Our Favorite Ways to Cook Soft-Shell Crabs

Soft shell crabs are a Chesapeake Bay delicacy. From May to September, blue crabs undergo this natural molting stage, a regularly scheduled function of their lifecycle. They shed their outer shells, in order to grow larger, and, for a very brief time, become soft shell crabs. The culinary beauty of softies is that everything is edible. And, when soft shell crabs are fried, you get this combination of crispy exterior and moist meaty interior. Frying is our all-time favorite way to prepare softies. 

 

Sautéed 

We’ve narrowed down all the various ways to fry into 3 specific categories; sautéing, deep frying, and pan frying. Our first method, sautéing, is probably the easiest and most definitely the cooking method that requires, in my opinion, less mess. 

Before cooking any softies, you must first thaw and dry. I like placing my soft shell crabs in a casserole dish (a casserole dish helps keep any thawing water from getting all over my refrigerator) and letting them thaw, safely, in the refrigerator. Once thawed, I unwrap them and sandwich them between sheets of paper towels, gently pressing and dabbing to remove any excess water. Now, I’m ready to sauté. 

Sautéed Soft-Shell Crab

Ingredients

  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter or 1 stick of butter cut into 8 pats, divided
  • 1 cup all purpose flour heartily seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 6 soft shell crabs
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and minced
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. Place 4 tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. While the butter is melting, place seasoned flour in a large bowl, and coat each crab, being sure to shake off the excess flour.
  2. Once the butter has melted and has begun to brown slightly, place the crabs in the skillet (working in batches if necessary to not overcrowd the skillet), and cook for 3 minutes per side or until golden brown and crisp.
  3. Remove the crabs from the skillet and set aside on paper towels. Wipe the skillet clean and return to medium heat.
  4. Add the remaining 4 tbsp of butter to the skillet and melt.
  5. Once melted, add the capers, and lightly fry for 1 minute before adding the garlic, lemon juice, and parsley.
  6. Stir to combine and once bubbly, return the crabs to the skillet, and cover in the sauce.
  7. Serve asap.

Deep Fried 

These next two frying methods are probably the most popular when it comes to soft shell crabs; deep frying and pan frying. 

For deep fried softies we like using a beer batter to coat and crisp. We like using batters, almost exclusively, for deep frying. A batter is a wet combination of ingredients, typically a mixture of dry starchy ingredients; flour, cornstarch, baking soda, etc.. are whisked with a series of liquids and binders; eggs, beer, buttermilk, club soda, etc… For the purpose of our soft shell crabs, this is the batter that I find works best. I also like using a neutral oil, like canola or vegetable, to fry my softies. Depending on the deep fryer you are using, make sure to stock up on enough oil. 

Deep Fried Soft-Shell Crabs

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour divided
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Hearty heap of salt and pepper or Old Bay Seasoning
  • 6 oz light beer
  • Oil for frying heated to 350°F.
  • 6 soft shell crabs

Instructions

  1. Place 1/2 cup of flour in a large bowl (reserving the remaining 1/2 cup flour for use later) with the cornstarch, baking powder, and seasonings, whisk to combine.
  2. Add beer and whisk to combine the batter.
  3. Place the remaining 1/2 cup of flour in another large bowl, and coat each crab, being sure to shake off the excess flour. Dip each crab in the batter and immediately transfer to the hot oil.
  4. Fry for 5-6 minutes or until golden and crisp all over.
  5. Remove from the oil and set aside to drain on paper towels or on a wire rack.
  6. Serve asap to preserve the crisp.

Pan-Fried 

When it comes to pan-fried soft shell crabs, I prefer a breading to a batter. Shallow frying is not as intense as deep frying, making it less likely to lose any of your bread crumb coating, and the results are a super crispy crusted softie.

A neutral oil works best for pan frying as well as deep frying. When filling your high-sided skillet (a cast iron skillet is usually my go-to for pan frying) with oil, you want a good 1/2 inch worth of depth, and heated to 350°F. 

Pan Fried Soft-Shell Crabs

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • Hearty heap of Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk or buttermilk
  • Lemon zest
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 6 soft shell crabs

Instructions

  1. Place flour and Old Bay in a large bowl. Place milk, lemon zest, and eggs in another large bowl, and whisk until blended. Place panko bread crumbs in a shallow bowl or high-sided plate. Bread the soft shell crabs by first coating in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess flour, dipping into the milk-egg mixture, and, lastly, thoroughly coating in the bread crumbs. O
  2. nce the oil is hot, carefully place breaded softies into the skillet, and fry for 3 minutes per side or until golden brown and crispy.
  3. Remove from the oil and set aside to drain on paper towels or on a wire rack.
  4. Serve asap to preserve the crisp.

 

It’s Not Hard to get Soft Shell Crabs 

We mean business when it comes to our soft shell crabs (no paper shells here!). Only the best Chesapeake Bay blue crabs will do for our softies. 

All of our blue crab products are carefully packed the same day your order ships. Delivered right to your door, fast, so you can spend less time shopping and more planning your next delicious seafood-fueled meal. It doesn’t get much more convenient than that!

Do you have a delicious soft shell crab recipe? Share your tasty creations on any of our social pages, InstagramFacebook or Twitter be sure to tag us @cameronsseafoodonline.

About the author

Patterson Watkins is a professional chef with over 17 years of experience. With a robust career in restaurants, contract dining and catering (including 4 Summer Olympic posts preparing food for the athletes!) Patterson joined the Cameron’s Seafood team at the end of 2018 to concoct some delicious recipes with our premium seafood items as the centerpiece.

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