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how to make boiled crab legs | Family Cuisine

Boiled crab legs are a popular appetizer, but they can also be enjoyed as an entrée. They are best served with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges, or with melted butter and Old Bay seasoning.

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How to make boiled crab legs

Learn how to make Crab Legs 4 easy ways; from the Instant Pot to steaming, baking and grilling. We love to serve crab meat with this incredible garlic lemon butter which tastes restaurant-quality.

Home cooked crab legs couldn’t get any easier so you can enjoy a crab feast at home for much less than you would pay to dine out. Watch the video tutorial below and you will crave it until you make it.

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Cooked Crab legs on a serving platter with butter dipping sauce and lemon wedges

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Did You Know?

Crabs must be sold live or cooked. In most grocery stores, crab legs will be sold pre-cooked and either frozen or thawed from frozen. Since most crabs are sold already cooked, the process of “cooking” them is really easy – you are basically adequately heating them up while maintaining their juiciness and natural flavor. Can you guess our favorite method?

Ingredients for home cooked crab with lemon garlic butter dipping sauce

The Best Crab Dipping Sauce:

The combination of butter, garlic and lemon pairs so well with seafood. We used a similar flavor profile with our Broiled Lobster Tails and Baked Salmon.

This doesn’t get any easier: In a small saucepan melt 4 Tbsp butter then stir in 2 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper. Stir for just 30 seconds and take off the heat. Squeeze in 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice.

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Crab Dipping Sauce in ramekin surrounded by crab legs

Take My Money!! This is going to become your new favorite seafood dip. Try it with shrimp or lobster next.

Crab meat dipped into homemade crab dipping sauce

How to Cook Crab Legs:

We’ve covered all of the best ways to cook crabs, from instant pot to steaming, grilling and even baking in the oven. If I had to pick a favorite, I would go with Instant Pot crab legs when cooking for 2 because it is so fast, and steamed crab when feeding a larger crowd.

Instant Pot Crab Legs:

  1. Place a trivet into a 6 qt Instant Pot and add 1 cup water. Add 3-4 clusters of fresh or frozen crab legs per batch folding the legs to fit more in (thawed fit easier than frozen since they are more flexible).
  2. Close the lid and cook on manual high pressure 4 minutes with quick release. You can repeat with another batch right away using the same water.

Pro Tip: Set up your instant pot outside or let it vent under the stove hood or your kitchen will be quite fragrant!

Crab Legs in Instant Pot

Steamed Crab Legs:

Place a steam basket at the bottom of a large stockpot with 1 cup of water. Add as many crab legs as your pot will accommodate and still close the lid tightly. Bring the water to a boil then cover and steam cook until fragrant and steaming hot (about 5 minutes for thawed or 10 minutes for frozen crab legs).

Crab legs in pot with steaming basket

Grilled Crab Legs:

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Using heavy-duty aluminum foil, create a foil pack for 4 clusters of crab legs. Bring the two ends together in the center, and fold them together twice. Then fold the other two ends together twice to seal the foil packet. Do not add water to the foil pack. It will steam cook with the natural moisture from the crab legs.

Grill over medium/high heat or about 450˚F for 15-20 minutes if frozen or 10 minutes if thawed. It’s ready when you see steaming as you open the foil pack.

Crab legs in foil packs for grilling and baking

Oven-Baked Crab Legs:

Create the same foil pack as in the grilling method with 4 crab leg clusters. Place on a baking sheet and bake on the center rack of a preheated oven at 450˚F for 25 minutes for frozen or 15 minutes for thawed crab legs. They are ready when steaming as you open the foil pack.

Pro Tips for Success:

  • Avoid Boiling: We don’t love the boiled crab method because you end up with a watery mess when you crack the legs open and boiling in water tends to dilute the crab meat flavor.
  • Cook Until Steaming and Fragrant: In every method, the crab legs are done when they are uniformly steaming and fragrant. If you don’t see hot steam coming off of them, you haven’t cooked them long enough.
  • Use a Crab Cracker or a nutcracker. The shells can be tough and sharp, especially at the claw. You can also use good kitchen shears if you don’t have a crab cracker.
  • Serve Hot or Cold: the juicy meat is just as tasty cold or hot so don’t worry about serving them still hot.

Cooked crab legs on blue platter served with dipping sauce

How to Buy Crab Legs:

All crab will come either precooked (sold frozen or thawed from frozen), or live. Since most crab is sold pre-cooked and frozen, you can stock up when it goes on sale (it often does around Valentine’s Day) and keep frozen for later). I love to buy them frozen and thaw when I need them for maximum freshness. Thawed crabs should be refrigerated and consumed within 1-2 days.

  • Snow Crab Legs ($10-$15 /lb) is what we used to make this recipe. Tip: Buy legs attached together as a cluster. The cluster is filled with meat.
  • Dungeness Crabs ($8-$12 /lb) will work just as well. Tip: Ask the fish department in your grocery store to help with cleaning/removing the shell to make your life easier).
  • King Crab legs ($25+ per pound) are significantly more expensive but very meaty and a real treat.

Snow crab legs on platter

Seafood Recipes for Special Occasions:

  • Broiled Lobster Tails – succulent with butter sauce
  • Shrimp Scampi – easy and excellent
  • Salmon Cakes with Homemade Tartar Sauce
  • Teriyaki Salmon with Amazing Glaze
  • Creamy Shrimp Pasta – Restaurant Copycat

Watch the Crab Legs Video Tutorial:

Let me know which was your favorite method for cooking crab legs in a comment below. If you enjoyed this video, please subscribe to our Youtube Channel and make sure to click the bell icon so you can be the first to know when we post a new video.

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