Cooking crab legs at home can be a fun and rewarding experience, especially when you’re looking to impress your family with something special. Crab legs are not only delicious but also a great source of protein and a healthy addition to your family’s diet. They are surprisingly easy to prepare, whether you choose to boil, steam, or broil them. This guide will walk you through the basics of selecting, cooking, and eating crab legs, ensuring a delightful seafood meal that’s both satisfying and nutritious. Plus, with a few expert tips and tricks, you’ll be cooking crab legs like a seasoned chef in no time, all while keeping it stress-free and enjoyable.

Close up overhead view of cooked crab legs.

Ingredient Breakdown & Substitutions

  • Crab Legs: Either fresh or frozen work well.
  • Butter: Unsalted is preferred. For a dairy-free option, use a plant-based butter alternative.
  • Old Bay Seasoning: Make your own blend with celery salt, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
  • Lemon Wedges: For a different acidic touch, try limes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I cook frozen crab legs without thawing?

Yes, you can cook them directly from frozen, adding a few minutes to the cooking time.

How do I know when crab legs are done?

They’ll turn a bright red and emit a cooked seafood aroma.

Can I reuse the cooking liquid?

Yes, it can be strained and reused for extra flavor in future seafood dishes.

How should I serve crab legs?

Serve them on a large platter with lemon wedges and sauce bowls for an elegant display. Garnish with fresh herbs or edible flowers for a restaurant-quality look. Don’t forget to provide the necessary tools for cracking and enjoying the crab legs!

What sauce should I serve with crab?

Enhance your crab legs with homemade sauces. A simple garlic butter sauce, a tangy cocktail sauce, or a creamy aioli can elevate the dish. These sauces can be easily prepared while the crab legs are cooking, ensuring everything is ready to serve at the same time.

What tools do I need for serving?

Enjoying crab legs to the fullest requires a few essential tools:
A crab cracker is vital for breaking into the hard shell, while a small fork or pick helps in removing the meat from the shell. Kitchen shears can also be handy for cutting through softer parts of the shell. A bib and plenty of napkins are recommended to keep things tidy during this hands-on dining experience.

How to Choose Crab Legs at the Store

When shopping for crab legs, you’ll typically find several types:

  • Snow Crab: Known for their long, slender legs and sweet meat. Ideal for first-timers due to their easier handling.
  • King Crab: Larger and meatier, with a rich flavor. They’re a bit pricier but are considered a gourmet option.
  • Dungeness Crab: Smaller and rounder, known for their delicate and sweet flavor.

For the best quality, look for crab legs with a bright shell and a fresh sea aroma. Avoid any with an overly fishy smell or discolored spots. Frozen crab legs should be well-sealed with no visible ice crystals or freezer burn. Generally, snow crab legs are recommended for their balance of flavor, size, and value.

How to eat Crab Legs

For King crab legs, take a pair of kitchen scissors and simple cut down the shell of a leg lengthwise. Fold it open to expose the meat inside.

For Snow Crab legs:

  1. Start by removing each individual leg from the cluster by snapping it off at the cluster.
  2. Break each leg into two parts by snapping at the joint.
  3. For each leg part use two hands on each end to gently bend back and forth until the shell breaks. The meat should slide out easily from the shell.
  4. For claws, use a cracker or your teeth to break open the shell. Do not apply too much pressure or you’ll crush the meat inside. Peel back the shell until you can easily slide the meat out.
  5. For the cluster, crack it gently with your hands and fold it open. The meat is found on the inside. Use a small fork to remove all the pockets of meat.

How to serve Crab Legs

Crab legs are most often served with melted butter and lemon wedges on the side. Once your meat is removed from the shells you can squeeze the lemon juice over and dip in melted butter.

Another popular serving option in the New England area is to serve crab meat with Old Bay seasoning which is a proprietary mix of herbs and spices that compliments seafood well. Sprinkle a little of the seasoning onto a plate. You can squeeze lemon juice over and dip in butter, and then dip in the Old Bay seasoning to finish before eating.

Tips From the Chef

  • Use a large pot to avoid overcrowding.
  • Test doneness by checking the color and aroma.
  • Serve immediately for the best taste and texture.
  • Serve with tools like crab crackers and small forks for easy eating.
A hand dipping a small piece of crab meat into melted butter.

Storage, Freezer & Reheating Instructions

Store any leftover crab legs in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They can be reheated gently in a steamer or oven, but avoid microwaving to maintain the best texture. For freezing, wrap the crab legs tightly in foil or freezer-safe wrap, and they’ll keep for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.

More Favorite Seafood Recipes

Watch the video below where Rachel will walk you through every step of this recipe. Sometimes it helps to have a visual, and we’ve always got you covered with our cooking show. You can find the complete collection of recipes on YouTube, Facebook Watch, or our Facebook Page, or right here on our website with their corresponding recipes.