Crayfish, also known as crawfish, crawdads, or mudbugs, are freshwater crustaceans that resemble small lobsters. They have a tasty, sweet, nutty flavor and firm texture that make them a popular food, especially in the Southern United States.
Crayfish are highly perishable and need to be kept alive until ready to cook. However, with proper freezing methods, you can freeze both live and cooked crayfish to extend their shelf life.
Should You Freeze Live or Cooked Crayfish?
You can freeze crayfish, both live and cooked. Each method has its pros and cons.
Freezing Live Crayfish
- Pros: Freezing live foods retains maximum freshness and flavor. The crayfish continue to live in a dormant, frozen state.
- Cons: More prep work is needed to purge and clean live crayfish before freezing. It can also be difficult to freeze them individually so they don’t stick together in a block of ice.
Freezing Cooked Crayfish
- Pros: Less prep work since the crayfish are already cooked. It’s easier to individually freeze the tails neatly.
- Cons: Cooked crayfish have a shorter shelf life and lose some freshness compared to live, frozen crayfish.
Many people prefer freezing live crayfish to lock in absolute freshness. However, freezing cooked crayfish can still produce good results if properly stored.
How to Freeze Live Crayfish
Follow these steps to successfully freeze live crayfish:
1. Purge Them
Before freezing, crayfish need to be purged to clear their digestive system and improve flavor. Place them in a bucket of clean water for 24 hours. Change the water 3–4 times during the process. The crayfish are purged when the water stays clear.
2. Boil briefly.
After purging, boil the live crayfish for 1–2 minutes until they turn red. This kills and cleans them.
3. Plunge into Ice water.
After boiling, immediately immerse the crayfish in ice water to stop the cooking process. Let it cool for 15 minutes.
4. Drain and Dry
Drain the crayfish and pat it dry with paper towels. Make sure they are completely dry, or they will freeze into a block.
5. Spread Out on Trays
Arrange crayfish in a single layer on trays or pans. Make sure they are spread out and not touching.
Place trays in the freezer and freeze for 2–3 hours until completely frozen.
7. Transfer to Freezer bags.
Once frozen, transfer the crayfish to labeled freezer bags. Squeeze out excess air and return to the freezer.
8. Use Within 9 months.
Store frozen live crayfish for up to 9 months before quality deteriorates.
How to Freeze Cooked Crayfish
Follow these steps for freezing cooked crayfish tails:
1. Cook Crayfish
Boil or steam live crayfish until the shells turn red. Cool slightly.
2. Twist Off Tails
Twist the crayfish’s tails away from the head. Discard heads and shells.
3. Arrange on Trays
Lay the tails out in a single layer on trays or pans. Avoid overcrowding.
Place trays in the freezer for 2–3 hours until the tails are completely frozen.
5. Transfer to Bags
Take the tails off the trays and transfer them to labeled freezer bags. Squeeze out excess air.
6. Use Within 4 months.
Store frozen cooked crayfish tails for up to 4 months at 0°F.
7. Thaw Before cooking.
When ready to eat, run frozen tails under cold water to thaw. Cook as desired.
Tips for Freezing Crayfish
Follow these tips for the best frozen crayfish quality:
- Freeze crayfish immediately after catching or cooking. Don’t let them sit.
- Use air-tight freezer bags to prevent freezer burn. Squeeze out excess air.
- Label bags with the type of crayfish and date frozen. Use within the recommended time.
- Freeze crayfish in portions to avoid thawing more than needed.
- Place bags flat in a single layer on freezer shelves.
- Avoid refreezing previously frozen crayfish. Only freeze once.
How to Store Frozen Crayfish
Properly store frozen crayfish:
- Keep frozen at 0°F or below. A freezer thermometer can help monitor
- Avoid temperature fluctuations, which decrease shelf life.
- Inspect the bags periodically for signs of freezer burn. Discard if present.
- Organize older crayfish bags in front and newer ones in back. Follow the FIFO order.
- Wash your hands before handling frozen bags to prevent contamination.
- After thawing, cook the crayfish within 1-2 days and don’t refreeze.
Proper freezing and storage let you enjoy fresh crayfish year-round!
Frequently Asked Questions About Freezing Crayfish
Freezing crayfish is a great way to preserve a fresh seafood delicacy, but it does raise some questions.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
How long do frozen crayfish last in the freezer?
Live, frozen crayfish can last up to nine months. Cooked crayfish tails will last up to 4 months when properly frozen at 0°F.
Should you freeze crayfish alive or cooked?
Freezing live gives you the absolute freshest taste and texture, but it requires more prep work. Freezing cooked food is easier but loses a little freshness. Either way, you can produce good frozen crayfish.
What is the best way to thaw frozen crayfish?
The best method is to place the frozen crayfish in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. You can also submerge sealed bags in cold water. Don’t thaw at room temperature. Cook immediately after thawing.
Can you refreeze previously frozen crayfish?
It is not recommended to refreeze crayfish after they have already been frozen and thawed. Refreezing greatly diminishes the texture and flavor. Always cook thawed crayfish immediately.
How can you prevent freezer burn with frozen crayfish?
Freezer burn can ruin the taste and quality of frozen crayfish. Store in airtight freezer bags with excess air squeezed out. Monitor freezer temperature and avoid fluctuations. Organize bags neatly.
Should you freeze crayfish with their heads on or off?
It is generally better to freeze crayfish with the heads removed. The separated tails stack and freeze more nicely. If freezing live crayfish whole, be sure they are spread out.
What is the best way to boil crayfish before freezing?
Before freezing cooked crayfish, quickly boil live ones just until they turn red—about 1-2 minutes. Immediately cool in ice water. Overcooking makes the texture rubbery.
How do you use previously frozen crayfish?
Thaw frozen crayfish in the refrigerator overnight before cooking. They can then be used in any recipe—boiled, fried, sauteed, etc. Eat thawed crayfish within 1-2 days and don’t refreeze.
Can you freeze soft-shell crayfish?
Soft-shell crayfish freeze very well. Their new shells are flexible, so they don’t suffer as much textural damage from freezing. Quickly freeze live soft shells whole or twist off the tails first.
Hi, I’m Julie, the passionate foodie and founder of Juliesfamilykitchen.com. I created this blog out of a drive to prove someone wrong, and then I realized how much I truly enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. In my free time, when I’m not running around after my kids or spending quality time with my partner, you can usually find me in the kitchen experimenting with new dishes.