How to Tell If A Cooked Crab is Fresh

Singaporeans love eating out. As a nation with a vibrant hawker and dining culture, this comes as no surprise. One of the dishes that we love a lot is seafood,which is widely available. Crabs are among the most popular seafood out there. 

In fact, one of Singapore’s national dishes is the Chili crab, which are crabs cooked in a spicy tomato based egg sauce. Apart from that, SIngaporeans also enjoy crabs cooked in various other ways, like salted egg yolk sauce, black pepper, crab bee hoon and butter sauce. 

Source: Unsplash

Whether you’re ordering delivery or eating out, you need to make sure that the crabs you order are fresh. This is to ensure you don’t have any bad experiences with your health later on. 

Additionally, you can also find crab flesh and cooked crab meat for sale in some supermarkets, usually at the chilled seafood racks. These tips will come in useful for them too.

When telling whether a crab is fresh, you’ll have to use your senses. Here are some of the things to look out for:

  1. Look out for Unusual Odors

Fresh crab meat should not have any strong odors. In fact, it usually doesn’t smell of much, except for a mild sweet odor.If you notice the meat having a sour, rotting, or bitter smell, this is an indication that the crab meat has gone bad, and is not fit for consumption. 

Spoiled crabs can also smell fishy or rancid, so trust your nose when it comes to telling whether you can continue consuming a cooked crab that you encounter. 

  1. The Color of The Flesh

Fresh crabs will have plump and juicy meat that is white and bright. At certain areas, there will be a reddish rind where the meat meets the shell. Apart from this, no other color is acceptable. 

This means that you shouldn’t have crabs that have brownish or yellowish flesh, as this indicates the crab has begun to decompose. This applies to any crab fillings you buy too. Apart from browning, you should also look out for pockets of grey or bluish flesh. 

Any darkening of the white color is an indication that the flesh has been exposed to the air for a long time and isn’t juicy or plump as it’s supposed to be. 

Source: Public Domain Pictures

  1. No Slimy Texture

Fresh crabs should be clean and their flesh should be a little moist. If you detect any hint of sliminess anywhere, this is a bad sign. Slime or mucus on any part of the crab indicates that there is bacteria growing on that portion. 

This slime or mucus is a side product of bacterial colonies and is a way for them to protect themselves. Therefore slime is a positive indication that bacteria is breaking down the crab’s flesh at this point. 

This could be due to storage issues, as crabs have to be kept alive before cooking. If they’re not, they have to be chilled properly. Being kept outside in humid tropical weather, like that of Singapore, will cause microbes to grow very easily on crabs, seeing as how there’s plenty of moisture in the air. This will lead it to become unsuitable for consumption. 

  1. Firm Flesh 

When a crab is not kept alive prior to cooking, its flesh degrades very quickly and becomes soft and mushy. Fresh crabs have firm and bouncy flesh that springs back when pressed. If any part of your crab’s flesh has become mushy and semi-solid, this is an indication that it was not alive when cooked.

This is also the reason why you should not buy dead raw crabs for yourself. Even when kept on ice, the enzymes within the crab’s body can cause its flesh to lose firmness very quickly, turning it to mush. 

Source: Pixabay

Tips on Storing Your Own Cooked Crabs

If you have some cooked crabs at home, and don’t plan on consuming them straight away, you’ll have to store them properly. Cooked crabs can spoil easily if they’re not stored well. This is because Singapore’s warm and humid weather encourages a relatively quick growth of microbes. Here’s how long cooked crabs can generally last:

Room temperature: 2-4 hours

Refrigerator ( ~4°C) :  3-5 days

Freezer ( ~0°C) : 2-3 months

As you can see, if you have ordered, packed or cooked some crabs and can’t consume it immediately within a few hours, you should chill it in the refrigerator. Cooked crabs can go bad pretty fast at room temperature, especially since most cooking styles for crabs involve lots of gravy and moisture.

Once chilled, you’ll be able to protect your crabs from any further microbial growth. However, they’re only safe for consumption up to 5 days later. When you’re ready to eat your crabs, reheat them in a microwave or by steaming them over boiling water. Make sure the crabs reach a boiling point before removing them from the heat.

The same reheating practice should be used if you’ve frozen your crabs at minus 4 degrees. Storing at this temperature will help your crabs last longer, up to 3 months. However, there might be some reduction in terms of quality and flavor, since freezing tends to draw out moisture from the crabs.

Avoid defrosting and refreezing or rechilling your crabs. Take only the portion you want out of the refrigerator and reheat it. Repeated defrosting can actually drive up microbial growth and make your crabs go bad during the defrosting process.

When storing your crabs in the fridge or freezer, always store them in airtight containers. Airtight containers are the best at preserving the freshness of cooked crabs. This is because it prevents any sort of moisture evaporation from your crabs.

Alternatively, you can also store them in sealed bags, or wrap them in aluminium foil, and then go over this with a layer or two of cling wrap. 

Salted egg crabs from 8 Crabs. Source: 8 Crabs

You can always satisfy your crab cravings by having them delivered right to your doorstep. Here’s where 8 Crabs comes in. You’ll be able to get 8 Crabs to deliver any crabs you order within 1 hour of ordering, no matter where you are on the island. Pair your crabs with rice, mantou and other side dishes for a complete meal that’s convenient and delicious!

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