How to Thaw Frozen Crab Meat? (5 Tips to Defrost It)

Jayden Lawson
Published by Jayden Lawson
Last Updated On: December 4, 2023

King crab legs are one of my favorite seafood dishes that have elevated my 10+ years of carnivore diet to a whole new level.

I cook crab meat once a week and always keep frozen crab meat in my fridge, so I had to master the art of safely thawing it while saving time.

Here’s what you need to do.

Quick Summary

  • Refrigerating your crab legs overnight maintains the flavor and texture.
  • Submerging in cold water is faster than placing crab legs in a refrigerator.
  • Thawing in a well-sealed bag prevents contamination by bacteria.

2 Ways to Thaw Crab Meat

Using safe and effective thawing will keep your seafood delicious and your guests safe from illness. I recommend picking one of the following ways to thaw your crab meat.

1. Refrigerate The Crab Legs Overnight

A top view of crab legs ready for refrigerating

According to the USDA, this method is one of the best ways of defrosting seafood [1].

Let's look at it in detail: 

  • Place your crab legs in the refrigerator before your seafood-fueled meal thaws. I prefer placing my crab meat on a shallow bowl or plate to help keep any possible leakage from contaminating food or fridge shelves.
  • The crab legs will slowly thaw, retaining the food-safe temperature of your refrigerator, and will be ideal to use after about 8 hours, all freshness and flavor preserved. However, cook it within the first twenty-four hours for the best flavor.
  • Once your crab legs have thawed in the refrigerator, they can be stored for one to two days. It can also be refrozen without cooking, though some quality loss may occur.
  • If you're concerned about the time, keep an eye on the temperature of your refrigerator while thawing frozen foods. Remember to plan accordingly since your crab legs take time to thaw if your fridge is set to 35 °F rather than 40 °F [2].

2. Thaw In Cold Water

A bowl of cold water that will be used for thawing frozen crab meat

This method is helpful if your crab legs have not wholly thawed or you need a faster way. While it is faster than the refrigerator, you must attend to your frozen seafood while thawing in cold water.

Here's a detailed process: 

  • Ensure your crab legs are in a sealed plastic bag. If there is a leak in the bag, bacteria may contaminate the crab legs. You also risk having the flavor of your crab diluted by water.
  • Put the bag in a large bowl and fill it with cold tap water. Because the temperature of your water will rise as your frozen seafood thaws, change the water every half an hour to ensure that it thaws evenly.
  • This step may take up to an hour for smaller portions to completely thaw, depending on how much frozen seafood you are melting. 3 - 4 pounds of frozen seafood may take about 2-3 hours to defrost thoroughly. I recommend that you set a timer for your thirty-minute water changes.

"In case you need to refreeze your crab legs after starting the water thawing process for any reason, cook it first."
- Susan Westmoreland, American Chef 

Related Articles:

5 Tips For Properly Thawing Crab Legs

A close up shot of properly thawed crab legs

Here are some tips that'll help defrost your king crab legs: 

  • Avoid thawing in warm or hot water. Since bacteria can multiply in areas below forty degrees, the inside portions of your frozen crab legs continue to melt. Using boiling water can also reflect poorly on the texture of your crab.
  • Do not leave frozen seafood to thaw on the counter. The surface can be contaminated by even the most minor leak from a seemingly well-sealed package.
  • If your crab legs are bobbing around, use a smaller bowl or weighted plate to submerge them so that all parts thaw evenly.
  • Ensure that your crab legs are cooked before refreezing, especially if you thaw frozen crab legs in the microwave and then decide to pause your meal plans.
  • Remove the frozen king crab legs from their initial packaging. Then place them in a sealed plastic bag before thawing.

Also Read: How to Thaw a Frozen Ham


Can I Thaw King Crab Legs At Room Temperature?

No, you cannot thaw king crab legs at room temperature. Due to the delicate nature of seafood, you run the risk of bacteria growth and potential food-borne diseases.

Why Is It Necessary To Thaw Crab Before Cooking?

It's necessary to thaw crab before cooking since cooking frozen crabs will release moisture into your dish, making it less flavorful.

Can I Thaw Seafood in the Microwave?

No, you cannot thaw seafood in the microwave. This method is not one of my safest recommendations since microwaves can cause sporadic heating causing uneven thawing and texture changes.

How Long Does It Take To Thaw Crab Legs?

It takes about 8 hours to thaw crab legs in the refrigerator, so it's best to thaw overnight, while cold water takes 30-45 minutes.


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About the author

Jayden Lawson
Jayden is a CPW certified lifestyle writer, father of two, and a self-taught culinary artist with a passion for Southern cooking. His readers enjoy the expert interviews, success stories, and tips he shares about anything delicious, meaty, and thriving.
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