You may have probably impressed your guests more than once by offering them “crabmeat” in dinners, without them realizing that it’s, in fact, an imitation. In most cases, you are able to fool the untrained taste buds, but be careful with more sophisticated guests! Imitation crab meat, as you would have probably guessed by now, is not real crab meat. At times, Imitation crab meat is made of a mix of various types of fish blended together (Kani Surimi). At others, its ingredients is a certain fish (mackerel, barracuda, pollock, among others) that can be arranged to look, feel and taste like crab (no pun intended) by adding artificial flavoring or food coloring. So, can you freeze imitation crab meat? And, how long does it imitation crab meat last in the fridge?
The answer is that not only you can but, rather, you should.
Being that imitation crab meat contains fish in one way or another, it needs to remain frozen until it’s used. Since it’s usually bought frozen, special care has to be taken to avoid thawing, particularly if you plan on cooking it at a later date. This also applies to instances when you find fresh imitation crab meat (regardless of whether it’s actually possible to find and buy it fresh).
It’s important to seal the meat in an airtight plastic container or a freezer bag, making sure it’s hermetically sealed since imitation crab is prone to absorb odors from other foods, as well as to spread its own odors. Covered glass also works. If it comes in a package and you wish to use some of it, make sure to put the rest in another bag that you can seal yourself (it can be sealed in its original package as well).
If bought frozen (which is how it’s sold most of the time) then there shouldn’t be any discernible difference. If bought fresh and you wish to freeze it, there w¡ll be a discernible difference in taste and texture, due to the ice crystals that form in frozen food breaking down the cell walls.
Usually, when fish is thawed in a refrigerator, it can be frozen again. However, in the case of imitation crab fish, considering it’s a component of various ingredients, it’s not very safe to refreeze once defrosted, Proceed with caution!
If you decide to store it in the fridge for very near future use, in many cases it can last up to 5 days. If frozen, it can spend up to 6 months in the freezer without signs of spoiling.
Some signs of spoilage include the typical “fishy smell”, sour taste, and a slimy appearance. Pay close attention to it when thawed, as usually in its frozen state it’s hard to know whether it has spoiled or not. At the very first sign of spoilage, do not consume! It’s very easy to get poisoned with seafood and the effects tend to be more aggressive than with other types of consumables.
Imitation crab meat should not be thawed in temperatures that could lead to potential bacterial growth, as this might cause food poisoning. It’s recommended to thaw it safely by leaving it in the refrigerator to rest a night.
Another way to thaw it faster is by running it under cold water. After a while, the ice crystals will be dissolved and the imitation crab meat is ready for consumption or use. You can also alternatively defrost it with a microwave that has this functionality.
It’s recommended that you always thaw it properly first before cooking it, as it helps preserve its taste and texture.
An advantage of imitation crab meat is that, since it is already cooked, you can use it virtually out of the package (not before defrosting) and add it to a myriad of cold recipes such as salads or sandwiches. You can also fry it, steam it, sauté it, or even cook it in the microwave. Some great recipes with imitation crab meat include Seafood Macaroni Salad, Crab Soup, Crab Rangoon, Seafood Enchiladas. My favorite is the california roll jar with imitation crab meat. Imitation crab meat is highly versatile and possibilities are endless!