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Here's how to make king crab legs tender and juicy for a delicious holiday seafood dinner or special occasion meal. Select your favorite method to cook Alaskan king crab: steamed, baked, grilled, or pressure cooked.
Why you'll love this recipe
King crab legs, also called Alaskan king crab legs, are a seasonal delicacy for any seafood lover. Who can resist rich, delicate chunks of delicious crab meat dunked in golden, garlicky butter sauce? I certainly can't.
Alaskan crab legs are sold in a grocer's seafood section and aren't typically sold 'raw'. They're fully cooked and frozen or thawed, which means they can be enjoyed immediately or warmed using various methods. So, you don't cook crab legs – you reheat them, which also means they're very easy to overcook.
We want to prevent that, so I'm sharing 4 different methods to cook or reheat crab legs to perfection: steamed, grilled, baked, or pressure cooked.
- Alaskan king crab legs - Available at many grocery stores during king crab season between October and January. Costco king crab legs appear to be available most of the year.
- garlic butter sauce - Butter is warmed with minced garlic which infuses the flavors to create a delicious dunking sauce for crab legs.
- lemon - Cut into wedges and serve with crab to add a bright, citrusy flavor.
- parsley - This optional garnish adds a pop of color and fresh flavor.
How to cook king crab legs
As I mentioned, king crab legs are fully cooked and you can serve them chilled or reheated using the method that suits you. The recipe prep is under 5 minutes and cook times are around 5 minutes with the exception of baked crab legs. I've listed details for each method: steamed, grilled, baked, and pressure cooked as follows.
How long to steam king crab legs
Steaming Alaskan crab legs is easy, accessible, and done on a stovetop.
Instructions: Stack crab legs on a trivet in a large soup pot with 1 cup of water. Bring water to a boil over high heat on the stove. Cover and steam crab legs until warmed through. Serve warm.
Grilled king crab legs
Grilling crab legs allows you to cook crab outdoors, which is especially useful during holidays in a bustling kitchen. Although you might need a winter coat fo the job.
Instructions: Preheat the grill to medium-high. Brush or spritz the crab legs with olive oil. Place crab legs in the center and turn off the center burner. Place butter and garlic in a grill-safe mini skillet next to the crab legs. Close the grill lid and cook for about 5 minutes, or until warmed through. Serve warm.
How to bake king crab legs
This method takes about 20 minutes, which is the longest of the four cooking methods. However, the hands-free baking time can be used to make sides or salads for the crab legs.
Instructions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place crab legs on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Place butter and garlic in a heat-safe mini skillet next to the crab legs. Bake for 20 minutes or until crab legs are heated through. Alternatively, you can broil king crab legs that are set at least 6 inches from a HIGH broiler flame for 5-8 minutes until warmed through.
Instant Pot crab legs
Using a pressure cooker is a great way to steam crab legs in an enclosed environment. This is really handy when the stove isn't available.
Instructions: Stack king crab legs on a trivet in the Instant Pot. Add 1 cup of water to the 3 to 6-quart model or add 2 cups to the 8 to 10-quart model. Turn the pressure release valve to "Sealing" and pressure cook for 0 minutes (that's zero minutes) on LOW pressure followed by a 5-minute natural pressure release. Turn the pressure release valve to "Venting" which will release any remaining steam. Serve warm.
How to serve colossal crab legs
Transfer crab legs to a serving platter garnished with warm garlic butter dipping sauce, lemon wedges, and fresh parsley. Even better if you set them next to a juicy New York strip steak and your favorite beverage.
Do you need serving tools? They're handy, but not a requirement. In fact, I recommend kitchen shears because they cut right through the shell and allow you to remove the luscious, colossal king crab in one piece with minimal effort. Then you get to dunk, devour, and repeat.
How to cook frozen king crab legs
Use any of the 4 cooking methods mentioned above to cook crab legs from frozen. Plan to add a few more minutes to the total cook time for any method until crab legs are thoroughly warmed in the thickest part.
How to season crab legs
King crab is naturally savory with a hint of sweetness. Lemon wedges and garlic butter sauce will enhance these flavors nicely. A classic seafood seasoning such as Old Bay or Cajun seasoning can also be used to flavor the garlic butter or cooking water for steam or Instant Pot methods.
Frequently asked questions
The peak season for Alaskan king crab fishing is October through January. However, certain stores like Costco, can have legs available for purchase all year.
1 pound of legs yields about ½ pound of crab meat once shells are removed. I recommend serving ½ to 1 pound of legs per person as an entree.
When you buy frozen king crab legs, you can store them in the freezer up to 3 months (or longer if vacuum sealed). If you buy them thawed, you'll want to enjoy (or freeze) them before the use-by date.
King Crab Legs Recipe (4 methods)
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- 1.5 pounds King Crab Legs and Claws
- 1 cup Water
- ¼ cup Unsalted Butter or Ghee
- 2 cloves Garlic minced
- Parsley for garnish
For the garlic butter
- Place butter and garlic in a mini skillet or microwave-safe bowl. If using stove or grill to cook crab legs, place skillet alongside legs and heat until butter melts.Microwave instructions: Combine the butter and garlic in a heat-safe bowl or microwave on HIGH for 1 minute, or until butter is melted.
Steamed king crab legs
- Place a trivet in the bottom of a large soup pot, stack CRAB LEGS on the trivet, and pour in 1 cup WATER.
- Turn stove burner to medium-high, cover the pot, and steam crab legs about 5 minutes, or until warmed through.
Instant Pot King Crab Legs
- Place a trivet in the bottom of the Instant Pot, stack CRAB LEGS on the trivet, and pour in 1 cup WATER.
- Secure lid and turn pressure release valve to "Sealing".
- Select MANUAL or PRESSURE COOK and cook 0 minutes on LOW pressure (1 minute for frozen crab legs), followed by a 5 minute natural pressure release.*Note: there's no need to pressure cook crab legs any longer than this if you bought them pre-cooked, which is usually how they're sold.
Baked King Crab Legs
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place crab legs on a baking sheet and brush with OLIVE OIL. Set garlic butter skillet on the same baking sheet.
- Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until crab leg meat is warmed through.
Grilled King Crab Legs
- Preheat grill to MEDIUM-HIGH or 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Brush or spritz CRAB LEGS with olive oil, place on the grill next to skillet of garlic butter, and turn off center burner.
- Close the lid and grill the crab until warmed through (5-8 minutes).
Serving and storage
- Serve king crab legs warm with melted GARLIC BUTTER, garnished with LEMON and PARSLEY. Serve with kitchen sheers for opening.
- Allow crab legs to cool completely and refrigerate in an airtight container up to 5 days.
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