Subtly Sweet and Just Here For A Bit: The Best Tasting Soft-Shell Crabs Are Taken Alive

Posted: Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Soft-shell crabs are here, and from now, until July, when the soft-shell crab season ends, the demand for one of nature's greatest gifts will remain high.

Photos By Sue Ade
Photos By Sue Ade
A soft-shell crab is a blue crab that has molted its hard outer shell to expose a new inner soft shell. Soft shell crabs are generally eaten within 4 days of molting. For a fresh, sweet-sea taste, purchase soft-shell crabs while they are alive and clean them just before cooking. In this country, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Louisiana produce the most soft-shell crabs.

With the subtle, sweet taste of the sea at their core, soft-shell crabs are prized not only for their delicious and delicate flavor, but also for their wholly edible parts.

You can purchase soft-shell crabs dressed (cleaned), but you'll not fully experience their incomparable flavor unless you cook soft-shell crabs that were alive just moments before.

Of course, when soft-shell crabs are purchased alive, they'll require cleaning, and this is where having a spouse adept at cleaning soft-shell crabs can be indispensable.

My hubby, Mack, honed his skills when he was a teenager and in the employ of a large-volume seafood restaurant.

He cleaned hundreds of soft-shell crabs every week and quickly discovered a capacity for dressing them swiftly, neatly and without emotion, abilities I will probably never fully attain.

While some folks are repelled by the giant bug-like look of a cooked soft-shell crab, others enjoy them as a veritable seafood delicacy.

Eat soft-shell crabs that have been lightly sauted with a splash of fresh lemon juice or complemented by a dollop or two of homemade tartar sauce, but don't wait too long.

The season for soft-shell crabs is already under way, and their molting clock is ticking.

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