Crab meat is a favorite among seafood lovers and many connoisseurs consider leg meat the most decadent part of the crab for its sweet taste and moist texture. Although you can purchase crab fresh or frozen, it is important to pay attention to shelf life dates to ensure you eat the meat within its recommended time frame.

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You must eat crab legs before they've reached their shelf life.

Fresh Crab Legs

When you've purchased crab legs from a grocery store or seafood market, they're typically stored in display cases on a bed of ice. Fresh crab legs should be kept cold and immediately placed in the refrigerator when you arrive home from the store to continue the chain of cold storage. As long as fresh crab legs are kept at a constant cool temperature, they will remain edible for 5 to 7 days, depending on the age of the crab legs at the time of purchase.

Frozen Crab Legs

Store frozen crab legs in an airtight container, such as a food storage bag, to avoid freezer burn. Crab legs that have been properly packaged will last for 4 to 6 months in a typical refrigerator freezer. However, deep freezers, with the ability to reach colder, more consistent temperatures extend the frozen shelf life. Crab legs stored in a deep freezer will keep for up to 12 months.

Cooked Crab Legs

You can store crab legs that you have steamed immediately after purchase in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days. Take care to place the cooked crab legs in the refrigerator as soon as possible after steaming to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Positioning the crab in the rear of the refrigerator will typically provide a more temperature-controlled atmosphere and ensure proper cold storage.

Signs of Spoiled Crab

When you have questions regarding the quality of crab meat that has been stored for periods of time close to that of the recommended shelf life, look for a few simple signs. Spoiled crab meat will have an aroma similar to that of ammonia and display a yellowish color tint. Meanwhile, the meat itself will be sticky. If you have any doubts about the freshness of your crab legs, throw them away. Eating spoiled crab meat may cause illness.