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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

How Long Does Cooked Crab Last?



Crab meat. Sweet, tender, delicious. And surprisingly perishable.
Crab meat. Sweet, tender, delicious. And surprisingly perishable.

Crab comes in all forms. If you’ve just cooked big batch of crab and you’re wondering how long you can have it for leftovers, you may be in for a surprise. Cooked crab tends to go bad very quickly if it isn’t stored correctly. This can lead to rancid meat and potential food poisoning.

Here is how long it’ll last in different storage conditions. Use it as a guide to avoid a potentially hazardous situation so you can enjoy your cooked crab for as long as possible.

  • Room temperature: 2 hours
  • Refrigerated: 3 to 5 days
  • Frozen: 2 to 3 months (for best quality)

Fridge or Freezer?

Cooked crab only lasts about 2 hours if left out at room temperature. After that amount of time, bacteria quickly start to grow on the meat, causing it to go bad. This happens at temperatures between 40°F to 140°F, which is likely the range of a typical kitchen.

To avoid this, make sure to refrigerate your cooked crab within 2 hours of cooking. If properly stored, it’ll last another 3 to 5 days in the fridge.

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But your cooked crab meat will last even longer if stored in the freezer. It will stay at its best quality for 2 to 3 months when frozen. Past this point, it’s still safe, but the quality diminishes. If you can keep it frozen at 0°F, it can stay safe to eat indefinitely.

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When you thaw your frozen cooked crab meat in the refrigerator, it can be kept for 3 to 5 days, as described above. If you thaw it in the microwave or cold water, it should be eaten immediately (within 2 hours of cooking).

Is that crab meat good enough for these crab cakes? Let's find out.
Is that crab meat good enough for these crab cakes? Let’s find out.

Storage Is Key

The shelf life of your cooked crab also heavily depends on proper storage. If you refrigerate your crab meat, you should store it in an airtight container or very tightly wrapped with either plastic wrap or aluminum foil.

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Similarly, you should place frozen leftover cooked crab in airtight containers or heavy duty freezer bags. You can also wrap it tightly with freezer wrap or aluminum foil, but the airtight containers are your best bet for fresh meat and a long shelf life.


According to the USDA, cooked crab should reach an internal temperature of at least 145°F and should turn a bright red with opaque skin when cooking. They also say that the type of crab meat you cook can affect its shelf life.

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This ThermoPro meat thermometer can tell you when your crab is cooked (from Amazon).

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According to the department, fresh crab meat will stay fresh for 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator, and can last up to 4 months in the freezer. Live crab is similar, with a shelf life of 1 to 2 days in the fridge and 2 to 3 months frozen. Pasteurized crab meat lasts about 6 months if left unopened, but only 3 to 5 days if opened. Based on these official suggestions, pasteurized crab will last the longest in either storage condition.

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How Can You Tell If Your Cooked Crab Went Bad?

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our delicious cooked crab does go bad. Whether it was left out at room temperature too long or not stored correctly, here are a few ways to tell if your cooked crab is toast.

The best way to tell if your crab meat has gone bad is by its smell. If it has a sour smell, or basically smells like anything other than crab, don’t eat it. Also, if it has a slimy texture or looks discolored, it is definitely no longer safe to eat.


With proper storage and a little knowledge of how long cooked crab typically lasts in different conditions, you should be able to avoid these issues and enjoy your delicious cooked crab meat.

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Additional Resources

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: Ralph D. and Geoff P.

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: Alexis DeAnda

Alexis DeAnda is a food fanatic, library card user, and cast iron hunter, in that order. She has been cooking for anyone that will taste it ever since her mom let her make doughnuts on Saturday mornings at the age of 7.

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