My step-by-step guide for How to Cook Crab Legs, where to buy them, what to look for, and how to serve them. This delicious and tender crab is perfect for company, holidays, or special events and could not be easier to prepare!
Looking for more seafood recipes? Try my Baked Salmon, Seared Scallops, Shrimp Tacos, or Crab Cakes!
It was our family tradition growing up to have “surf and turf” for Christmas Eve dinner; king crab legs and New York Steaks, with lots of yummy side dishes like twice baked potatoes. I’ve continued the tradition with my family and it’s a special meal we look forward to every year. It’s also one of the easiest ones to make!
Crab legs are expensive to buy, so I want to make sure you are well prepared to cook them perfectly! They may sound intimidating, but crab legs are already fully cooked, so all you need to do is heat them up. They are easy and FAST to make, requiring only a minute or two of prep, and then ready to eat in 30 minutes!
How to Cook King Crab Legs:
Most crab sold in the US has already been cooked and flash frozen, so we are simply reheating it. If still frozen, thaw crab legs in the refrigerator before cooking, or add a few minutes to the cook time.
Prepare Pan by lining with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Place king crab legs on top.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes, or until hot and a little steamy.
Crack legs open using kitchen shears or crab crackers, down the leg, lengthwise.
Enjoy dipped in butter, if desired.
Tips for buying crab:
Type of Crab: This recipe is for King Crab and is my absolute favorite. King Crab has the highest meat-to-shell ratio, which helps you get the most for your money. King Crab meat breaks off in large, tender chunks and has a sweet, mild flavor that is absolutely delicious! You can also use this same method to cook snow crab.
Where to Buy: Costco carries crab legs all year. If you can’t find them at your location, you can always order them through Costco with shipping. Most local grocery stores have them during the holidays.
What to Look For: It’s important to get big, thick crab legs. If you are going to treat yourself to this delicacy, don’t skimp and buy skinny legs or else you may find there is very little meat in the shell. Get the hardiest shells you can find, typically the better ones cost a little more. To make sure the crab is fresh, look for the exposed meat to be white, not slimy, and it should have a fresh seafood aroma, not stinky, or pungent.
How to Serve Crab Legs:
Crab legs are most often served with melted butter, and sometimes lemon wedges on the side. Some people like to add a little fresh minced garlic, salt and pepper to the butter. Keep it simple, to allow the delicious flavor of the meat to be the star.
We pass around kitchen shears to cut the shells open, or you can use a crab cracker (or this fun seafood shell cracking tool set set if you’re entertaining guests).
Storage and Freezing Instructions:
To Store: Remove crab meat from legs and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To Freeze: Remove crab meat from legs and freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 months. Let meat thaw in refrigerator overnight before warming.
Alternate Cooking Methods:
- To Steam Crab Legs: place a steam basket at the bottom of a large stockpot. Add 1 ½ cups of water, and layer in as many crab legs as will fit. Bring water to a boil, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes, just until warmed (or 7-10 minutes if frozen).
- To Grill Crab Legs: Lightly brush crab legs with oil. Grill over medium heat for 5-8 minutes, until warmed through.
- To Smoke Crab Legs: This article has a good recipe and tips.
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How to Cook Crab Legs
- 6 King Crab Legs
- 1/3 cup melted butter , for serving
- Be sure crab legs are fully thawed (or if frozen, add a few minutes to the cook time).
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
- Place legs (with shell on) on a jelly roll pan or large baking sheet. Put up to 4 legs on a pan. (You may put two pans in the oven but you may have to increase the cooking time).
- Bake for 25-35 minutes depending on the size of them. At 25 minutes check them–they should be hot/warmed though, a little steamy.
- Use kitchen shears or crab crackers to open the shells and remove the meat. Serve dipped in melted butter.
- Steam Crab Legs: place a steam basket at the bottom of a large stockpot. Add 1 ½ cups of water, and layer in as many crab legs as will fit. Bring water to a boil, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes, just until warmed (or 7-10 minutes if frozen).
- Grill Crab Legs: Lightly brush crab legs with oil. Grill over medium heat for 5-8 minutes, until warmed through.
- Smoke Crab Legs: This article has a good recipe and tips.
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Thank you for taking the hard work out of making delicious crab legs. I’ve never had them before and my fiance said his favorite food is crab legs so I am definitely going to give this a try!!! Thank you so much!!!
Finally! A recipe with instructions that are easy to follow. I have not been happy with how my crab legs have turned out in the past, but this recipe had it all – not to mention how delicious the crab meat was. Thanks for sharing your tips and tricks.
I have always steamed my crab legs.
I use the same roasting pan i used for my turkey at Thanksgiving. I have a super old roasting pan that belonged to my great aunt. It has a flat grate at the bottom to keep things elevated. Works great for crab legs too.
Thank you for the tip on where to buy them. King crab is the way to go! I can’t believe how expensive it is now. $45 a pound in my neck of the woods! When I started buying crab, it was $9.99 a pound, on sale for $6.99.
Your directions are great! Your recipes are quickly becoming my “go to” for everything! Thank you!