How to Cook Crab Legs Easy Step By Step Guide

The delicious, sweet taste of succulent crab legs is often associated with a night on the town, a decadent meal served up in one of your favorite restaurants, but what most people don't realize is that learning how to cook crab legs at home is relatively easy. In fact, most of the crab legs sold in the United States are frozen. This means that the crab legs are cooked and then immediately frozen before they are packaged and shipped out to stores across the country. Keeping this in mind, learning how to cook crab legs is as simple as learning how to correctly heat them. 

If you're lucky enough to live in an area that gives to access to fresh crab legs, then the first step in learning how to cook crab legs is learning how to select the right crab legs for you. There are a few things to watch for when selecting the correct ones.  

The first thing you should look for are legs with joints that are moveable. Legs with stiff joints will make it harder for you to extract the crab meat after it has been cooked.  

Check the smell. Crab legs, while seafood, should not have a strong 'fishy' smell. If they do, they could be older legs and should be passed upon. 

Lastly, be certain that your fresh crab legs really are fresh and not previously frozen and thawed. This process can firm up the meat making it lose it's freshness. If you are choosing frozen crab legs, be certain that they are fully cooked and still frozen upon purchase. 

As easy as it is to select the correct type of crab leg, you'll be happy to know that learning how to cook crab legs is even easier! 

We will be showing you how to cook crab legs of the frozen variety, if you do have access to fresh crab legs, please increase the cook time in each step by an additional 10 – 15 minutes. See more on Cooking Methods for Frozen Crab. Only increase the timing if the crab legs are indeed fresh and raw, the times below stand if the crab legs have been cooked, frozen and then thawed. 

Once your legs are purchased there are a few different ways you can prepare your crab legs. You can even pop them in your microwave! 

How To Cook Crab Legs by Steaming: 

Step 1: Pour two cups of water into a steamer or large pot. Bring to a boil. You can add seasonings such as salt or Old Bay to the water if you like. 

Step 2: Place a rack in the bottom of the pan and set the crab legs onto it.  

Step 3: Wait for the water to begin to boil again. Begin timing. 

Step 4: Steam the crab legs for 5-7 minutes or until you begin to smell them. If you are using frozen crab legs, remember that these are already cooked, so you want to take care not to over cook them. If you are using fresh crab legs, adjust the time to 15-20 minutes. 

How To Cook Crab Legs by Boiling: 

Step 1: Half fill a large pan with water and add a tablespoon of salt. You can also add seasonings of your choice to taste. 

Step 2: Bring the water to a boil and carefully drop the crab legs in.  

Step 3: Reduce the heat slightly and simmer the crab legs for about 5-7 minutes. Again, keep in mind that frozen legs are already cooked and you do not want to over cook them. If they are fresh crab legs, the time should be adjusted to 15-20 minutes. 

Step 4: Once cooked, remove the crab legs from the water and rinse them. 

How To Cook Crab Legs on the Grill

Step 1: Heat your grill 

Step 2: Brush both sides of crab legs with oil. 

Step 3: Place on hit grill 5 to 6 inches away from coals 

Step 4: Cook for 4 – 5 minutes, turning once. If they are fresh crab legs, heat for 14 – 18 minutes turning twice while cooking. 

How To Cook Crab Legs in the Oven: 

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Step 2: While oven is preheating, fill shallow baking pan 1/8 of an inch with hot water. Add in two tablespoons butter, one tablespoon lemon juice and two teaspoons of seasoning salt or Old Bay spice into the water and stir. 

Step 3: Place the crab legs in one layer on the bottom of the pan and cover with aluminum foil. 

Step 4: Bake in the preheated oven for 8 – 10 minutes.  

How To Cook Crab Legs by Microwave: 

Step 1: Wrap the crab legs in damp paper towels. 

Step 2: Cook on High setting for 2 – 3 minutes. 

After choosing the correct method and learning how to cook crab legs, all that's left is to tuck in and enjoy!  

You can pair them with either hot melted butter or lemon wedges for added flavor. Some people enjoy their crab legs with cocktail sauce or even thinned down guacamole. 

People use nutcrackers, forks, knives and even small hammers in order to crack open their crab legs.


It can be helpful to cover your dining surface with either a disposable plastic table cloth or newspapers as cracking open the crab legs can be a messy business. 

 how to cook crab legs


Cook Crab

Cook Crab