Seafood 101 with Locals Seafood: Softshell Crabs

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While Locals Seafood can’t guarantee the soft sound of seagulls cawing in the distance as you dine on a shady deck with a light northeast breeze blowing, they can promise fresh, locally-caught seafood, straight from the fisherman's boat, within arm’s reach of those of us who live in the Triangle. Since 2010, they’ve been making trips up and down North Carolina’s pristine coast to bring home the finest seafood our waters have to offer.  It's as close as you'll get to catching the fish yourself. And, chefs like Ashley Christensen, Andrea Reusing and Ricky Moore agree — Locals supplies many of the tastiest restaurants in the Triangle.

This month, we’ve all teamed up bring you a recipe series using their fine seafood. We’re going to run the gamut of species here, so hold on tight and get ready to do some cooking of your own. All of these recipes are simple and easy — even for the novice cook who doesn’t have much experience with seafood — and we want to see what you're trying at home, so make sure to share your dishes on social media under the hashtag #BandGLocalsSeafood!

To purchase seafood from Locals, catch them at:
Raleigh State Farmers Market (at their booth inside, Thursday-Saturday, 10am-4pm;  Sunday, 11am-3pm)
Western Wake Farmers Market (Saturday, 8am-12pm)
Chapel Hill Farmers Market (Saturday, 8am-12pm)

Follow their tips for how to care for your seafood after you purchase it.

Be the first to know about Locals Seafood's catches-of-the-day by following them on




Softshell crabs are blue crabs that have recently molted their shell. Crabbers catch them just before they're beginning this process and hold them in tanks during, a cycle that's dictated by water temperature, weather and the moon's phases. North Carolina blue crabs usually start to molt mid-April.


Denny & Cassandra Reynolds, Columbia, NC out of the Albemarle Sound and Alligator River


Mild, sweet and buttery. Slightly crispy exterior with a meaty center.


Softcrab seasons peaks May — June, but sometimes can run as late as October


Locals Seafood sells softshell crabs alive, fresh cleaned or frozen cleaned  (the latter two meaning the face, gills and apron have been removed, but the "mustard" is still intact). Live crabs are the freshest you can buy, though you'll have to do some cleaning and prep before you cook. Store live crabs in a refrigerator until you are ready to do so. Live crabs won't live in a refrigerator very long, so it's best to buy them the day you plan to cook them.


First, cut the face off. Next, grab a corner of the shell and lift to expose gills, which look like beige colored pointy tongues, and remove. Repeat on the other side of the crab. Flip the crab over to expose its belly; there, you will find a flap of skin called the apron. For male crabs, it will be long and thin; for female crabs, it will be wide. Lift the apron with your fingers and remove from the body. Voila! Now you're ready to start cooking.


A blue crab's hard outer shell forces them to molt & produce a new larger shell in order to grow. A mature crab molts about 20 times in its life, increasing its size by one-third with each new shell. This cycle takes about 4-5 days from start to finish.



8 softshell crabs with the face, gills and apron removed
Seafood breader
Salt & pepper
Canola oil
Lemon for garnishing



Serves 4 people.

Now that you've prepped your softies for cooking or purchased them cleaned, heat a quarter-inch of oil in a cast iron skillet to 365 degrees. Using a fork, poke holes in belly and legs to release any water. Pat dry well. Water, again, is the enemy!

Season seafood breader with salt and pepper. Lightly toss softcrabs in seasoned breader, covering the entire crab.

Lay softcrabs in frying pan belly-side down (shell-side up). Cook for approximately 1 to 2 minutes, until golden brown, and flip for approximately 30 seconds to 1 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Serve as soon as they are cool enough to eat and finish with the World's Best Tartar Sauce.


Makes approximately 2 1/2 cups.

2 c. mayonaise
1 small finely chopped onion
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 c. fresh parseley ground fine in a food processor
1/3 c. sweet relish
2 dashes Texas Pete hot sauce
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dill weed
1/2 tsp. ground mustard

Work all ingredients together in a bowl. Chill 1 hour before serving.



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