Soft-shell crab

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Soft-shelled blue crabs in New Orleans, Louisiana
Three soft-shell crabs, ready for preparation, and cooking

Soft-shell crab is a culinary term for crabs that have recently molted their old exoskeleton and are still soft.[1] Soft-shells are removed from the water as soon as they molt or, preferably, just before to prevent any hardening of their shell.[2] Catching soft-shell crab is very time-sensitive and requires that any caught crabs be kept in climate-controlled areas immediately after catching until they molt, at which point they can be safely removed and sold.[3]

This means that almost the entire animal can be eaten, rather than having to shell the animal to reach the meat.[4] The exceptions are the mouthparts, the gills and the abdominal cover, which are discarded ("cleaned").[5] The remaining, edible part of the crab is typically deep-fried or sautéed.[4]

In the United States, the main species is the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, which appears in markets from April to September.[6]

In the Deep South region of the United States, most notably the Gulf coasts of Louisiana and Alabama, "Buster crab" can be a synonym for a plump, meaty soft-shell crab. ("Buster Crabbe" was a famous movie star, known for playing Flash Gordon). However, the original meaning of Buster crab referred to either a soft-shell that had yet to complete molting, or to a soft-shell that had died before being provided to a seafood vendor, and was then consumed quickly by the crabbers.[7][8]

In Japan, various species are used to make sushi such as maki-zushi or temaki-zushi.[4] The Japanese blue crab (Portunus trituberculatus) or the shore swimming crab (Charybdis japonica) are typically used.[citation needed]

In Spain, soft-shell crustaceans are typical in the coastal region of Andalusia. Irrespective of the species, they are called chiguatos, from the local slang verb achiguatar, meaning to soften. Typical preparations include velvet crabs (Necora puber) and langoustines (Nephrops norvegicus), which are highly regarded delicacies of Sanlucar de Barrameda,[9] and lobster (Homarus gammarus) (called langosta chiguata), which is typical along the coast of Málaga. Typically, they are deep-fried and served with a vinaigrette.[10]

In Italy, the soft-shell of the common Mediterranean crab is a delicacy typical of the Venetian lagoon (called moeca[11][12] or moeche[13] in the local idiom).

Soft-shell crabs can have the soft organs along the dorsal cavity removed during cleaning, or they can be left in for consumption. In the latter case, along the US Atlantic coast, the customer asks the vendor to leave "the mustard", referring to the yellow-orange color of the hepatopancreas, and the deep orange of the roe in a female crab.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ CiCi Williamson, Garry Pound & Willard Scott (2008). "Shellfish and fish". The Best of Virginia Farms Cookbook and Tour Book: Recipes, People, Places. Menasha Ridge Press. pp. 60–87. ISBN 978-0-89732-657-5.
  2. ^ Thompson, Fred (2010). Crazy for Crab: Every Thing You Need to Know to Enjoy Fabulous Crab at Home. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-45876-388-4. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  3. ^ Manton, Keegan (12 November 2021). "Soft-Shell Crab | Can You Really Eat The Whole Thing?". A Life of Mastery. Archived from the original on 17 November 2021. Retrieved 17 November 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Ole G. Mouritsen (2009). "Sushi à la carte". Sushi: Food for the Eye, the Body and the Soul. Springer. pp. 202–250. ISBN 978-1-4419-0617-5.
  5. ^ Tracy Barr (2011). "Soft-shell crabs". Cast Iron Cooking For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 137–138. ISBN 9781118053188.
  6. ^ Delilah Winder & Jennifer Lindner McGlinn (2006). Delilah's Everyday Soul: Southern Cooking with Style. Running Press. ISBN 9780762426010.
  7. ^ Fitzmorris, Tom. "Soft-Shell Crabs". Retrieved 2018-08-12.
  8. ^ "BLUECRAB.INFO - Blue Crab Glossary of Terms". Retrieved 2018-08-12.
  9. ^ García Rodríguez J.C.“La cocina sanluqueña y sus mejores recetas “, Sanlúcar de Bda., 2000
  10. ^ "Los Marinos José, el éxito de la sencillez". El País. Retrieved August 21, 2019.
  11. ^ "Moeca (soft-shell crab)". Parco Alimentare Venezia Orientale. Archived from the original on July 22, 2011. Retrieved January 19, 2011.
  12. ^ Cain, Jacqueline (2022). "At Moëca, a Talented Cambridge Restaurant Team Takes on Seafood". Boston Magazine. Retrieved 2022-10-14.
  13. ^ Bianchi, Alessandro (2016). "Fishing for crabs: Venice's culinary Moeche delicacy". Reuters. Retrieved 2022-10-14.
  14. ^ Grant, Maryland Sea. "Chesapeake Quarterly Volume 11 Number 2: Glossary of Blue Crab Biology". Retrieved 2018-08-12.