It might look intimidating, and vaguely spider-like, but soft shell crab is just regular old side-strutting Blue Crab that’s been harvested in the brief molting phase (between ditching the old shell and hardening the new one). It’s also a summer favorite—just aching for a pan-fry—and surprisingly easy to prepare at home.
Once they’re in season (from April to October for Gulf states, shorter for colder Chesapeake waters) you can get soft shells from any reliable fish market. Just avoid cellophane-wrapped soft shells, and clean them at home if possible—a bit of a difficult task, to be honest, probably not for the faint of heart. But if you love fresh crab, or just any excuse to fry quality seafood, it’ll be worth it. And then you’ll be ready to try any of these 5 recipes for soft shell crab, or share your own!
Crab image via Shutterstock