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Soft-Shell Crab Question

I was thinking that I wanted to grill soft-shell crabs for the 4th of July. The thing is, I've always heard that you should cook soft-shells the same day you buy them, and I'm obviously not going to be able to find a fishmonger who's open on July 4th, so I'd have to buy them the day before.

But if I bought them on, say, the evening of July 3rd and then cooked them the following afternoon, the lag time would be less than 24 hours. Any thoughts on whether this would be OK?

And yes, I realize I could avoid the problem by buying them live and "cleaning" them myself (i.e., cutting off the faces and removing the lungs) just before cooking, but I'm not quite comfortable with that.

-- Paul

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  1. You might be SOL, then... I was reading your post and saying "why doesn't he just buy them live on the 3rd?" and then got to the last sentence. not sure what to tell you, bro. also, have you grilled softies before? they can be a bit of a pain to grill, and they're not *quite* as tasty that way... note i said quite.

    To answer your original question--I myself wouldn't be too keen on cooking dead softies the next day. Shellfish decompose faster than any other organism you're gonna find... and while it might not hurt anybody, they may taste pretty fishy.

    1. You might be able to find them frozen. I've never had them, but I've heard they aren't too bad.

      1. yeah I wouldn't grill them either. I would dip them in cornmeal or some flour and just pan fry them and perhaps just serve them in a sandwich. That sounds like it would be great 4th of july picnic food

        I'm thinking though, wouldn't it be okay to keep the crabs on ice in the fridge and cook them the day of?

        1 Reply
        1. re: bitsubeats

          Have you considered frying them on the third and then re-heating them on a sheet in the oven when you're ready to serve them? Not a perfect solution, but probably better than cooking and serving potentially toxic food.

          I wouldn't worry about cooking them the day after if they were properly stored and I knew the fishmonger was reliable.

        2. We did grilled soft shell this last weekend and they were great. We purchased them cleaned the night before and they were fine. We do get them from a very reliable fishmonger though.

          About 5 minutes before we tossed them on the grill we let them sit in a bath of butter, hot sauce and lemon. They came out crispy and very flavorful.

          1. I like grilled softies. Brush with garlic butter or olive oil and crisp up but don't over cook. I always either kill, clean and cook immediately or freeze; so i can't comment on having them sit dead and refrigerated for a day. My guess is that's okay if they are kept just above a freezing temperature.

            1. you should have no problem keeping them a day or two... your fish monger would do the same... i'd suggest storing them in a resealable bag and gently burying them in a container of ice and store it in the fridge. that should keep them cold enough to last a day or two. you may need to change the ice. happy grillin'! =)

              1. If the crabs were alive on July 3rd, cleaned by the fishmonger that day, and kept refrigerated overnight, you can grill 'em just fine on July 4th. You won't notice a huge difference in quality IF the crabs were still alive on the 3rd. If it's a defrosted frozen crab that the vendor is prepping for you, it should still taste okay, provided that you drain it well so that it isn't sitting in its own juices overnight (you might put a crumpled paper towel or two in a zip top bag along with the crabs. Personally, I opt for cleaning the crabs myself...it is lots easier than, say, cutting up a raw chicken.

                And please do try grilling 'em; softshells are downright delicious this way, especially if basted frequently with a seasoned butter.

                [N.B. I did my high school science project on softshell crabs, using data from the shedding operation at my dad's job. Trust me on matters softshell.]

                3 Replies
                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                  I absolutely love softshell crabs, even when I was a picky eater as a child.

                  Many years ago, when I was in the service, my platoon sargent was from Smith Island, Maryland which is like the softshell crab capital of Maryland. He would regale me with stories about the harvesting of softshell crabs which I had always wondered about. It's very interesting.

                  1. re: Hungry Celeste

                    again, note that i didn't decry the grilling, just stated my SLIGHT preference for fried. bottom line--softies are my absolute fave late spring/summer food.

                    1. re: HeelsSoxHound

                      MAde them last night...sauteed in white wine, with capers, coarse pepper, and garlic....mmmmmmm!!!!!

                  2. Twice I've done the thing where you buy them pre-cleaned, late on the day before you want to cook them -- it turned out just fine. It's not ideal, they don't taste as amazingly great as if you clean them yourself right before use, but in both cases there were extenuating circumstances that made day-of purchasing or cleaning impossible.

                    What I did was -- as others have noted -- to have the fishmonger clean them, put them in a plastic bag, and then pack that bag in crushed ice inside another bag. I put that whole thing in a bowl of ice in the coldest part of my fridge. It was totally absolutley fine. The crabs were still very tasty, and it was much better than having no crabs at all, which was the alternative. ;)