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How to Cook Crab Legs to Perfection

Crab Legs

What do you picture when you picture luxury dining? Champagne? An elaborate presentation worthy of an art museum? Or maybe just the richness of a great ingredient allowed to shine through?

We've got good news: once you know how to cook crab legs, you don't need to shell out for a fancy restaurant (see what we did there?)

The trick is knowing how to work with this little critter. It's not quite as self-evident as beef or chicken, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be cooking crab legs with the best of them. Here are a few simple but effective ways to cook crab legs to perfection every single time.

Types of Crab Legs

There are hundreds of edible crab species around the world, but if you're shopping in the U.S., you'll generally see seven popular species:

  1. Blue crab
  2. Dungeness crab
  3. Horseshoe crab
  4. King crab
  5. Peekytoe crab/rock crab
  6. Snow crab
  7. Stone crab

The most popular species is king crab, which isn't actually a crab at all but a related species which adopted crab-like features to protect itself.

In Maine, we have two species: peekytoe and Jonah crab. Personally, we're big fans of peekytoe, because it's everything you want from crab meat--sweet, salty, juicy, and delicate, with a firmness that's both silky and delicate on the tongue. It's softer than lobster, which has more of a succulent flavor, making it the perfect choice for recipes with a light touch.

How to Cook Crab Legs Four Ways

That said, while these little crustaceans yield sweet meat, they don't give it up easily. That shell evolved for protection, and you have to get past it to get the goods. And unlike a chicken, which you can strip of its meat before cooking, the easiest way to free crab meat from the shell is by cooking.

Plus, much like lobsters, the best-tasting crabs are the ones you cook yourself.

Ultimately, the way you cook crabs is only limited by your imagination--you can even do fried crab legs (we know seafood is healthy, but sometimes the soul needs fried things). Here, we're sticking to the three simplest ways to cook crab legs.

Boiled Crab Legs

The most popular cooking technique for all crab varieties is boiling. This is the easiest method and preserves the most crab flavor.

To do it, bring a large pot of water to boil with lots of salt. No, really--lots of salt. It should taste as salty as a mouthful of seawater. Some people add white wine, beer, or Old Bay, but the choice is yours. Just bring your salty water to a boil and add your crabs.

When you add the crabs, add them quickly all at once--you want them to cook for the same amount of time. Bring the pot of water to a boil and cook them until the crabs float. This should happen in about 10 to 15 minutes. Once they float, use a set of tongs to remove them from the water and let them sit until they're cool enough to handle.

After that, time to start cracking.

Baked Crab Legs

Of course, there are two risks with boiling: waterlogged crab and lost juices. One way to sidestep this (especially if you're working with frozen crab legs) is by baking them.

To do this, bring your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you're working with frozen crabs, thaw them in advance until they reach room temperature. If you're working with live crabs, precook them in a pot of boiling water until they're dead (trust us, you don't want your oven to look like a horror movie). Precooking live crabs should take between 30 seconds to a couple of minutes, depending on their size.

Once the no-longer-live crabs are cool enough to handle, separate the legs and place them on a baking dish. Pour 1/8 inch of hot water into the bottom of the dish, or you can use white wine or fish stock. Season to your liking (Old Bay, anyone?) After that, cover the dish with foil and bake for eight to ten minutes.

Grilled Crab Legs

Nothing says summertime like grilling, and grilling crabs adds a certain fire-rich flavor that you can't find with any other method. This method requires more work than the others--you have to boil or steam them until they're halfway cooked.

Please note that this process is for hard-shell crabs. Grilling soft-shell crabs is a whole different ballgame (and a labor-intensive one at that).

To grill hard-shell crabs, boil or steam them just like in the instructions above, but remove them after five minutes, let them cool, and clean them. Toss them with some olive oil, rosemary, and thyme (or just plain olive oil, it's up to you).

Then, all you have to do is set them on a hot grill until they're browned and cooked through, which should take about four minutes per side.

Let's Start Cooking Crab Legs with the Best Crab Meat on the Market

Figuring out how to cook crab legs is the easy part. The hard part is waiting to eat them.

Oh, and when you order from us, you don't need to scramble to find great seafood for the whole family to enjoy. You don't need to settle for lackluster frozen seafood either. You just get a great taste, every single time.

Ready for seafood the whole family will love? Head to our shop for all the best options, from fresh shellfish to fresh fish to fresh lobster.

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