I have a pretty awesome live blue crab hookup, but I can only get crabs there super early in the morning. I want to have a crab feast this coming weekend, but wont be able to have company over until late afternoon / early evening. I have heard they bluecrabs can live a long time out of water if you keep them in a cool humid spot, but i dont want to waste any of them. What are my options for having the best crabs when am able to have company over?

I assume my options are as follows, but I am not sure what I should do:

1.) Steam them in the morning and resteam them for a short period of time to heat them back up for the party. Tips for resteaming or reheating steamed crabs would be helpful. I had always considered that kind of a no no.

2.) Try and keep them alive, to be as fresh as possible. I am just worried that there would be too long of a gap between when i buy them, and when i will be able to cook them.

  • I realize that this question might be better split into two questions, like "How to keep crabs alive before preparation?" and "How to resteam/reheat crustaceans?". But since im kind of hoping for a new miracle solution to my ultimate issue, I figured I would just make one big confusing question. Feel free to give me comment advice on restructuring the question, or making new questions.... THANKS!!!!
    – jumpdart
    Jul 11, 2012 at 11:44

2 Answers 2


I think it's a fine question. If I were in your position, I'd definitely go for option 2 - I think pre-cooked and re-steamed crab would end up a lot like oversteamed crab: mushy and gross.

As for keeping them alive, when I was a kid we used to go crabbing every weekend. Mom would just keep them in a cardboard box in the kitchen until we were ready to eat them for dinner (much to my dad's dismay).

According to Bluecrab.info:

Crabs can live for several days out of water as long as they are healthy and are kept cool, moist, and stress-free. The optimal temperature is about 50° F., anything colder will ultimately kill them.

If I remember correctly, mom would keep a damp towel on top of the box. But that may have been dad not wanting to look at them.


I'll answer question 2, as I think if you can store them well, you wouldn't want to cook them early.

Option 1: Crabs from what I understand can live for days out water in the right circumstances. The best way is to drop the temperature (they'll become more lethargic) and keep it moist. You could take a cooler and put some ice and then find a way to keep the crabs on top of the ice, but out of the water (something to hold them up even after the ice melts). Alternatively, you could just put some ice packs in their with some newspaper that is soaked with water. That should provide the moisture without a pool of water. Make sure you leave the cooler open a crack.

If they get submerged in standing water, they will eventually suffocate when they deplete the oxygen.

Option 2: Put them in a basket or wooden crate (something that isn't airtight) and then cover with a burlap sack or towel that has been moistened. You can then put ice on top of that. That should drop the temperature enough and keep the air humid.

Couple references: http://www.bluecrab.info/cooking_faq.htm http://www.ehow.com/how_5920109_keep-live-crabs-boiling-later.html

  • For #1, a normal cooler w/ ice in the bottom, but with the drain plug open so that no water will collect is the way I normally see it done. (or people keep them in the bushel baskets, typically when they're selling 'em on the side of the road, but that's not preferred for longer term storage) If you don't want to stink up your cooler w/ shellfish, get a styrofoam one and poke a few drain holes in the lower corners. (the slightly fishy styrofoam container can be used when you need to send something fragile overnight via UPS ... mark it 'live crabs' and they'll be sure not to drop it)
    – Joe
    Jul 11, 2012 at 14:25

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