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How Long Can Cooked Crab Stay Out? And How To Tell If Your Crab Meat Has Gone Bad

How Long Can Cooked Crab Stay Out? And How To Tell If Your Crab Meat Has Gone Bad

It happens to us all. You finish eating, maybe hang out for a little, turn something on the TV, and you forget to put your leftovers away. It’s not serious if it’s a simple pasta or rice dish, but meat and poultry have a strict set of requirements for safe storage. But, how about crab? How long can cooked crab stay out?

The short answer: never more than 2 hours. Anything more than 2 hours poses a great risk of bacteria growth which can lead to foodborne illnesses.

Proper food safety is important for anyone who doesn’t want to become ill – which includes knowing how long crab meat can sit out at room temperature. Food poisoning can be debilitating and, in some cases, life-threatening. 

The rest of this article will tell you everything you need to know about how to enjoy crab meat while keeping yourself safe from bacteria and foodborne illnesses. 

We cover the following items in this post:

How Long Can Cooked Crab Stay Out? 

A bowl of crab meat. How long can cooked crab stay out?

According to food safety experts, cooked crab meat will remain safe to eat for about 2 hours at room temperature. The USDA says after two hours, regardless if the protein looks and smells fine, it should still be discarded due to safety risks.

Bacteria grow exponentially at temperatures between 40 – 140 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 – 60 degrees Celcius). After 2 hours, the likelihood that bacteria has covered the crab meat is very high, and the crab meat is no longer safe to eat. So, keep cold crab meat in temperatures less than 40 degrees, and hot crab meat in temperatures higher than 140 degrees. A food thermometer helps!

The sad truth is that unlike most other foods, which can safely stay out at room temperature for up to 4 hours, seafood – especially crab meat – has a much shorter shelf life. 

Make sure to refrigerate cooked crab within two hours after cooking. In the refrigerator, it will remain safe to eat for 3 – 5 days. 

If you are looking for a safe way to thaw your frozen crab meat, in an attempt to limit the growth of bacteria, we recommend the refrigeration method. This method allows for a longer defrosting process, but, more importantly, a safer defrosting process.

How Long Can Crab Legs Sit Out? 

Despite being in a shell, cooked crab legs have the same shelf life as other forms of cooked crab meat: 2 hours.

It is unsafe to eat crab meat that has been left out for more than 2 hours, as bacteria will grow rapidly on the meat and make the eater extremely ill. 

We’ve put together a guide on how to thaw frozen crab legs safely, which can further assist with answering this question!

If you suspect crab meat has gone bad, check for signs of spoilage, such as a slimy texture and a sour smell. 

Cooked crab legs. How long can cooked crab stay out?

How Long Does Crab Last Out Of The Fridge? 

Similar to the above answers, crab shouldn’t be out of the fridge for more than 2 hours.

If you want to extend the shelf life of your cooked crab meat, seal it in an airtight bag and place it in the freezer. It will stay safe for 3 months or more. 

How Long Does Raw Crab Meat Last Outside Of The Fridge?

The answer is still 2 hours, regardless of whether the crab meat is cooked or raw.

Raw crab meat should never sit out at room temperature for an extended period. Even if thawing from frozen form, it should never be left out at room temperature to thaw. 

In the fridge, raw crab meat will last 2 – 3 days.

Freeze raw crab meat if you don’t plan on cooking it within the next 2 – 3 days, and be sure you’ve sealed it well with plastic wrap when freezing. You can use the Masterclass recommendations on proper food storage to ensure you’ve protected your food when storing.

How Do You Know If Crab Has Gone Bad? 

A person smelling expired food. How long can cooked crab stay out?

You can tell if cooked crab meat has gone bad if it has a sour or spoiled smell and a slimy texture. In fact, many people describe the smell of spoiled crab meat as similar to ammonia. 

If you detect either of these signs, dispose of the meat immediately and don’t taste it. Depending on the temperature and your environment, crab meat may go bad sooner than 2 hours. Remember, you don’t want the meat sitting in temperatures between 40 – 140 degrees!

Even if cooked crab left out longer than 2 hours doesn’t yet show signs of spoilage, this doesn’t mean it is safe to eat. Bacteria may still be at an unsafe level for consumption, even if it doesn’t yet show signs that it has gone bad. 

You don’t want to risk food poisoning. I sadly know from experience.

Can You Reheat Cooked Crab Meat? 

If the crab meat has been refrigerated or hasn’t sat out at room temperature for more than 2 hours, it is safe to reheat. For crab legs or any crab still in the shell, boiling is the best method to reheat. 

Avoid repeatedly reheating cooked crab meat, otherwise, the quality (such as the taste, texture, and smell) may deteriorate. There is also some debate surrounding how often seafood can be safely reheated. 

We recommend reheating crab meat no more than 1 time. After that, the quality of the food is going to drop, and the risk of foodborne illness will increase.

Final Thoughts: How Long Can Cooked Crab Stay Out?

No more than 2 hours, regardless of the state of the crab meat. The worst thing you can do is hope that you’ll be the exception to this rule. The USDA has done a ton of research on this item, and their recommendations should be trusted to keep your body safe from potentially unsafe bacteria!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Can You Eat Crab Legs Left Out Overnight? 

Definitely not. Crab meat, including crab legs, spoils after being left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Any cooked crab meat that you plan on eating the next day should be safely sealed and refrigerated overnight so it remains safe for consumption. 

How Long Are Cooked Crab Legs Good For?  

Cooked crab legs will last up to two hours at room temperature, 3 – 4 days in the refrigerator, and more than 3 months in the freezer. Just make sure to follow proper storage methods when refrigerating and freezing to avoid the meat becoming dry and tough. 

Is There Any Way To Cook Crab Meat Where It Stays Safe Longer At Room Temperature? 

No matter how you cook your crab meat or whatever form it is in, the shelf life of 2 hours at room temperature remains constant. Steamed crab, boiled crab, crab included with other ingredients in a dish, it doesn’t matter – after 2 hours, unrefrigerated crab meat becomes a hotbed for bacteria that can make you ill. 

How Long Can Imitation Crab Stay Out In Room Temperature?

Imitation crab is made of real fish, and shouldn’t be left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature. Prior to preparing it, it should be kept frozen to prevent bacteria growth.