Taste

It's Time You Knew The Truth About What Soft-Shell Crabs REALLY Are

Molt, batter, fry -- that's the order that gets soft-shell crab from the ocean to our plates.
06/14/2016 06:00am ET

Late spring and early summer are beloved for a plethora of reasons, one of the best being the appearance of the soft-shell crab. If you’ve had the pleasure of eating one, you know that they hold all the flavor of your everyday crab without any of the hassle of prying meat from its sharp, thick shell -- basically, it's seafood in its most perfect state.

From Japanese restaurants to road-side seafood stops, these leggy crabs are worth seeking out. But before you start feasting, you might want to know WTF they are, anyway.

Soft-shell crabs are not a separate species of crab. They’re regular crabs -- in the U.S. they’re most typically blue crabs -- that have gotten too big for their shells. In order to keep on growing, they shed their shell and make new, bigger ones. In other words, they molt, and it is this molting process that makes soft-shell crabs such a treat.

In order to shed its shell, the crab forms an inner soft shell underneath, swells its body with water to break its current shell, slowly crawls out -- this can take 10 minutes alone -- and then begins the process of forming a new shell. It takes a couple of days for a new shell to fully harden. That's when we want to catch them.

The molting process looks a little like this. (You can watch the whole 8-minute video here).

YouTube: jackienaquin

Soft-shell crabs are best eaten golden and crisp. If you try to boil them as you would a normal crab, they would just fall apart. It’s a good idea to get your fill when you can because although the season is plentiful, it's also short.

Here are some must-try recipes to get you inspired.

1
Soft Shelled Crab With Pastured Butter, Lemon And Capers
Goldilocks Finds Manhattan
Get the Soft Shelled Crab with Pastured Butter, Lemon and Capers from Goldilocks Finds Manhattan
2
Soft Shell Crab Pakora Po’ Boy
Perfect Morsel
Get the Soft Shell Crab Pakora Po’ Boy recipe from Perfect Morsel
3
Waffles Maryland Style
Wild Greens And Sardines
Get the Waffles Maryland Style recipe from Wild Greens And Sardines
4
Panko-crusted Soft Shell Crab With Ginger Ponzu Sauce
Rasa Malaysia
5
Soft-Shell Crab Pasta
Wishful Chef
Get the Soft-Shell Crab Pasta recipe from Wishful Chef
6
Crispy Salt And Pepper Soft Shell Crab
Goldilocks Finds Manhattan
Get the Crispy Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab recipe from Goldilocks Finds Manhattan
7
Tempura Soft Shell Crab
The Hungry Excavator
Get the Tempura Soft Shell Crab recipe from The Hungry Excavator
8
Cornmeal Crusted Soft Shell Crab With Buttermilk Apple And Chive Coleslaw
Pitchfork Diaries
9
Spicy Soft-Shell Crab
Nutmeg Nanny
Get the Spicy Soft-Shell Crab recipe from Nutmeg Nanny
10
Crispy Soft-Shell Crabs With Pea Shoots & Orange-Sesame Emulsion
Zen Can Cook
11
Cornmeal-Crusted Fried Soft-Shell Crabs
Sassy Radish
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