Why Does Crab Smell Like Ammonia? The Best Way To Get Rid Of It!

crab smells like ammonia

Seafood in general or crabs in particular, are one of the highest protein sources that contains all the essential amino acids for human health.

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People also love seafood because of its fresh and delicious flavors.

However, when it comes to cooking and preserving it, you surely once feel like the dozen crabs you’ve just purchased have an ammonia smell.

In this article, we will walk you through the questions around unpleasant smell crabs, how to identify if the crab meat is bad and how to deal with it.

Why does crab meat smell like ammonia?

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One of the obvious things that make crabs smell like ammonia is that the crabs die right after being caught.

Bacteria are likely spreading through the meat of dead crabs and causing that smell.

That’s why it is not recommended cooking and eating the dead crabs unless they are well-preserved.

Besides, there are several reasons causing the pungent smell in crabs rather than the decay process.

  • Poor storage: if you keep a lot of crabs in a dirty tank without changing the water, the crabs will urinate their waste and also ammonia to the water.
  • Over a long period of time, the crabs won’t be fresh anymore.
  • Old crabs: older crabs build a sticky and milky substance around itself, which leads to the unpleasant smell and tasteless meat.

How should crab smell?

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Cooked crab smells like a seafood lover’s dream! The sweet, salty, and briny scents of the ocean are all present in this delectable crustacean.

The enticing aroma is sure to whet your appetite and have you counting down the minutes until dinner is ready.

What does cooked crab smell like?

The smell of cooked crab is briny and a little sweet.

It’s a distinctive smell that’s easily recognizable, and it’s a smell that most people enjoy.

Some people find the smell to be a bit too strong, but cooked crab is a popular dish in many parts of the world.

What does bad crab meat smell like?

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Bad crab meat can have a variety of different smells, depending on how far gone it is.

If it’s just starting to go bad, it might smell fishy or salty.

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As it gets more and more spoiled, the odor will become increasingly rank and pungent.

If you notice any sort of sour, ammonia-like smell, that’s a sure sign that the crab meat has gone bad and you should throw it out.

How can you tell if crab meat is bad?

It’s easy to identify whether the crab meat is fresh or not.

Some factors are as below:

  • Fresh meat doesn’t smell like anything, there is just a slight sweet odor.
  • Raw meat has a pure clean white flesh and a bright red where the meat met the shell.
  • When you touch the meat, it should be moist and firm.
  • One of the noticeable signs of bad crab meat is a strong sour, fishy or rancid smell.
  • Also, the spoiled meat’s flesh has a slimy texture and there is dark or black discoloration.
  • This is when the crab is gone bad and should not be consumed.

Is it safe to eat crab that smells like ammonia?

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Not mentioning the safety about eating bad smelly crabs, the unpleasant odor already makes you lose your appetite.

There are no exact studies about people getting serious disease or sicks from eating bad crabs.

However, there are obviously some food poisoning symptoms such as small stomachache, nausea vomiting or diarrhea, etc.

That’s why it’s not recommended eating bad odor crabs, both in raw state or cooked state.

How do you get rid of ammoniac smells in crabs?

If the uncooked crabs have a mild smell of ammonia, it can still be consumed.

The natural seafood smell will be gone once crabs are cooked, and is replaced with herbs, spices and sauces flavors.

If you are so sensitive with that odor, then white wine and ginger juice are definitely your two best friends in order to get rid of the stink of crabs in cooking.

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Mince ginger and squeeze its juice.

When aromatizing crabs, you should add the ginger juice diluted with other spices.

After aromatizing, when cooking crabs, from one to two coffee-spoons of white wine will help to reduce the stinks and make crabs more aromatic.


To keep crabs from being spoiled, you should also know how to store it correctly.

Live crabs in shells can be kept in the fridge and are served best within 12 hours.

Cooked crabs in shells are best for fridge-storing and eating from 2 to 4 days.

The crab meat without shells can be stored from 8 to 18 months.

With proper knowledge of storage, cooking and serving crab meat, you should be able to enjoy your delicious cooked crab meat to the fullest and avoid any foodborne illness.

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