Field Guide: Soft-Shell Crab

Type: soft-shell-crab

Soft-Shell Crab

What is it

While these critters are technically still Blue Crab, they’re a different seafood experience. Every so often, these crabs will shed their shells in order to grow, but if they’re scooped out of the water before the shell can harden, they remain in this soft state. A smaller window for harvesting, not to mention a fresher taste and a unique texture, means that Soft-Shell Crab is considered a delicacy of Southern seafood.

When to get it

Timing is the tricky part with Soft-Shell Crab—for both crab fishermen and seafood lovers alike. Blue Crab is only in its softer outfit for four hours or so, and they only go through this process a certain time each year. Scientists at places like the University of Alabama at Birmingham are trying to cook up a key to make this process a year-round event, but until that happens, look for Soft-Shell Crab in the late spring and early summer.

Where does it come from

Soft-Shell Crab can be found anywhere that Blue Crab calls home. If you’re brave enough, you can track down a few of your own as long as there’s a light wind, a low tide, and a bright moon.

How it's prepared

Like most seafood, Soft-Shell Crab can be grilled or sautéed, but these guys are best when fried. All it takes is a proper cleaning before breading it and throwing the whole thing—shell and all—into a frying pan. Once it’s done, slide it between a couple slices of French bread and you’ve got what the locals call a “spider sandwich.”

Recipes, Features & More