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How to Cook Frozen Crab Legs

Sweet tender and perfectly cooked! You need to know how to cook frozen crab legs for the perfect dinner!

crabs legs on gray background

How to Steam Frozen Crab Legs

If you look around the seafood section of the grocery for any length of time, you’ll find that many of the crab legs are frozen or have been frozen before being placed on ice at the seafood counter.

That’s no problem and it won’t affect the flavor if you follow my simple recipe. I’ll show you how to cook perfect crab legs every single time, even if you have been asking, “How do I steam crab legs without a steamer?”.

The first step is to thaw the crab legs. The best news is that it only takes a few minutes.

How Many Crab Legs Per Person?

When serving crab legs, you can plan on about 1 lb of crab legs per person unless you are also serving another main course like steak (surf and turf) or crab cakes.

What Goes With Crab Legs?

At our house, crab legs go down FAST! My family always enjoys ANY kind of potato, corn on the cob, coleslaw and cornbread.

crab legs on a plate

First, Thaw the Crab Legs (15-20 Minutes)

Place the crab legs in a large bowl or stock pot and cover with cool tap water or simply run under cool water for about 15 minutes.

If you prefer, you can move the crab legs from the freezer to the refrigerator the day before you plan to use them and they should be sufficiently thawed by the time you plan to use them.

If you do not thaw the crab legs first, they will cook unevenly and give you strange textures and flavors when eating.

How Do I Know When the Crab Legs are Thawed?

You’ll know the legs are thawed when the joints operate freely. This doesn’t take long and you’ll want to remove the legs as soon as you note that they are moving freely.

Here’s The Equipment You’ll Need

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  • A stockpot – large enough to provide steam for the crab legs you want to cook.
  • Steamer or Colander that you can set on top of the stockpot – check this before starting to make sure that it fits and won’t fall into the water.
  • Tongs – to remove the crab legs and to move them around during cooking so you don’t burn yourself.
  • Lid for the steamer/colander – This helps to capture the steam and keep it circulating around the crab legs.

Here’s the Ingredients You’ll Need

ingredients list

For the Crab Legs

  • Crab Legs – Allow 1 lb per person if this is the only “main dish”. You can cut that in half if you are offering some other main dish like crab cakes, salmon or steak.
  • Old Bay Seasoning – At least 2 oz (the entire smaller canister)
  • Lemon Slices – to squeeze over the crab legs at the table!

For the Butter Dipping Sauce

  • Butter – Unsalted whole butter (go ahead, splurge on the real thing)
  • Garlic – Use fresh garlic cloves and not garlic powder
  • Salt and Seasonings – to add flavor to the butter. We prefer fresh thyme, but parsley works too.

Here’s How You Do It

step by step photos
  1. Thaw the legs until joints move freely.
  2. Steam over a large stock pot of water seasoned with Old Bay for 9 minutes.
  3. Remove from steam and serve immediately.

Tips and Tricks

  • Buy the freshest crab legs you can. Often you’ll find that the freshest ones in your area (especially if you aren’t near an ocean) are frozen.
  • You’ll sometimes see ice clinging to the crab legs in the frozen bag. Look at the color of the crab legs and as long as they don’t look pale, you should be fine.
  • Keep the crab legs frozen until you are within 24 hours of wanting to cook them and then thaw them by one of the methods described above.
  • Season the water generously (and more than seems reasonable) with the old bay. Remember that the flavor is leaving via steam and it will require more than feels prudent.
  • It probably goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway, the crab legs will be HOT. The lid is HOT. The Stock pot is HOT. Everything is VERY HOT by the time the legs are done cooking. So, use pot holders and tongs. Don’t try to remove the crab legs with your bare hands.
  • You’ll only need enough water in the bottom of the stock pot to steam the crab legs. You don’t need an entire pot full of water. A few inches should do it.
  • Make sure that the water level in the stock pot does not touch your steamer basket (or colander), we aren’t boiling the crab legs, we are steaming them.
  • Set a timer and you’ll want to steam them for 8 minutes or until thoroughly heated through. It’s a given that it will take you a bit to get them all collected from the basket and that steam will still be raising while you are removing them.

