Seafood savants seem to salivate over the salty, and yet, subtly sweet flavor of crab legs. This other white meat has a delicate, flaky texture that is guaranteed to fill you up, while still leaving you wanting more.
However, if you find yourself with too many leftovers or no time to prepare this delectable dish after defrosting, can you refreeze crab legs? We have the details that will have you shell-ebrating!
It is safe to refreeze both cooked and uncooked crab legs for up to three months. This applies to all species of crab. However, if your intent is to keep them raw, you must refreeze them within 24 hours of allowing them to thaw in the fridge. Conversely, if you chose to defrost them on the counter or in a cold water bath, refreezing will no longer be a safe option.
When refreezing, it is best to vacuum seal the meat. You can choose to freeze the legs whole or cook and harvest the meat first. Make sure to check for any punctures in the plastic prior to storing whole crab legs. Finally, for the best results, apply a tight layer of aluminum foil over the plastic. These two layers will prevent oxygen, moisture, and light from spoiling the food.
Seafood Safety Guidelines
As with all perishable foods, crab legs should be left in room temperature conditions for no longer than two hours.
However, if the temperatures are above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, this timeframe shrinks to one hour. Any longer than this and you risk allowing the meat to enter what is termed the “Danger Zone”.
This is the temperature range (40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit) in which dangerous bacteria can begin to grow rapidly.
This is the reason why it is not advised to ever defrost food products at room temperature.
If you have allowed your crab legs to thaw in this temperature range, they will not be eligible for refreezing due to safety concerns.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “shellfish should be kept in the refrigerator (40 °F/4.4 °C or less) only 1 or 2 days before cooking or freezing.
After cooking, store seafood in the refrigerator [for] 3 to 4 days.”
Both raw and cooked crab legs, no matter what the species, can be frozen for up to three months.
After this time, the quality of the meat will drastically degrade. Additionally, if you had previously frozen crab meat and then thawed it in the refrigerator, you can refreeze the crab legs, if it is done within 24 hours.
How To Refreeze Crab Legs
Step 1:Flash Freeze Your Crab Legs
Flash freezing involves allowing your food to reach zero degrees Fahrenheit in a short period of time.
This is accomplished by placing the food products in a space where the temperature is at -20 degrees Fahrenheit.
While not all freezers have temperature settings that go this low, most will get very close. This will allow you to more rapidly freeze the food.
Determine How You Will Store The Crab Legs
When you refreeze crab legs, you have two storage options. You can freeze cooked and raw crab legs whole. You can also cook the meat and then harvest it prior to refreezing.
It is the safer method of storage and it will take up much less freezer space. If you do choose the latter method, allow the meat to fully cool before refreezing.
Additionally, in case you didn’t know, King Crab has an excellent meat-to-shell ratio, doling out up to 75% meat. Thus, either storage method is ideal for this type of crab.
Conversely, Dungeness Crab maxes out at 30% and Blue Crab only provides you with 10% meat.
What this means is that you are taking up a lot of real estate in the freezer, without a lot of yield in the long run.
Therefore, extracting the meat is best with these specific species of this crustacean.
Lastly, by freezing just the crab meat, you will make your meal prep in the future much easier! Just know that it can slightly compromise the flavor.
Flash Freeze The Crab
In either instance, turn down your freezer to the lowest temperature possible. Then, take a large baking sheet (one that will fit on a freezer shelf) and apply a layer of wax paper.
This will make the transfer of the food into the packaging much easier. Next, evenly spread out your crab legs or crab meat.
Slide the tray into the freezer and allow a few hours for the meat to reach zero degrees.
Once frozen, you will transfer the crab into a freezer-safe container and put your freezer back to a more normal temperature.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Flash freezing will not occur if the freezer is overfilled. The intent is to have ample air flow around the meat to facilitate a quick temperature drop. Therefore, clear out items that may be past their due dates and find items to defrost for the week so that space is available.
Step 2:Choose Your Method Of Packaging – Vacuum Sealing Vs. Ziplock Plastic
Vacuum sealing is the premiere method of preservation. This technique removes the instance of oxygen and moisture from the packaging, ensuring that the food stays fresh for the longest period of time possible.
Moreover, the plastic used to seal the food is thicker than a regular sealable plastic bag.
This equates to more durability, which is very important when freezing and refreezing crab legs.
Why? Crabs have exoskeletons that are not always smooth. Those small points and bumps can easily puncture the plastic, which can lead to spoilage.
Unfortunately, even with a vacuum sealer, this can still be an issue, but there is less of a risk.
The alternative is to use gallon-size freezer-safe ziplock bags. While not as effective, they are an affordable option that can help you achieve a similar result.
Step 3:Package The Meat
If you choose to keep your crab legs intact when you refreeze them, you will want to make sure that the integrity of the plastic remains intact after packaging the meat.
This will not be a concern if you choose to cook and extract the crab meat prior to freezing.
In either instance, place the crab legs or the crab meat into the vacuum seal plastic and use your vacuum sealer to remove all of the excess air.
If using ziplock bags, carefully remove as much air as possible, without putting pressure on the sharper sections of the exoskeleton. Then, seal the container.
Next, apply a tight layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil over the packaging. This will block out light, which can also cause this product to spoil faster. Lastly, label it with the date of the flash freeze.
Also, note that the crab legs are being refrozen on the package. Place it back in the freezer and use it within three months.
Step 4:Thaw Your Crab Legs Or Crab Meat
At least 24 hours prior to cooking, place the frozen package of crab legs into the refrigerator.
This is imperative for safety as well as for maintaining the original consistency of the crab meat.
Thawing on the counter or in a cold water bath is not advised with this type of protein.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If your intent is to serve the crab legs whole, it is best to skip this step. Simply cook or boil them from frozen. This can be done in the oven, on the stove top (by steaming) or on the grill.
Changes To Expect After You Refreeze Crab Legs
When using cold storage, anticipate texture changes. This is due to the fact that these extremely low temperatures will dry out the meat.
Moreover, freezing will cause the muscle fibers in the meat to split. This will be more drastic when the freezing happens slowly.
Why? A slow drop in temperatures leads to the formation of large ice crystals in the flesh.
These expand and then contract upon defrosting, which alters the structure of the tissues, and therefore, the consistency of your meat. Flash freezing will lessen these effects.
Unfortunately though, even when using techniques like flash freezing and vacuum sealing, when you freeze crab legs for a second time, it will exacerbate the previously mentioned problems.
This is why most seafood experts, including those at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, advise not to refreeze crab legs.
Nonetheless, there are some simple ways to mask these changes and elongate the life of your crab legs.
How To Diminish Changes In Texture And Flavor From Refreezing
Moisture deficiencies, texture changes, and slight flavor shifts are all expected when you refreeze crab legs.
Thus, it is best to use the crab meat as a part of other dishes and not as a headliner main course. Moreover, you want to avoid recipes that will further dry out the meat.
However, in soups, chowders, pasta dishes, seafood gumbos, and dips, this is a fantastic option!
Not only will the other ingredients mask these less than desirable changes, but the recipes are also quite tasty.
No matter if you prefer King Crab, Spider Crab, Dungeness Crab, or Snow Crab, refreezing is a safe option before and after cooking.
However, it is important to always check the crab for spoilage before eating. This can include changes in color, rancid smells, or drastic changes in texture.
Remember to always err on the side of caution — when in doubt, throw it out!
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