Outer Banks restaurants, seafood markets host first Soft-Shell Crab Week May 15-20

Outer Banks restaurants, seafood markets host first Soft-Shell Crab Week May 15-20

May 14th, 2023

Come out of your shell and join us May 15-20, 2023 for the first-ever Outer Banks Soft-Shell Week!

A flat of soft shell crabs right out of the shedder. [file photo]
“If there was a favorite seafood delicacy indigenous to the Outer Banks, soft shell blue crabs would be a title contender,” says Lee Nettles, Executive Director.

“It’s a fun time to be here,” Nettles said. “Locals are trying to get their hands on the crabs at the fresh seafood markets, visitors are checking out the different soft shell cooking styles of our restaurants, and local commercial fishing men and women are putting in long hours day and night to catch enough for everyone involved before the spring molt ends.”

The six-day event is an inaugural nod to the first big “peeler crab” season that occurs naturally around the first full moon of May each year, when the crabs are plucked from the water still soft, making them succulent to sauté, drizzle in sauce or deep fry among other preparations.

When it comes down to the real flavors of the Outer Banks, we think this cult classic best captures the taste of our locals water. And did we mention how fresh these crabs are?

Straight from the shedders in the backyard to tables at the participating restaurants and seafood markets. From the classic sandwich to creative appetizers and indulgent dinners, our consortium of crustaceans will have you coming back for more.

Soft-shells? What are we even talking about?

A soft-shell is a crab that has temporarily shed its tough exterior in favor of a softer, more sensitive side. These crabs are removed from the water as soon as they molt or, preferably, just before to prevent any hardening of their shell.

This means that almost the entire animal can be eaten, rather than having to shell the animal to reach the meat.

Catching soft-shell crab is very time-sensitive and requires that any caught crabs be kept in climate-controlled areas immediately after catching until they molt, at which point they can be safely removed and sold.

And in case the question ever appears on a certain tv show, a group of crabs is called a consortium.

Soft Shell Week celebrates the blue crabs and Outer Banks culture surrounding the spring molt, when the crustaceans nearly double in size, just in time for Mother’s Day traditionally.

“Fitting that the availability of the crabs is up to Mother Nature,” Nettles said. “Typically, it’s a few weeks in May and maybe June before the supply of fresh crabs switches from soft shells back to hard shells, which are more fit for steaming and crab boils, but they’re the same ubiquitous blue species.”

“The nearly 20 restaurants participating will have a mix of plates featured on lunch or dinner menus, and patrons are encouraged to vote for their favorite restaurant using a QR code for the event,” Nettles said.

“We’ve even got a trophy for the people’s choice with a crab on top to add a fun sense of pride for the winner,” Nettles said.

To see participating restaurants and markets, including an interactive map and details about special events, visit https://www.outerbanks.org/events/outer-banks-soft-shell-crab-week/?view=grid&sort=date

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