FOOD & DRINK

It's Time You Knew The Truth About What Soft-Shell Crabs REALLY Are

Molt, batter, fry -- that's the order that gets soft-shell crab from the ocean to our plates.
06/14/2016 06:00 AM ET

Late spring and early summer are beloved for a plethora of reasons, one of the best being the appearance of the soft-shell crab. If you’ve had the pleasure of eating one, you know that they hold all the flavor of your everyday crab without any of the hassle of prying meat from its sharp, thick shell -- basically, it's seafood in its most perfect state.

From Japanese restaurants to road-side seafood stops, these leggy crabs are worth seeking out. But before you start feasting, you might want to know WTF they are, anyway.

Soft-shell crabs are not a separate species of crab. They’re regular crabs -- in the U.S. they’re most typically blue crabs -- that have gotten too big for their shells. In order to keep on growing, they shed their shell and make new, bigger ones. In other words, they molt, and it is this molting process that makes soft-shell crabs such a treat.

In order to shed its shell, the crab forms an inner soft shell underneath, swells its body with water to break its current shell, slowly crawls out -- this can take 10 minutes alone -- and then begins the process of forming a new shell. It takes a couple of days for a new shell to fully harden. That's when we want to catch them.

The molting process looks a little like this. (You can watch the whole 8-minute video here).

YouTube: jackienaquin

Soft-shell crabs are best eaten golden and crisp. If you try to boil them as you would a normal crab, they would just fall apart. It’s a good idea to get your fill when you can because although the season is plentiful, it's also short.

Here are some must-try recipes to get you inspired.