How to Tell If Crab Meat is Bad

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Crab meat is a special kind used in various dishes, such as salads, pasta, and crab cakes. It is well-known for its sweet taste and delicate texture, while its high protein count makes it a healthy addition to any meal. However, several signs indicate crab meat is no longer safe to eat.

Signs That Crab Meat Is Bad

There are a couple of signs to look out for to tell if your crab meat is bad.

Brown or Yellow Flesh

One of the key signs that crab meat has gone off is the color. Normally, crab meat should appear a bright white color, although you may notice touches of red where the shell connects to the meat. The meat should also feel juicy and firm.  You may also notice that the crab meat has black spots on it. This is caused by a flatworm called Microphallus bassodactylus, and cooking the crab kills this parasite. Eating crab meat with black spots on it is safe. However, you may notice that the meat has discolored (meaning that it has turned any color other than white). In that case, this indicates the meat is no longer fresh. In particular, bad crab meat will be brown or yellow, but it is also possible for it to turn slightly grey or blue. This is also caused by the meat being undercooked.  Similarly, the crab meat may appear white but in a darkened shade. This normally happens when the meat has come into contact with air for an extended period. Although this does not indicate that it has gone off, it will no longer be as fresh. However, it is important to note that, in some cases, crab meat may appear a white color that is harsh on the eyes. If so, this may also indicate that the meat has gone off. If you are unsure about the freshness of the crab meat, it is best to check for other signs that it has gone off.

Soft Meat

Another sign of bad crab meat is the texture. When crab meat is fresh, it will feel firm and juicy. If you press on the flesh, the meat should bounce back.  However, bad crab meat will be much softer than this and will not bounce back. Similarly, if you notice that the flesh has become soft or even mushy, the meat is no longer safe to eat.

Rancid Smell

Although crabs live in the sea, they do not normally have a strong smell. Usually, you may notice a slightly sweet smell, although it is perfectly normal for crab meat to be odorless. However, if you notice an “off” or rotting smell, this is a strong sign that the meat has gone off. You may also notice that it smells bitter or sour, which indicates the same problems.  Additionally, some bad crab meat may smell fishy or similar to ammonia. A dirty tank or crab that has died before being properly cooked can cause these smells. As such, you should avoid crab meat that smells this way.

Slimy Texture

The final sign of bad crab meat is the texture. Normally, crab meat should feel slightly moist and clean when it is fresh. If the meat feels slimy, bacteria have likely infected it, and it is unsafe to consume. Without scientific equipment, it is impossible to tell how deep the infection may have gone, so if you detect any sliminess, you should dispose of the crab meat.

How to Tell If Crab Legs Are Bad

The signs of bad crab legs are almost identical to that of crab meat. Whether frozen or fresh, crab legs should feel firm and have a mildly sweet aroma. Bad crab legs will feel soft and only semi-solid. You may also notice a rancid, fishy, or off smell when they are no longer fresh. Additionally, the meat inside the crab legs should be white. When crab meat goes bad, it will become brown or gray.

What Does Bad Crab Meat Taste Like?

Bad crab meat should be avoided as it can cause food poisoning. However, if you eat bad crab meat, you will notice that it tastes off. The flavor will be strongly sour or rancid, and you may also notice a fishy taste.

Can You Eat Mushy Crab Meat?

No, it is strongly advised that you do not eat mushy crab meat, as this is a sign that the meat has gone bad. When crabs die before being cooked, they decompose as bacteria come into contact with it. Mushy crab meat has become infected with bacteria, and eating it will likely cause shellfish poisoning.

How to Tell If Imitation Crab Meat Is Bad

Like regular crab meat, the signs of bad imitation crab meat are very similar and easy to spot. If you notice mold or the meat has changed color, it is no longer safe to eat. Bad crab meat will smell fishy or rotten and have a slimy texture.

What Happens If You Eat Bad Crab Meat?

Several health risks are associated with eating bad crab meat, all of which are caused by bacteria or biotoxins. The most common of these is Staphylococcus, a bacterium that commonly occurs in bad meat or foods. Consuming bad crab meat may cause this bacterium to enter your body. You may notice symptoms such as:
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Nausea
Symptoms may appear immediately or after a few hours. Most individuals will not need medical assistance for this.

How Long Does Crab Last In the Fridge?

The shelf-life of crab meat depends entirely on how you store it. 
  • Raw crab can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days. It will become too dry after this date and may also be subject to food poisoning. You should keep it in its original packaging.
  • Steamed crab can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Cooked crab can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You should ensure that you put it in the fridge within 2 hours of cooking it.

How Long Does Crab Last In the Freezer?

Frozen crab meat can last up to 6 months in the freezer before spoiling, but only if it is correctly stored. You should keep the meat in an airtight container and consistently keep the temperature at -17°C, or 0°F.

To Sum Up

Crab meat can make a delicious addition to any meal, so long as it has been cooked and prepared properly. There are several signs of bad crab meat, including a rancid smell, slimy texture, and discoloration of the meat. If you notice these signs, your crab meat is no longer safe for consumption.