How to cook crab legs. Including defrosting, steaming, boiling and baking.
Crab legs are sometimes the meatiest part of the crab, depending on the species and they are definitely the most fun part of the crab to eat.
Surprisingly for some, crab legs are not difficult to prepare and can be done in a matter of minutes.
Whereas the meat inside the crab's shell is usually rich and brown in colour, the meat contained in crab legs is snow white in colour, extremely flavoursome and tender and succulent when cooked. For many, the delicately sweet white crab leg meat is the best.
In Europe spider crabs are popular, as they have long legs, which contain lots of sweet flavoured succulent meat.
In the US and Canada, however, no crab can beat the Alaskan king crab for the length of their legs and the amount of meat within them.
When you buy crab legs from the market, they are almost always sold already cooked and then frozen, so cooking them is just a matter of reheating.
The crab legs are cooked on board the fishing boats as soon as they have been caught and then immediately flash frozen afterwards. This ensures the freshness and the flavour of the meat.
If you are planning on buying crab legs, try not to buy ones that have been thawed, as they will tend to lose their taste and freshness upon thawing. Always try to buy frozen crab legs or pre-cooked and frozen crab legs.
For one person you should buy between 8oz and 1 lb (225 - 450 g) of crab legs.
Thawed crab legs can be maintained in the fridge for two days before they go bad, but they should really be cooked as soon as they have been defrosted if possible.
To defrost frozen crab legs, place them in the refrigerator for about 8 hours. If you place them on a rack in a watertight container, they can drain as they are defrosting.
Pre-cooked frozen crab legs can be cooked or reheated in a number of ways, even in the microwave.
To steam crab legs
- Pour 2 cups of water in a steamer or a large pot, add 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to the boil.
- Add the crab legs, placing them onto a rack in the bottom of the pan or into the steaming basket.
- As the water starts to boil again, begin timing.
- Steam the crab legs for between 5 - 7 minutes, until you can begin to smell their aroma and until they are warm. Take care not to overcook the legs as they have already been cooked once.
- Remove from the heat and serve hot with melted butter and lemon wedges.
To boil crab legs
- Half fill a large saucepan with cold water and add a tablespoon of sea salt and seasoning if you wish.
- Bring the water to the boil and then drop the crab legs in.
- Reduce the heat slightly and allow the crab legs to simmer and heat up for 5 - 7 minutes.
- Remove from the water and rinse the crab legs. Serve hot.
To bake crab legs
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Crack the whole crab legs and place them on a baking tray.
- Brush the crab legs with butter or oil, seasoning and lemon juice and bake in the oven for 8 - 9 minutes.
To microwave crab legs
- Wrap the crab legs in a damp paper towel and cook on high for 2 - 3 minutes.
- Serve hot with butter, cocktail sauce or lemon wedges.
Although the majority of crab legs will be sold already cooked and then frozen, if you do happen to prepare crab legs that haven't been cooked, follow the instructions for boiling crab legs, but boil for 15 - 20 minutes instead.
After the crab legs have been cooked using your preferred method, the only thing left is to tuck in and enjoy eating them.
Some people use nutcrackers to break the shell in order to get to the delicious meat, otherwise hammers, pliers, knives or simply forks can also be employed.