Q+A with Chef Tim Richardson of Hank’s Seafood Restaurant about soft-shell crab

Learn about soft-shell crab from a Charleston chef.

The photo shows how Hank's Seafood Restaurant prepared the soft-shell crab.

Hank’s Seafood Restaurant is serving up soft-shell crab.

Photo provided by Hank’s Seafood Restaurant and bread & Butter.

Take a bite, yes, shell and all. It’s soft-shell crab season, so keep reading to learn about the molting mollusk from Chef Tim Richardson of Hank’s Seafood Restaurant.

What is a soft-shell crab?
A soft-shell crab is a blue crab that is molting, meaning the crab is shedding its shell (to grow larger) and forms a new one in about 10 days.

How does a soft-shell crab differ from a normal crab?
They are the same crab; the only difference is the hardness of their shell. With a soft shell, you can eat the entire crab — with a normal crab, you have to pick it apart.

What is the flavor profile of a soft-shell crab like?
The flavor has similarities to king crab, but they are very different. The soft shell has a rich, buttery, and crisp texture when fried. The soft-shell crab meat itself is denser in texture compared to the king crab.

For someone who has never tried soft-shell crab, what can they expect?
Something that surprises “first-timers” is that they eat the entire crab and that each bite gets better and better.

When is soft-shell crab season?
It varies depending on the water temperature, typically a few weeks to a month in the spring (around April) and in the fall around September.

Where does Hank’s Seafood source its soft-shell crabs?
We source them locally from Crosby’s, they get them from up and down the East Coast but mainly from the Carolina.

What is your favorite soft-shell crab recipe and why?
I like them fried with a simple tomato vinaigrette and salad greens or with an English pea, mint, and cilantro coulis.

Are there any traditional or local methods for preparing and serving soft-shell crabs?
Fried soft-shell po’boy sandwiches are very popular in the Lowcountry and served on a brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and tartar sauce.

Are there any sustainable practices or guidelines that Hank’s follows when sourcing soft-shell crabs?
Eating locally is very sustainable. Also, always following local catch limits and size guidelines from DNR (5 inches and above from point to point are keepers).