Canned crab meat is a handy item to have in your kitchen. It allows you to enjoy seafood without worrying about sourcing and buying the freshest items on the market.
You can also have canned crab meat in any season since it will keep on a shelf for years when stored in the right conditions.
Once you open canned crab meat, however, you do need to take some steps to ensure it remains safe to eat.
If you won’t use all of the canned crab meat in your dish, putting it in the freezer is a great way to extend its shelf life.
Generally speaking, you can freeze canned crab meat for 2-3 months safely. It will keep its taste and texture as long as you store it in an airtight freezer-safe container. Fresh crab meat and opened canned crab meat can both be frozen for up to 3 months.
Just be sure to repackage them into freezer-safe containers. Unopened canned crab meat can be frozen, although the expansion that occurs as it freezes may cause the can to burst. It’s best to open the can and repackage it into an airtight container, plastic bag or wrap meant for the freezer.
You can take steps to make sure that your leftover crab meat will be as delicious when you defrost and it is as it was in your first dish. We’re also sharing some great ways to use that leftover crab meat. Let’s dive in!
- Preparing Canned Crab Meat For The Freezer
- Tips For Freezing Canned Crab Meat
- Defrosting And Cooking With Frozen Canned Crab Meat
- 5 Best Ways To Use Leftover Canned Crab Meat
- Final Thoughts
Preparing Canned Crab Meat For The Freezer
If you find yourself with leftover canned crab meat, you should first transfer it from its can to a freezer-safe container.
Freezing Fresh Crab Meat
Fresh crab meat can be frozen for up to 3 months. If you have fresh crab meat, check with your grocery store to see if it was previously frozen.
This may impact how long you can store it in the freezer. It’s best to store it in a new freezer-safe container.
Freezing Opened Canned Crab Meat
If you have leftover canned crab meat, this is likely the way that you will be freezing it. Transfer the meat from the can into another container.
It is important to make sure that the container is airtight. Sealing the can with plastic wrap or aluminum foil probably won’t be airtight, which is why I recommend putting it in a container that seals.
Freezing Unopened Canned Crab Meat
You can put unopened cans of crab meat in the freezer to prolong their shelf life but I generally do not recommend it.
First, canned crab meat is already packaged to be stored for quite some time. As long as the can is not open, it will likely be just fine in your pantry until you plan to use it.
Second, storing canned goods in the freezer is always a gamble. The contents inside will expand when they freeze.
This can cause the cans to burst, leaving you with a mess and ruined food. If you do want to store a full can of crab meat in the freezer, I recommend transferring it to a freezer-safe container.
A few options that work well in the freezer include:
Ziploc Smart Snap Containers
These are easy to find in most grocery stores and economical. It can be hard to find a smaller size, however.
Unless you are storing a lot of leftover canned crab meat, this container might be bigger than you need. The Ziploc Twist N’ Loc is another good option that comes in smaller sizes.
Hefty Freezer Bags
Hefty makes freezer bags that have a slide mechanism to close. These work very well because it is easier to make sure that the bag is sealed and airtight.
Ziploc also makes high-quality, heavy-duty freezer bags. They have a traditional Ziploc top. Just make sure to double-check that it is sealed before putting it in the freezer.
Reusable Freezer Storage
If you want to invest a bit more money upfront, you can purchase a reusable freezer bag or container.
These can be rinsed or even put in the dishwasher to sanitize between uses. Popular options include Stasher silicone bags and Pyrex glass storage dishes.
Do not leave opened canned crab meat out at room temperature. It can spoil very quickly and lead to food poisoning. Put any unused crab meat in the freezer right away.
Vacuum Sealing Crab Meat For The Freezer
If you plan to use highly perishable items like crab meat often, you might want to invest in a vacuum sealing system.
Using special freezer bags, this machine takes as much of the air out as possible to keep the items inside freshest.
You can use this system for other foods as well. Taking the air out of the bags before putting them in the freezer can also help save space by compacting all of your storage.
Tip: No matter how you store your crab meat in the freezer, label it with the date of storage. This will help ensure that you use it before its expiration in 2-3 months.
Tips For Freezing Canned Crab Meat
When you freeze any item, you will want to pay attention to two main things to keep it fresh the longest.
1.Make sure the container or bag is airtight.
2.Freeze it when it is at room temperature.
If you are freezing leftover canned crab meat, it is likely already at room temperature.
If not, let it cool on the counter for no longer than two hours. Crabmeat can go bad very quickly. You should put it in the freezer as soon as it is cooled.
Look for a freezer-safe container that seals well to ensure that it is airtight. If you are using a freezer bag, press all of the extra air out before sealing it. A vacuum sealing system is the best method to do this.
