Maryland Soft Crabs: A Chesapeake Bay Delicacy - Southern Maryland Headline News

Maryland Soft Crabs: A Chesapeake Bay Delicacy

(JUNE 13, 2009) – The shedding cycle of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab runs from late May through September and produces the delicious soft shell crab. Considered a true delicacy and renowned the world over, the soft crab is prized by those who are first to sample a season’s catch.

More than 100 years ago, watermen of historic Crisfield, Maryland introduced the soft crab to the seafood industry and the world. During the shedding, the crab consumes large amounts of water which cause the soft shell to expand and increase in size. Once cleaned, the entire crab in this soft shell stage is edible.

A blue crab may shed (or molt) its hard outer shell 18 to 23 times during its three year life span. Each time the crab backs out of its shell, it is a soft shell for only a few hours and must be removed from the water immediately in order to prevent the shell from becoming hard.

A live soft crab shows very little movement, especially when refrigerated. Close inspection will reveal some movement in the eyes, mouth, and legs. Soft crabs that are purchased live should be kept moist and stored in a drip-proof tray, between wet newspapers or paper towels in your refrigerator. Soft crabs are also available already dressed and should also be kept under refrigeration. Frozen dressed crabs are available year round. Frozen crabs should be thawed in the refrigerator.

Dressing or cleaning a soft crab is a simple procedure. With a pair of scissors, cut off the mouth and face behind the eyes. Cut off the apron. Lift the top shell and snip out the lungs on each side. Run under cold water to clean. They are now ready to cook.

Enjoy savory soft crabs from Maryland! This is the time of year to enjoy their mouth-watering taste and have fun preparing this unique treat from the Chesapeake Bay. The soft crab season reminds us that summer is right around the corner.

Be sure to try these delectable soft crab recipes at your next meal.


-- 1 cup pancake flour

-- 1 teaspoon seafood seasoning

-- 12 Maryland soft shell crabs, cleaned

-- fat or oil, for frying

Mix together pancake flour and seafood seasoning. Dredge crabs in flour mixture to coat well.

In large fry pan or electric skillet, heat about ½ inch cooking oil to 375F. Add crabs and turn heat down to 350F. Cook crabs until browned, about 5 minutes on each side. Serves 6 (2 crabs each).


-- 12 medium Maryland soft crab, cleaned

-- 1 pound Maryland backfin crabmeat

-- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine

Dry soft crabs with paper towels. Remove all cartilage from crabmeat. Place soft crabs in shallow baking pan. Remove top shell from crabs and stuff each crab cavity with about 3 tablespoons crabmeat. Replace top shell. Melt butter and pour evenly over crabs. Bake at 400?F until shells turn red and crabs brown slightly, about 15 minutes. Makes 6 servings (2 crabs each).

For more information on soft crabs and other Maryland seafood, visit

For local seafood recipes, visit the So. Md. Cookbook and the So. Md. Wiki.

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