Everything you Need to Know About Eating Soft Shell Crabs
Soft shell crabs are a very popular dish due to their explosive flavor, their versatility, and—for many people—the fact that they can enjoy all the great flavor of crab without having to worry about the shells. Typically Blue crabs which are killed and cooked during that brief period when a crab has molted and shed its shell, leaving behind only the soft under layer. Crabs often molt for only 2 to 3 hours, which means that these crabs either need to be killed and flash frozen or kept in tanks and harvested at just the right time.
Soft shell crabs are popular, but there are some things you need to know before eating or buying them:
First thing’s first: When is it in season?
Soft shell crabs, like regular crabs, have their own ‘seasons.’ The season may vary depending on the weather and the area, but typically the crabs can be found molting in the southern waters from April (again, depending on the weather) until October and sometimes early November. In the east coast, the season lasts a shorter time because the water temperature gets cooler faster. If you want the freshest crab—which you do!—you should look for restaurants or markets that are selling freshly caught (live) softies during the season.
Second: What do you look for when you are buying them at the market?
It’s important to know what you should be looking for (and what to avoid) When buying this type of crab at the market. Do not buy a crab which is wrapped in cellophane if you are looking for fresh crab, because the cellophane means they were likely killed and frozen during an off-season. The crabs should not be cleaned when you buy them–it’s up to you to clean them right before you get to cooking. Another important favor to look out for is the actual shells themselves. The shells should be very soft and not stiff; if a crab has a thin, paper-like shell, then it’s a softie any harder shell means it was left in the water too long and the shell began to grow back before it was harvested.
Third: What do you look for when you are buying soft shell crabs at a restaurant?
If you’re looking for crab dishes at restaurants, fresh is best! Make sure you ask whether the crabs have been frozen or fresh. Frozen can taste okay, but the best flavor comes from an actual fresh crab. Your best bet is to look for restaurants who are offering the crab as specials, since this usually means they are using crab that was freshly caught. When in doubt, ask the restaurant whether they are serving frozen crab or freshly caught crab.