Fresh crabs are the best crabs. You can only enjoy all the sweetness and freshness of the dish if the crabs are still alive before you cook. But how to keep crabs alive at home?
A cooler, a bushel basket, and a tank will help you. We will discuss the best way to use the tools in this guide. You can also learn some extra tips to achieve the most impressive result. Let’s read on to discover!
How to Keep Crabs Alive at Home
Although the tools we mention are all containers, they work differently to keep your crabs alive. Hence, you need to apply different methods for each.
In a Cooler
The best solution for inexperienced recreational crabbers is to use a cooler. This container makes keeping crabs alive a simple and cheap task.
We recommend a portable cooler with handles and a faucet for drainage. The small faucet is also essential for the drainage of the cooler.
The size of the cooler is also important, and it depends on the crab size and how many crabs you want to keep. For example, if you intend to work with one dozen blue crabs, the cooler should be around 20 to 30 qt.
Here is how to keep your crabs correctly in a cooler:
- Unplug the cooler’s drain. Since crabs don’t like standing water, this step can help prevent it.
- Fill a third of your cooler with ice or ice packs, and spread them unevenly on the bottom.
- Cover the ice with a damp cloth to reduce the intense cold of the cooler. Your crabs love a temperature of around 50°F.
- You can place another cloth on top of the ice if it’s still too cold. The damp cloths provide a moist environment that crabs like.
- Use a stick to crack your cooler lid. This step promotes air circulation inside.
- Place the cooler in a shady, well-ventilated spot. And turn it on its end from time to time for the water inside to drain out.
Even when you keep your crabs in the cooler properly, they may look inert and even dead. It is difficult to tell which ones are still alive.
In this case, allow the crabs to rest in the sun for around two to five minutes. Then, they may move. If they don’t move, check whether their mouths are closed, or their fins can respond to your contact. If not, they are dead.
In a Bushel Basket
This technique is popular among professional commercial and recreational crabbers. If you want to immediately prepare your catch or transport them from one place to another, this approach can also help.
You need to empty the pot, cover it with moist cloths, and place the crabs inside. If you don’t have enough towels, use moist newspaper or seaweed.
Your crabs may stack on top of each other in this case. If you plan to cook them soon, it won’t matter.
While placing the crabs in the pot, make sure the towels don’t seal them. Also, check if air can circulate through the cracks in the pot.
In a Tank
The key to keeping crabs alive is to give them a dark, damp, and cold environment. With this thought, you can put them in a tank filled with ice.
Ensure that the tank or lid has cracks to allow air circulation. It’s an important criterion for the crabs to live.
Tips for Keeping Crabs Alive
The three methods we shared above can help you keep your crabs alive. But for them to be healthy and active, you also need extra tips.
Create a Stress-Free Environment
Your crabs should feel as comfortable and secure as possible. Giving them a stress-free environment will prevent them from dying and enhance their flavor.
Here are some ways to provide the best environment for the crabs:
- Avoid stacking your crabs on top of each other.
- Try not to shake and jostle the container.
- Keep the container in a place with a nice breeze and consistent shade.
- Put the container in one spot and avoid relocating it.
Give Them Food
Scavengers by nature, crabs are vulnerable to eating the foods they don’t like. They may end up attacking their mates in the container.
If you want to keep your crabs alive, feed them. They like fish, clams, oysters, and seagrass. Put these in the tank or feed the crabs directly, like in this video; the crabs will gobble them up.
Choose the Right Container
We have discussed three container options. No matter which one you choose, the container should meet these requirements:
To live, crabs must breathe. So make sure you give them some air for 24 to 48 hours when in storage. Also, do not seal the container, as you will withdraw all the oxygen the crabs need.
Do not submerge your crabs in the water, or use a cooler with walls that let the water fill up. Otherwise, they will run out of oxygen soon and can’t breathe.
Although you shouldn’t submerge the crabs in the water, the pot must be damp.
Since you can’t carry the container everywhere, we recommend using wet newspaper and seaweed to keep the container wet.
Do not store your crabs in a place where it’s too cold or too hot. Since they are living creatures, crabs cannot endure extremes of either cold or heat.
To keep the optimal temperature range within the container, please follow these steps:
- Never keep crabs under direct sunlight since it generates excess heat and dries out moisture.
- Do not store crabs in a freezer or refrigerator since they won’t survive long.
- The ideal place for your crabs is a warm, shady spot with adequate airflow. It can be your canopy or garage.
Can I Eat Crabs after They Die?
If it’s within 48 hours after the crab has died, you can eat it, but the texture and flavor will decrease significantly.
Moreover, like any other animal, a crab decomposes after dying. This degradation comes with a dramatic rise in bacteria and the wastes the bacteria generate. Shellfish poisoning is among the most severe consequences you should pay attention to.
Crabs must be cooked while still alive, as we strongly advise.
Can I Keep Live Crabs in the Refrigerator?
Crabs may survive in a refrigerator for one to two days. The cool environment there can slow down their metabolism, helping them live longer than when kept outside.
However, after two days in the refrigerator, crabs will die because they don’t have enough moisture and oxygen.
How Long Can I Keep Live Crabs on Ice?
If you fill your cooler with ice, crabs can live there for 48 hours. But avoid standing water in the container and drain out the melted ice.
Also, cover the ice with a damp towel so your crab won’t contact the ice directly. Otherwise, the freezing cold and shock will kill the crabs.
How to Store Crab Legs
You can store crab legs in the refrigerator, where they can last up to four days.
Remember to put them in a zip-top bag or securely wrap them in aluminum foil to prolong their shelf life.
Freezing is another method to store crab legs. You can use the same method as keeping them in the refrigerator to freeze them, which helps them last six months before spoiling.
How Long Can a Blue Crab Be Dead Before Cooking?
It would be best to cook the crabs within 10 to 15 minutes after they die to preserve their freshness. Any longer will result in a significant decrease in their texture and flavor.
So, how to keep crabs alive at home? You can keep your crabs in a cooler, a bushel basket, or a tank. The crabs can live as long as the environment is damp and allows air circulation.
If you have crabs that die for more than 48 hours, we recommend throwing them away. Their flavor has decreased dramatically and produces harmful bacteria.
Hopefully, we have satisfactorily answered your question. For any further information, please feel free to ask. Thank you for reading!