Signs Of Freezer Burn
Freezer burn can impact any food item stored in the freezer. Crabmeat that has freezer burn will likely have one of these signs:
1.Change in color
2.The dry or grainy texture
3.Ice crystals form on the inside of the container
Lump crab meat can display any of these signs. The dry or grainy texture will be more obvious on jumbo lump crab meat, which has larger pieces of crab.
Freezer burn won’t make you sick but it will make your crab meat tasteless and tough to chew.
It can also be difficult to distinguish between freezer burn on crab meat and spoiled frozen crab meat.
I always recommend getting rid of any crab meat that looks or smells “off.” Better safe than sorry!
You can prevent freezer burn by storing frozen crab meat in an airtight container. Make sure to check the seal and for any leaks before you put your crab meat in the freezer.
Defrosting And Cooking With Frozen Canned Crab Meat
When you are ready to defrost your canned crab meat, it helps to give yourself a day or two to plan for its use.
Let It Thaw In The Fridge
This is the best method to defrost canned crab meat that will not impact its taste or texture.
Depending on how much crab meat you need to defrost, this can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight.
I like to put items that need to be defrosted, including crab meat, in the fridge the day before while I prep dinner.
It also helps to write down any preparation instructions, such as defrosting times, on your weekly menu or to-do list.
This will help ensure that you aren’t left with an empty fridge when it’s time to start cooking.
Tip: Anytime you defrost something in the fridge, put it on a plate or in a bowl to catch any condensation or leaks that may happen. This will help keep your fridge nice and clean.
Fast Thawing For Crab Meat
If you don’t have time to thaw your frozen crab meat overnight (or you forget to do it, like I have been known to do), you can use a cold water bath to defrost it faster.
Put the frozen crab meat, still in its freezer-safe bag, into a bowl of cold water. This will bring the temperature up slow enough to keep the food safe to eat.
It may take a few hours and you should monitor it to make sure the water stays cold, replacing it as needed.
You can also defrost crab meat in the microwave using the defrost setting. This is usually the fastest method. Just make sure that your container is microwave-safe first.
If you use one of these faster methods, you should cook the crab meat right away. Even putting it back into the fridge may put the food at higher risk for harmful bacteria, ultimately making you sick.
Tip: If your crab meat smells unusual or has an odd color or texture, throw it away. It is better to start again with a new can of crab meat than to risk eating spoiled food that will give you food poisoning.
5 Best Ways To Use Leftover Canned Crab Meat
Now that your canned crab meat is defrosted, it’s time to start cooking! Here are some of our favorite ways to use canned crab meat.
Tip: You can also make these dishes with your leftover crab meat first, then put them in the freezer. Check out our other guides for freezer-safe foods and tips.
Mix canned crab meat with cream cheese, sour cream, shredded cheese, and your choice of spices for a delicious dip that works well as a pot-luck style side or appetizer. Serve with crackers, veggies, or crusty bread for something that everyone will love.
Use any leftover crab dip to make stuffed mushrooms. I like mini portabellos stuffed with crab dip and topped with more shredded cheese.
Smaller pieces of crab actually work better than lump crab for this dish. Pop them in the oven until the mushrooms are cooked through and you’ll have a delicious side dish.
This may be my all-time favorite breakfast. Best of all, it doesn’t take much crab meat to really put this dish over the top.
If you can’t spring for jumbo lump crab, which is usually more expensive than regular canned crab meat, no one will notice in this dish.
Layer an English muffin with spicy greens (an arugula is a good option), crab meat, a poached egg, and hollandaise sauce. Some people also like sliced tomato or avocado as an extra addition.
Nothing beats a tasty crab cake. Jumbo lump crab meat is best for this dish. Use breadcrumbs and egg to bind it all together.
Serve with Old Bay seasoning for crab cake purists and chopped veggies in the crab cake for those who are okay with fillers.
The saltiness of bacon pairs well with the creaminess of crab meat. Wrap large pieces of crab meat (jumbo lump crab works great) with bacon, then skewer with a toothpick.
Bake them in the oven for an appetizer that you can prepare ahead of time. This is one of my go-to dishes for a company that looks and tastes amazing but takes very little work.
Freezing canned crab meat keeps your food waste down, maximizes your budget, and can result in some pretty delicious dishes.
Whether you freeze leftover crab meat or prepare something for the freezer knowing you will cook it another day, keeping your crab meat in the freezer will ensure that it stays tasty and safe to eat.
Katie is an experienced writer, who wrote for big magazines like The Spruce. She is also a mom of three (Sebastian, Lincoln, and Hannah). In her spare time, she likes to read, day hike, and explore hidden gems around her home in North Carolina. You can connect with Katie on Instagram @katiebwriter or her website, www.katiemelynnbegley.com.