If you love crabs and just cannot get the fresh crab meat, the best alternative is its imitation. Imitation or manufactured crab meat taste like reals ones and is also nutritious. It is often frozen to keep it fresh and ensure a longer shelf-life.
Since imitation crab meat are usually frozen, once its packaging is opened, it is not suitable to refreeze it or to froze it again. Refreezing it especially after it has been thawed for more than 2 hours may make it unsafe for consumption.
Let us tell you more about this imitation of crab meat.
What Is Imitation Crab Meat?
It is called imitation because it is manufactured to taste and appear like crab meat but without the real crab.
It is made from different ingredients like starch, sugar, egg whites, salt, a fish paste, and other flavorings. The fish paste is called Surimi and it is made from Pollock fish. Some uses cod, barracuda, or mackerel, but the Pollock fish is the best option.
Since the main ingredient is made from fish, it is why it sold frozen and is frozen right after it is manufactured. It is vacuum sealed to ensure that no airborne microorganism can spoil it. This is also the reason why it is not recommended to refreeze it once it has been opened or thawed.
It is very rare to see fresh or unfrozen imitations of crab meat because it is frozen right from the manufacturing stage, however if you find one, make sure that it is really fresh before buying it and freeze immediately.
If you bought a frozen pack of imitation crab meat, be sure to also freeze it before it gets thawed if you do not plan on cooking it right away. This will ensure its freshness and you can also be sure that it is not harmful to eat.
It is best to freeze imitation crab meat while it is still in its original or manufacturer’s packaging because it has been tightly sealed or vacuum sealed.
If you need to open the package but do not intend to cook everything, just take out as much as you need and put it back to the freezer. If the packaging is resealable, be sure to seal it tightly, but if not, package it in a resealable plastic bag before placing it back to the freezer.
You can also keep the remaining uncooked imitation crab in a food container, but it has to have a lid and you need to seal it tightly.
Keeping your imitation crab meat in tightly sealed food container or resealable freezer bags can prevent airborne microorganism or other food odors from seeping into it.
Benefits and Downsides of Imitation Crab Meat
Most manufactured or commercially produced food has benefits and drawbacks or downsides, and imitations of crab meat are the same.
Compared to fresh real crab meat, imitations are cheaper that is why it is popular to consumers. For the manufactures, they are inexpensive to produce as well as in demand, so they benefit more from it.
Preparing a dish using imitation crab meat is easier compared to using the real one because it is available as nuggets that are ready to be cooked. You can easily buy it from the market, and it is available in almost every retailer stores.
Like the real meat crab, you can add it to salads, cakes, pasta, sushi, and also make it into dips.
Imitations of crab meat is made with health benefits in mind, so it has lesser sodium and lower calories. Genuine crab meat are very high in calories which is not good to those with health issues.
If you have allergies to any of its ingredient you should think twice before eating it.
Since imitation crab meat is made of fish paste, starch, egg whites, and other flavorings, it has lower nutritive value compared to the real crab meat. It has very low protein, vitamins and minerals content which can be found abundantly in a genuine crab meat. It also has high carbohydrates content.
Commercially manufactured crab meat may contain some artificial food flavors or additives that are not good for health. It may also contain gluten and other potential allergens that may cause ill effects to some people.
Thawing Imitation Crab Meat
The main ingredient of crab meat imitations is fish so it should be handled properly. Prolong exposure to open air or at room temperature might induce foodborne bacteria to grow on it, and this can lead to poisoning or other illness when consumed.
It is highly suggested that you leave the frozen imitation crab meat in the refrigerator to thaw. It is safer than to leave it sitting at room temperature. If you do not have much time to wait while it thaws inside the fridge, you can defrost it under the running tap water.
Keep in mind that it remains firm while it is frozen and when thawed, the meat becomes very soft and sometimes mushy.
If it has completely thawed, you should never refreeze it. Refreezing thawed imitation crab meat maybe at risk of having dangerous microorganisms or bacteria thus, it may spoil the food.
Common Ingredients in Imitation Crab Meat
We cannot really tell the exact ingredients of commercially manufactured crab meat, so we cannot be sure if refreezing it after thawing is good or not.
Here is the list of the commonly used ingredients when making imitations of crab meat, and we can say that it is really not good to thaw it and refreeze it afterwards.
Water. To be able to make the best texture of the product, enough water should be added. The water form the ice crystals when it is frozen and that is why once it has completely thawed, the imitation meat crab become very soft.
Starch. Starch makes it stick together and form its shape. The most commonly used types of starch are potato, corn, and wheat. When enough water and starch are mixed, you will get a thick batter or dough that is the base component of the imitation meat crab, this is also why it becomes soft and gooey after thawing.
Protein. The egg whites is used as the source of protein in imitation meat crab. It is also used to thicken it. Egg whites are also not best to be thawed and refrozen because it has a much higher risk of having bacterial contamination.
Sugar. To add taste, sugar is added. It also helps thicken the imitation meat crab. It helps in freezing the imitation meat and it also thaws well.
Vegetable oil. To maintain its color and texture, oil is added to it. Oil also adds to the preservation time, but it hardens the meat when frozen.
These main ingredients are mixed together with other food additives and preservatives. Afterwards, it is cooked, shaped, and packaged.
Manufacturers ensure that it is pasteurized before vacuum-sealing it to kill and prevent bacteria.
Freezing Imitation Crab Meat
Primarily, imitations of crab meat are sold frozen to prevent harmful bacteria from growing on it.
If thawed, it has a high possibility for bacterial growth which can spoil the food. It can also be health threatening if ingested.
Although it is a popular product, you should know how to handle it properly to prevent negative consequences.
Keep in mind that it is a type of perishable good and has limited shelf-life especially when thawed. Never leave it sitting for more than 2 hours at room temperature to prevent bacterial growth.
Is it unhealthy to eat imitation crab meat?
Any kind of food taken in excessive amount can make you sick or unhealthy, so always remember to eat in moderate amounts.
You should also check the label of the product before consuming it. The label tells us when it is not best to eat it or until when it is safe to it.
Keep it frozen and do not leave it at temperature between 40 to 140 degrees F. This temperature makes bacteria grow quickly and may cause poisoning or other health problems.
Do I need to cook imitation crab meat?
Since these imitations of crab meat are sold frozen, then the best option is to cook or heat it. However, it is fully cooked before it is package so can opt not to cook it, but I guess nobody will not like its defrosted texture and taste.
You can warm or reheat it. You can also cook it into another dish or mix it into another dish.
Its taste and texture will remain best when handled properly.
Does imitation crab meat taste like the real crab?
Though it does not contain true crab meat, the taste and texture of imitation crab meat is exquisitely the same as the real one. You can have the taste of a real crab at a cheaper price.