Dead Crab on My Hands

Alright friends and's Dungeness season on the West Coast and I bought a big old fat one from a very reliable purveyor. I was a bit concerned because when it was pulled out of the tank and I poked him he barely wiggled his claws. Then I got him home and in under an hour he was in the steam bath. Usually I expect crabs to try and fight their way out. This one barely twitched. So now I'm cooking something else for dinner and trying to decide if I can still use his sorry carcass which I will pick and refrigerate. Thoughts?

  • Posted by: pierino
  • February 20, 2013


dymnyno February 22, 2013
A site called has all the answers, especially regarding possible toxicity of crabs. I agree with June "When in doubt, throw it out." A nasty experience with an innocent looking mussel taught me that lesson!
ChefJune February 22, 2013
sorry Pierino. you know the adage... "When in doubt, throw it out." If you've ever gotten sick on bad seafood, you never take the chance again.
pierino February 22, 2013
And ChefJune, I completely agree with that wisdom. That's exactly what I did for just that reason. Hey! Anyone up for day old crab sushi roll? Half price.
Greenstuff February 21, 2013
I so feel for you. My instinct is to tell you no, don't eat them, but I confess to a couple times in my life when I felt guilty and lived to tell the tale. One was in grad school when a big storm hit and lobsters were thrown up on the beach. I thought they were dead, but a friend of my new boyfriend served them and I didn't think it would be prudent to contradict her or him. The second time was Christmas Eve--my husband had "scored" lobsters from a very reputable dealer, but I thought that a couple of them had kicked the bucket. Both times, everything worked out, but I think I was lucky.

On the other hand, I have my history of taking dead crustaceans back to dealers. I've bought Dungeness crab right out of the tank, brought it home, and found no life. The fishmonger sort of blames me, even though I live minutes away... but despite a couple of times when it's worked out, I still believe in extreme caution with shellfish.

Summing up, I would not serve or eat them. Except maybe if I felt some pressure, and then I'd feel guilty guilty and then relieved if it worked out.
Sam1148 February 21, 2013
If it was still living at all before you steamed him. The meat might be good some applications. Layer the meat with onions, and pour over it 1oz of white vinegar, 2oz of veggie oil, and 2 oz of ice water.
dymnyno February 21, 2013
Sounds like that crab exhausted his oxygen in the tank too long or sitting in the seafood case. I always give fish and shellfish the sniff test. If it smells strong, I take it back to the seller and get what I feel will be safe and delicious. Nothing like a rotten oyster or crab to ruin the experience!
pierino February 21, 2013
...and I do blame myself for this. The crab was pulled out of the tank and the guy who took it out said "careful, he'll pinch you". Well, I poked him and he barely twitched. I thought, well he's still alive. Bad decision on my part. I want those animals trying to attack me, or kill me before I send them to their demise. I won't make that mistake again.
Diana B. February 20, 2013
Crab stock?
boulangere February 20, 2013
Sorry to say that I've been in your shoes. Texture is the telling thing: if you crack any part open and the texture is mushy or mealy, out he goes. You don't even have to taste it. I used to walk home through Chinatown in SF and pick up Dungeness crabs during the season, and they'd pick at my ankles through their plastic bag on the bus ride home. Those were some good crabs.
pierino February 21, 2013
Boulangere, yeah that's my attitude. And I curse myself for not testing the live crab more dutifully when I was in the fish market. I'll bring up with fish monger but that's one I should have seen coming. Crabs and lobster should be fighting you to the death, possibly my own. And of course I appreciate your wise comments.
boulangere February 21, 2013
You are as generous as always, but no wisdom involved, just experience. I once bought a couple of pounds on the Maine coast that were "just out of the ocean." I guess "just" is a relative term. By the time we got to our destination in Connecticut (not far) and cooked them in a heady blend of lemon, bay, peppercorns, and white wine, it was clear that they'd been refrigerated with the heads on long enough for them to begin to break down. They were the texture and consistency of cream of wheat. A feisty crustacean is a good crustacean.
boulangere February 21, 2013
That should read "a couple of pounds of shrimp."
mrslarkin February 20, 2013
Well, many ocean creatures are dead when they are sold, right? And if Mr. Crabs had some signs of life an hour before his steam bath, then maybe he's fine. I'd crack him open and check out his insides, just to see. I agree with sherlock, next time make sure to get a feisty one.

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sherlockstudio February 20, 2013
I like crab right out of the pot although we aleays buy more for crabcakes next day, and yes, you want them feisty. Short answer, if you didn't feel comfortable eating it today it won't be any more appetizing tomorrow. Chalk it up to experience, and get the wiggly crab next time!
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