why is my crawfish meat gray

When you have just added crawfish to your diet, it is natural to ask, “Why is my crawfish meat gray?”

Just like everyone around us, crawfish are all different and special in their own way. In some cases, genetics might influence how dark or light their skin is.

However, many crawfish at the end of the season may become darker because they reach maturity.

Once matured, they become darker in color and their shells become harder, making them more difficult to peel.

  • But, what about gray meat, especially after cooking?
  • Is it already spoiled?
  • Will it hurt you if you eat gray meat?

Raw crawfish meat is grayish, but it turns white from bright red after cooking, so it may be spoiled if your crawfish meat is gray after cooking. 

Why Is My Crawfish Meat Gray?

why crawfish meat gray after cooking

Raw crawfish meat is often grayish in appearance.

Meat quickly goes bad after death, much like lobster, and this may also lead to a change in color.

That is why many people want to know if gray crawfish represents spoilage. Crawfish that are gray have probably gone bad.

Even though the raw flesh is a drab grayish color, it cooks up to a beautiful scarlet with tender, pure white meat.

Tip: Follow the right guidelines and you can easily freeze crawfish, including the tail meat to consume later. 

Should You Be Worried about Gray Crawfish Meat?

fresh cooked crawfish

You probably should.

Crawfish from the white river range in color from white to a darker brown when alive, while those from the red swamp range in hue from red to nearly black.

When cooked, every crawfish turns a vivid red color. Once cooked properly, your crawfish meat has to be a clean white.

If that is not the case, you should be more skeptical about eating your crawfish. 

Will Purging Prevent Crawfish Meat from Turning Gray?

purging crawfish prevent gray meat

To ensure you do not end up developing any food-borne illness, it is always a good idea to purge your crawfish before cooking.

Purging also improves the taste of your crawfish and makes it easier to store them, ultimately lowering the risk of spoilage and gray meat after cooking.

Some of the muck from the swamp can be cleaned up using a simple method. 

What to Do?

Use the kitchen sink with a stopper to rid the crawfish of any unwanted debris.

Put the crawfish in water for two minutes, and then do it again twice. Adding some salt to the mix may also help.

If you discover a single crawfish with a problem, it is time to get rid of it. 

How Long Can You Store Crawfish in the Refrigerator?

frozen seafood

Live crawfish kept in the refrigerator should be OK for more than a couple of days

If stored properly (within 2 hours of cooking), crawfish can keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

The same goes for cooked crawfish; make sure to store them in sealed containers and refrigerate them thereafter.

Freezing crawfish extends their shelf life, so you can eat them for weeks or months after buying them. It is best to cook the crawfish first, then freeze the tail flesh within two hours.

Tip: Be sure to store the crawfish in an ice chest or a big plastic tub to maintain their temperature and life span. 

Will It Hurt You to Eat Gray Crawfish Meat?

It is less likely to cause serious problems, but it is not recommended, especially when there are other visible signs of spoilage.

risks eating gray crawfish meat

Similarly, eating old crawfish is not recommended.

Consuming crustaceans, like crabs or crawfish, that were not killed and frozen within one hour is a common way to get sick.

Vibriosis, or food poisoning, is an ailment caused by these bacteria that can be contracted from eating contaminated food.

Similarly, you may also increase your risk of developing a parasitic infection caused by Paragonimus trematodes

Humans can contract the parasites by eating raw or undercooked crayfish or freshwater crabs. 

How Do You Know When Gray Meat Represents Spoilage?

gray meat represents spoilage

You should be worried about your crawfish meat turning gray, but do not tag it as bad just yet.

To ensure you have spoiled crawfish meat, you need to consider many other things. 

Texture Says It All

Shellfish that is soft or mushy is likely loaded with bacteria, so you should immediately cook it or discard it if you notice other signs of spoilage.

Bacteria in the meat of shellfish can be eliminated through cooking after death.

Besides that, it is recommended to keep them cold for the first three hours following death.

texture appearance of crawfish

But if you notice excessively slimy shells and soft interiors, your crawfish is probably already rotten.

Keep in mind that a freshly hatched crayfish should have both rough and smooth spots on its shell. 

Consider the Appearance

You may also know if your crawfish is unhealthy just by looking at it. For instance, you will notice that:

  • The shell looks discolored, with crawfish developing a deep moss green color.
  • Some crawfish may develop black, blue or bright red colors.
  • The meat looks dark grey and is probably spoiled. 

Notice the Smell

smell the food

There should not be a strong fishy smell to fresh crawfish, either while they are whole or when you peel off the tails.

Crawfish with unpleasant smells should be thrown away and replaced with fresh ones.

If the seafood has a strong odor of bleach or ammonia, it is likely contaminated with bacteria and should be discarded immediately.

Tip: Ensure you do not store cooked or raw crawfish on the counter because the ambient temperature spoils it quickly.

How to Know If Cooked Crawfish Meat Has Gone Bad?

crawfish meat gone bad

While a dark gray color is a telltale sign of spoiled crawfish meat, you should also look for other signs. 

Check the Appearance of the Meat

After removing the shell and non-edible components, inspect the meat thoroughly.

In the same way that you would not eat wet ground almonds, you should not consume crawfish if the meat feels mealy.

The meat of crawfish cooked in certain ways, such as in stews and etouffee, turns a bluish color. But if you are not sure, just dump it. 

Feel the Smell

A crawfish that was already dead before cooking will give off an odor that cannot be covered up no matter how many herbs and spices you use.

feel smell of food

If something feels a bit off, it probably is. Do not take chances. 

Check the Texture

Is it tough and unyielding, or does it give a little when pinched?

The meat of a crawfish should be solid and spring back when squeezed.

But if it smushes or tears apart with little pressure, know that the meat has gone bad. 

Feel the Taste

Crawfish taste great and the meat is addictive in nature. However, spoiled crawfish will leave an indelible mark on your mind.

Instead of being juicy and sweet with a hint of shellfish, the decomposing crawfish will have a terrible, putrid, and absolutely awful flavor. 

Look for Mold

look for molds

A freshly cooked crawfish should have a brilliant sheen on its shell and bright orange-red legs without any growths.

Due to the breakdown of proteins, crawfish meat stored for a long time may develop growths and leak liquids.

If there is growth or liquid coming out of the crawfish, whether it is cooked or raw, throw it away. 

Is It Okay to Eat Crawfish with a Straight Tail?

There is confusion about it, and though a straight tail does not always indicate rotten crawfish, it is better to avoid it.

straight tailed crawfish

If the tail is straight, the crawfish probably died before being boiled, so do not expect much texture or flavor.

Tip: Ensure you are not allergic to proteins in crawfish or you might develop abdominal pain and cramping.


It is natural to fall in love with the taste of crawfish once you know how to eat it properly.

But, when you are still new, you may wonder, “why is my crawfish meat gray?”

In most cases, raw fish has a grayish tinge, but the color changes after cooking. If it stays gray or even looks dark, it has probably gone bad.

Be sure to check other signs of spoilage as well, and if something feels amiss, it is time to throw the crawfish away.