Soft shelled crabs, or softies, are an increasingly popular treat for many seafood lovers due to their excellent texture, rich taste and relative ease in preparing them. They are renowned for their juicy, tender meat and are a popular favorite among coastal towns and in particular, the Chesapeake Bay area.  Let’s take a look at some of the more commonly asked questions about this delicacy and shine some light on the popular crab dish.

What are soft shelled crabs?

Many people do not realize that the shell of a crab is actually their exoskeleton, which is why crab shells are so hard to break, since exoskeletons are meant to protect soft bodies underneath. Crabs routinely molt their exoskeletons or their shells, which leaves them soft for about 2 to 4 hours, after which time their shells begin to grow hard again. The most popular crab to eat soft is the Blue crab, these  crabs are harvested during this narrow window.

When is softie season?

Soft shelled crab season typically starts in about early April and continues on through October and sometimes early November. In certain areas, such as the Chesapeake Bay area, soft shelled crab season continues for longer.

How do I know if my crab is fresh?

Although properly frozen crab is still delicious, nothing beats a fresh crab –especially a fresh soft shelled crab. If you are shopping for softies at a marketplace or other store, it’s important to look for a few things. The most important is to check for cellophane–if the crab is wrapped in cellophane, it was probably frozen before being sold. If you are looking to order crab from a restaurant, you should find out if they are a special or regular menu item. If they are a special sold during soft shelled season, it’s more likely they will be fresh, not frozen.

How should I eat soft shelled crabs?

Unlike hard shelled crabs, soft shelled crabs are much easier to prepare and eat! The entire body of the soft shelled crab can be eaten and you won’t have to spend time cracking shells and pulling out meat. The most popular way to cook soft shelled crab is to simply fry them in a pan with extra butter! Another popular way of eating soft shelled crabs are to fry them or grill them to create easy crab sandwiches. These sandwiches are especially popular when paired with tomatoes and a dab of mayonnaise.  However, there is no need to limit yourself to simple frying or sandwiches—many people prepare their soft shelled crabs by grilling or with noodles or spices or any other assortment of ingredients. The sky is really the limit when it comes to preparing a nice, fresh soft shelled crab.


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