flushing, headaches, vomiting, and nausea.
If you catch the crabs in contaminated waters, there will be a high likelihood that they have gotten infected with Vibrio. This bacteria will cause severe illnesses and weaken your immune system.
Please note that the only poisonous parts of a crab are its internal organs. We often call them “dead man’s fingers.”
These “fingers” are thin, white, long organs in the crab’s cavity. They contain impurities and toxins that are harmful to us when eaten, no matter if the crabs are dead or alive.
Hence, avoid consuming the internal organs, especially when you eat dead crabs. The impurities and toxins in them are more numerous.
How to Know If a Crab Is Dead or Alive
The freshness of your crabs will determine if they are still safe to eat. You can try these methods to check if a crab is dead or still alive.
Observe the crab’s reaction as you slowly touch it. The crab is most likely still alive if it swiftly pulls back its claws and legs. On the other hand, if those parts stay motionless, your crab may have been dead.
If the crab is still alive, it should move without you touching it. You can watch the movements of the claws and legs in this case.
A crab that is still alive lets its claws close tightly. You may have a dead crab if the claws now seem limp and open.
If the crab smells intensely like fish, it can be dead and start to deteriorate. A live crab should smell fresh and just a little salty.
It’s also essential to bear in mind that some crabs might enter a condition of shock and hibernation once caught. They look motionless, but they are still alive, and you can revive them.
In this case, put the hibernated crab in a water-filled container. Thanks to the water, the crab can find breathing easier and come back to life.
How to Cook Dead Crabs If You Buy Them By Mistake
Buying a dead crab is a mistake. However, you can fix it by cooking your crab carefully to avoid the risk of food poisoning. Here is what you should do.
Step 1: Clean the Dead Crab
To get rid of any dirt or debris, properly rinse the dead crab under running water. Then, brush the legs and shell with a stiff brush to eliminate algae and other growth.
Step 2: Check the Freshness
It’s crucial to look for spoilage indicators since dead crabs start to go bad quickly once they die. You can perform the tests discussed in the previous section for this step.
Step 3: Cook the Crab Thoroughly
You have to cook dead crabs thoroughly to get rid of bacteria gathered in the flesh. Do it by boiling your crab in salted water for 15 to 20 minutes.
If you don’t intend to eat the crab immediately, set it in the refrigerator at 40°F to prevent bacterial growth.
When served, the crab should be hot and well done. You can tell the doneness of the meat by checking its internal temperature, which must reach 145°F.
How to Purchase Freshly Killed Crabs
You have to kill the crabs humanely before cooking them. Hence, instead of killing the crabs themselves, some people buy killed crabs from the store.
However, here comes a problem: how to tell if the crab is newly killed? The following tips will help:
Choose a Reliable Store
The seafood market is competitive. Hence, vendors must try their best to give customers the highest-quality food. By researching, you can determine a reliable food source.
Ask the Vendors
Ask the vendors what you don’t know, such as where they caught the crabs and when they killed these animals.
Check the Appearance
If you don’t know if the vendor is telling the truth, trust yourself instead. You can check the crab’s appearance, which should have a bright red or orange color with a sea-like smell.
Examine the Indicators of Rigor Mortis
The claws and legs of freshly killed crabs are still flexible but not limp. If they look stiff, the crabs must have been dead for too long and are not safe to eat.
How Long Can Crabs Live Out of Water?
Depending on the species, temperature, and moisture, crabs have different survival rates when staying out of water. Most crab species can endure for many hours to several days.
Shore crabs can live for two days without water, while land crab species will survive longer, for several weeks to months.
Hermit crabs, which are not genuine crabs, may live much longer without water since they have their portable houses on their backs.
The ability to retain the moisture of the crabs plays a vital role. Those with gills that can stay damp can live longer in air-filled conditions. But if the air turns too dry, crabs will quickly lose their moisture and die soon.
Can Undercooked Crab Make You Sick?
Yes. The most dangerous part of eating undercooked crabs is the risk of developing a paragonimus infection. It won’t be deadly but may cause terrible symptoms, such as:
- Chest pain
- Stomach pain
- Dry cough
The most significant symptoms appear when the parasite penetrates your central nervous system. If the infection gets inside your airways, it can potentially result in lung illness.
If you ever unintentionally consume undercooked crab, we advise visiting your physician as soon as possible to prevent any further problems.
It’s also important to check if you have undercooked crab meat by looking at the flesh. If undercooked, it will look translucent with a slimy and mushy texture. Hence, cook until the flesh turns white and firm to stay safe.
You can only eat dead crabs if they haven’t died for too long and you don’t notice any sign of spoilage. The bacteria accumulated in them will cause a lot of health problems.
Choose the crabs carefully to ensure your bought ones are still fresh. If you decide to eat dead crabs, rinse the crabs carefully. Then cook them thoroughly to stay safe.
Thank you for reading!