Crab legs is commonly prepared boiled or steamed. But did you know you can also bake crab legs.
Learn how to cook crab legs in the oven. It is simple, easy and as good as what you would have in a restaurant plus you get bigger portions and servings for your money.
It is quickly heated to keep it’s fresh, tender texture and sweet taste. Crab legs can be served as an appetizer, a meal on it’s own or a combo entrée with steak or other seafood.
Crab legs is often served with lemon and butter but have you tried it with fresh garlic. It is savory and delicious as well.
The combination of lemon, butter and fresh garlic enhances the flavor of seafood. If you love these ingredients and all other seafood, try my Garlic Butter Dungeness Crab recipe or Garlic Butter Shrimp recipe or Broiled Lobster Tail recipe or Pan-Seared Garlic Scallops recipe or Roasted Garlic Crab and Garlic Noodle recipe. They are all easy to make and delicious.
If you haven’t tried cooking crab legs at home, you’ll be surprise how quick and easy it is. They might look complicated to prepare but it’s not.
Are crab legs already cooked when you buy it from the store
Crab legs sold in the store are already pre-cooked and flash frozen to preserve freshness. Basically, all you need to do is to heat them which is very easy to do.
You can check your local grocer if they carry it. If you have Costco or Sam’s Club in your area, they have premium king crab legs.
You can get 2 to 3 large pieces in a bag at Costco or Sams or a 10 pound box for $280 ($27.99/pound) at Costco. For 3 pieces in a bag, it is $28.99/pound for a total of $67.00. It is pricey but it is much cheaper and larger than having it in a restaurant.
Depending on your budget or space in your freezer, it is convenient that we are able to get a handful instead of a box.
Costco used to have a seafood stand on the weekends with promotional discounts. You can buy as little or as much pieces you desire. But during this time, I’m not sure if they are still doing it. I’ve been going on weekdays to avoid the crowd.
Ways to cook crab legs
After thawing, you can eat it as is but I prefer warming before serving. In my opinion, warming omits the fishy smell.
Note: If you want less step, no need to thaw when steaming, boiling, baking or grilling. Personally when baking, I prefer thawing it overnight in the fridge.
These methods work for snow crab legs as well but you have to adjust the cooking time accordingly. They are smaller with thinner shells.
(1) Steam – Steaming is a common way and the best method of warming crab legs. A big steamer or a big pot with a basket is needed if you like to steam whole crab legs otherwise you have to cut it with kitchen shears at the joints to fit.
Fill the steamer or pot with 3 to 4 cups of water. Add 1 tablespoon salt if you like, I don’t. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium then add crab legs and cover pot with lid.
Warm for about 6 to 10 minutes or until heated through depending on how thick the shells are.
Steaming is best if you like to serve with butter and lemon wedges on the side.
Note: An easier way to steam is using a big tray which I learned from my brother.
Use the biggest tray you have, fill with less than half full of water, then place a rack and add frozen crab legs on top. Cover tray with foil and set heat to low for about 20 - 30 minutes or until heated through. This will occupy 2 burners.
For more detailed instructions, check out how to steam crab legs using a tray.
(2) Bake – Baking is another easy way of preparing crab legs. I have instructions in the recipe card below.
(3) Boil – Boiling is also a common way of warming but I don’t use this method. It is submerged in water so it looses some of it’s flavor plus you get some water even if drained before serving.
Fill a large pot with half full water, with 1 tablespoon salt or without (I don’t) or any seasoning of your choice and bring to a boil. Once it starts boiling, reduce heat to medium and add the king crab legs. Simmer for about 5 to 6 minutes.
Use a tong to transfer crab legs to a colander to drain.
(4) Grill – I seldom do this technique unless I have other stuff to grill. This is very similar to steaming on a tray. Use a large disposable aluminum pan with a rack inside, pour some water and place crab legs on top of rack. Cover pan with foil or cover grill with lid.
Don’t place pan under direct heat. Grill for 5 to 8 minutes until heated all the way through. Use a tong to remove it.
Another way to do it is brushing the crab leg shell with olive oil to prevent from sticking on the grill.
If using charcoal, place under indirect heat for 3 to 4 minutes then flip to the other side for another 3 to 4 minutes until heated through. Make sure grill is covered with lid.
If using gas grill at 300 degrees with lid down, add crab legs under indirect heat for 4 to 5 minutes each side.
Tips to make this recipe
(1) Thaw crab legs overnight in the fridge. It will have less water dripping in your garlic butter sauce plus the shell is crunchier, so it is easier to cut or break with your fingers.
(2) Fresh garlic can be overpowering to some people, so use less or substitute with 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder.
(3) Crush garlic finely. If you have a mortar and pestle, use it.
(4) Cut open the crab leg shell with kitchen shears on one side and pour the garlic butter mixture inside the meat. It is absolutely delicious instead of just pouring over the shell.
(5) Don’t over cook. As with any seafood, you like to keep it tender and retain it’s sweet flavor.
King Crab Legs in Garlic Butter
- 2 ½ to 3 pounds King crab legs thawed
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 4 to 6 cloves garlic finely crush
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- ½ lemon , juice
- ½ lime , juice (may omit and use the whole lemon)
- salt to taste optional
- Prepare crab legs - Thaw King crab legs overnight in the fridge. Cut one side of crab leg shell and pull shell with your fingers to have a litte opening.
- Place crab legs in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. You can add lemon wedges around if you like (not included in recipe ingredients).
- Put back in refrigerator.
- Prepare garlic butter sauce – In a small sauce pan, melt butter over medium to low heat. When melted, pour olive oil and add garlic. Saute for about 2 minutes. Add lemon and lime juice and dried parsley. Stir to combine and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Turn off heat.
- Bake crab legs – Preheat oven at 375 degrees F.
- Take crab legs from fridge and pour garlic butter mixture inside the crab legs, making sure you spoon some garlic too. You can sprinkle some dried parsley if you like and some salt, if desired. Note: You can save ¼ of sauce for dipping but you will also have enough at the bottom of pan after baking.
- Place crab legs in the middle rack and bake for 25 minutes. Do not over cook.
- Serve on the same pan or transfer to a serving platter. Make sure to use the extra garlic butter on pan as dipping sauce as it is delicious.
- If not a big fan of fresh garlic, use less or substitute with 1 ½ teaspoons of garlic powder.
- After baking for 12 minutes, you can baste crab legs with garlic butter sauce from the bottom of pan. I didn’t, since I have enough sauce inside the meat.
- You can bake frozen crab legs but you need to add 10 to 12 more minutes of baking time. Make sure to check once in a while that it is not burning. Don’t ruin this pricey seafood. Keep it moist and tender to retain it’s sweet flavor.
- Any leftover, which I doubt, can be wrapped in foil so it doesn’t dry out and refrigerate. Store only for another day and consume. Warm in the oven at 300F for 15 to 20 minutes covered in foil. If you have extra sauce pour some inside the meat to keep it moist or warm in the microwave for about 12 to 15 minutes. Enjoy!