How To Cook Crab Legs

There's no way around it — crab legs are a luxurious food. But you don't need to go to a fancy brunch buffet or high-end seafood restaurant to enjoy this sweet, tender shellfish. You can cook crab legs at home with ease for a romantic evening in. (Or you can cook them just because.)

Seafood Recipes to Satisfy Pescatarians and Meat Eaters Alike

There are numerous types of crab legs to cook at home — king crab, snow crab and stone crab, to name a few — and the technique for cooking them is the same regardless of the type you purchase.

How many crab legs to buy per person

How many crab legs to buy per person will depend on diners' appetites. One pound of crab legs will yield 8 to 12 ounces of meat, depending on the type of crab. If you're serving crab legs alongside steak for a little surf and turf or on an opulent brunch buffet, you can count on about 1/2 a pound per person.

If you're serving crab legs as an entree, go for about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds or more per person. Worst case scenario, you'll have leftover crab that you can use for crab cakes, cream of crab soup, crab rangoon or crab dip.

How to defrost frozen crab legs

Crab legs often come frozen and the best way to thaw them is similar to defrosting other shellfish and meats. Put the crab legs in the refrigerator overnight or for at least eight hours. Thawed crab legs will keep in the fridge for two to three days.

If you don't have time to defrost the crab legs in the fridge, run them under cold water for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

How to cook crab legs

There are many ways to cook crab legs, but steaming them is the most popular method and is also among the easiest (see recipe below). To steam crab legs, put a steamer basket in a large pot and add water to the pot until it's just below the steamer basket. Add the crab legs to the pot and bring to a boil. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

What to serve with crab legs

Crab legs are a decadent food and should be the star of your meal at home. If crab legs are your entree, keep your side dishes simple. Some go-to side dishes include a simple baked potato with crispy skin and an arugula salad with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

Other things that go great with crab legs include corn on the cob, roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes or even no-cook side dishes for summer barbecues and weeknight dinners.

Steamed Crab Legs


  • 3 pounds crab legs

  • 1/4 cup butter

  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley


Step 1: If frozen, thaw crab legs in a cold water bath.

Step 2: Put a steamer basket in a large pot. Add water to the pot until it's just below the steamer basket.

Step 3: Add 3 pounds of crab legs to the pot and bring to a boil. Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until thoroughly heated.

Step 4: Meanwhile, prepare the butter. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a small pot on the stove. Stir in 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, if desired.

Step 5: Remove crab legs from the pot. To crack the crab legs, twist the legs at the joint. Typically, you'll be able to pull the meat out of the shell with ease. If not, use kitchen shears to cut through the shell and pull the shell apart. Use a seafood fork to remove any hard-to-reach pieces of meat.