PRO TIP: Make a delicious dipping butter to go with the crab legs while you are steaming them. Add minced garlic and a bit of salt to a few tablespoons of butter and melt in a small saucepan on the stovetop.

Watch How to Steam Frozen Crab Legs

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crab legs on a table

How to Cook Frozen Crab Legs

Sweet tender and perfectly cooked! You need to know how to cook frozen crab legs for the perfect dinner!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: main
Cuisine: American
Keyword: how to cook frozen crab legs
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 28 minutes
Servings: 2 servings
Calories: 388kcal
Author: Wendi Spraker

Ingredients

For the Crab Legs

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 oz Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 lbs crab legs
  • 1 whole lemon cut into slices

For the Butter Dipping Sauce

  • 4 Tbs Butter unsalted
  • 2 Cloves garlic minced
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 sprig thyme optional

Instructions

For the Crab Legs

  • Soak the frozen crab legs in enough cool water to cover them in a large bowl or stock pot until the joints are loose and move back and forth freely (about 20 minutes).
  • Pour the water off of the crab legs and move the crab legs to the steamer basket or the colander (whichever you are using).
  • Heat 4 cups of water on the stove over high heat until the water is boiling well. Make sure the steamer basket does not touch the water. Pour the Old Bay Seasoning into the water and allow to boil for about 1 minute.
  • Place the crab legs in the steamer basket over the top of the boiling pan of water and Old Bay. Place the lid on the top of the steamer and set your timer for 8 minutes. Allow to steam.
  • After 8 minutes, remove the crab legs to a warmed platter and serve immediately with the butter dip and lemon slices. Squeeze the lemon juice over the crab as ready to eat.

For the Butter Dip

  • Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over low heat on the stove top, add the garlic, salt and thyme and turn the heat off. Allow to sit while the crab legs are steaming.
  • When crab legs are done steaming, you can strain the butter or just leave the garlic and thyme in the butter for dipping. Either way is acceptable and tasty!

Notes

  • Buy the freshest crab legs you can. Often you’ll find that the freshest ones in your area (especially if you aren’t near an ocean) are frozen.
  • You’ll sometimes see ice clinging to the crab legs in the frozen bag. Look at the color of the crab legs and as long as they don’t look pale, you should be fine.
  • Keep the crab legs frozen until you are within 24 hours of wanting to cook them and then thaw them by one of the methods described above.
  • Season the water generously (and more than seems reasonable) with the old bay. Remember that the flavor is leaving via steam and it will require more than feels prudent.
  • It probably goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway, the crab legs will be HOT. The lid is HOT. The Stock pot is HOT. Everything is VERY HOT by the time the legs are done cooking. So, use pot holders and tongs. Don’t try to remove the crab legs with your bare hands.
  • You’ll only need enough water in the bottom of the stock pot to steam the crab legs. You don’t need an entire pot full of water. A few inches should do it.
  • Make sure that the water level in the stock pot does not touch your steamer basket (or colander), we aren’t boiling the crab legs, we are steaming them.
  • Set a timer and you’ll want to steam them for 8 minutes or until thoroughly heated through. It’s a given that it will take you a bit to get them all collected from the basket and that steam will still be raising while you are removing them.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
How to Cook Frozen Crab Legs
Amount Per Serving (1 lb)
Calories 388 Calories from Fat 234
% Daily Value*
Fat 26g40%
Saturated Fat 15g75%
Trans Fat 1g
Cholesterol 108mg36%
Sodium 1199mg50%
Potassium 447mg13%
Carbohydrates 20g7%
Fiber 3g12%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 24g48%
Vitamin A 1497IU30%
Vitamin C 13mg16%
Calcium 363mg36%
Iron 11mg61%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Wendi J Spraker

Tuesday 11th of May 2021

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