Learn all about Soft Shell Blue Crabs
 
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Soft Shell Blue Crabs

Soft crabs are found by many people and crabbers, along the East Coast from New Jersey to Florida and on the Gulf Coast to Texas. Over 80% of the soft shell blue crabs come from the Chesapeake Bay area.

Many people may also be surprised to learn that soft shell crabs are actually blue crabs that have recently shed their hard outer shell, so that their body can grow larger. This process is known as molting, and it will typically happen more than 20 times during the lifetime of the crab. Each time it molts, it matures and grows a hard shell that is just a little bit larger.

Catching these molting crabs at just the right time is part science, art form and luck. The molting state and softer shell will not last long, so you have to catch them during this brief period. The appearance of the crab’s backfins is a sign that tells the crabbers when the crab is ready to molt. During the shedding process, it will increase its size by approximately one-third, and once it has molted, it should be caught quickly before the new shell begins to grow.

The season for fresh soft crabs are generally from May through September each year. A live soft crab shows very little movement, especially when refrigerated. Close inspection will reveal some movement of the eyes, mouth and legs. Fresh soft crabs should be purchased live and kept moist and cool while stored in a tray or dish held between wet newspapers or paper towels in your refrigerator. They should be cooked and eaten within a couple of days of purchase to ensure freshness and flavor.

You may be wondering about how to clean one of these crustaceans. Cleaning or “dressing” soft crabs is a simple and straight forward procedure. Take a pair of scissors and cut off the mouth and face behind the eyes. Next cut off the apron of the crab. Then lift the top shell and cut out the lungs from each side of the cavity. Rinse under cold water to clean the rest of the extras that are left in the body. The softshell crabs are now ready to cook. Once you have it cleaned, the entire body of the crab is edible.

You will find that frozen soft shell crabs are available and can be purchase all year long. When proplerly stored, they will keep for 12 months in the freezer and thaw very quickly in the refrigerator. This style of crab is very versatile in many different recipes. Soft crabs are delicious and can be served as an appetizer, on a sandwich or as a softshell dinner entree.

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Also see:
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