How to Prepare Crab Legs: Snow Crab Clusters

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Learn how to prepare crab legs at home by boiling, steaming or oven-roasting them. With precooked crab legs, you will impress any dinner guest with very little effort.

Do you know how to prepare snow crab legs? For boiled crab, it’s as simple as defrosting the crab legs, warming them in salted water for 5 minutes, seasoning and digging in!

While crab legs look dramatic and impressive on a dinner plate, with their long, spindly shape and bright orange color, you’ll be surprised by how simple they are to prepare.

What’s the Best Way to Prepare Crab Legs?

The most popular ways to cook crab legs at home include:

  • Boiling on the stove
  • Steaming on the stove
  • Roasting in the oven

Whichever method you choose, the process to prepare frozen or fresh crab legs is quick and easy.

If this is your first time making crab legs at home, one of the stovetop methods may be better. That way, you can have a visual of your crab as it cooks.

What kind of crab leg should I buy?

The most common kinds of crab legs you’ll find at the store are snow crab legs and king crab legs. When buying crab, this choice comes down to personal preference. If this is your first time buying crab legs, you should go with the snow crab legs–they are cheaper and taste great! Snow crab legs are sold in a bunch. They’re smaller than king crab legs, which are sold one at a time and are more of a delicacy.

You might be wondering whether you should buy frozen legs or not. In most places, crab is only sold alive (and whole, not legs!) or precooked. Most of these crab legs have already been frozen, so it’s best to buy frozen than thawed legs. There’s no way of knowing how many times your thawed legs were frozen, thawed, then refrozen. all of this freezing and thawing can damage the texture and flavor of your crab. When it comes to legs, you should get the frozen kind.

Today, we’re covering how to prepare frozen snow crab legs on the stove, the perfect recipe for beginners.

How Many Crab Legs Per Person

If you’re serving crab as an entree, plan to see 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of crab legs per adult. If crab is only part of your meal with other side dishes, 1/2 to 1 pound of legs should be sufficient. On average, a cluster of snow crab legs weighs between 1/2 and 1 pounds.

How to Prepare Frozen Snow Crab Legs

Let’s get into the recipe for how to cook snow crab on the stove.


All you need to make the most basic preparation of crab legs at home are two ingredients:

  • 2 clusters of snow crab legs
  • Salt

Prepping the crab legs

Step 1: Defrost the crab legs

The very first thing you have to do is get the crab legs ready. If you have the time, take them from the freezer and into the refrigerator. Let them defrost there overnight.

If you don’t have the time – or perhaps don’t want to wait – you can do it quicker: grab a colander, place the crab legs there, and put everything under running water. This will quickly thaw the crab legs.

Boiling crab legs

Step 1: Boil a pot of water

Start with a large pot. For boiling crab legs, you’ll need one large enough to hold all of the legs. Fill it with water and a generous pinch of salt. The salt will season the crab legs as they cook. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Use a lid to speed up the boiling process.

Step 2: Add the crabs to the water

Once the salted water has reached its boiling point, add the crabs into the pot. Cook the crab in the boiling water for 5.  Immediately remove the crabs from the water to avoid over cooking. Use long-handled tongs to protect your hands.

Step 3: Plate and season

After you have cooked the crab legs, all there’s left to do is season and enjoy them! You can use melted butter, seafood seasoning, or squeeze a lemon for the finishing touches.

How to Serve & Eat Snow Crab Legs

This recipe is how to prepare a cluster of snow crab legs. If you haven’t served or eaten this before, here are some helpful tips for eating without a mess.

Step 1: Remove the legs one by one

If you want to go the extra mile for your guests, you can make a nice presentation and do some of the work for them. Snap each leg off the cluster and line them up on a serving platter. Otherwise, you can divide the whole clusters among serving plates and let your guests do the snapping for themselves.

Step 2: Break at the joint

After you snap the legs off the cluster, hold one leg in both hands and snap it in half at the joint. This shouldn’t take too much effort, the joint is a natural breaking point.

Step 3: Take the meat out

Still using two hands, wobble the joint back and forth until the shell breaks. With the shell cracked open, the meat will fall off without much effort. If necessary, you can use a thin fork or a skewer to remove any meat hiding in the shell.

Step 4: Deal with the cluster

Once you’ve taken care of (eaten!) each leg, you can finish off the cluster. Gently crack it open with your two hands and enjoy the meat. You won’t be able to reach everything by yourself, use a fork to help you!

Can you overcook crab legs?

Crab legs are sold pre-cooked. When you prepare crab legs at home, you’re really warming the meat, not cooking it. So yes, it is possible to overcook your crab legs. To avoid this hazard, only submerge the crab in boiling water for 5 minutes.

If you end up overcooking your crab legs, they will be rubbery and a pain to eat.

What part of the crab is poisonous?

There’s nothing poisonous about crab. There’s a tale old as time – or a myth, rather – that said crab’s lungs are poisonous. They aren’t – but you shouldn’t eat them either: they taste awful and the human stomach is not ready to digest them in any way. You will reap no benefit at all from that piece of the crab.

Crab Legs vs. Soft Shell Crab

If you’re wondering what the difference is between crab legs and other kinds of crab you can prepare at home, such as soft shell crab, the answer is that these are totally different animals. First of all, crab legs are harvested from two very large crab species: king crabs and snow crabs. Soft shell crabs, on the other hand, are whole, small crabs that can be eaten as-is, body and all. These crabs are harvested while they are molting, or shedding their hard shells. The shell is thin enough to be eaten, which is why these sweet, small crabs are often deep-fried whole and served on sandwiches!

Oven-Roasted Crab Legs

If you want to try preparing crab legs in the oven, it’s also a simple process. To do it, place the thawed crab legs on a baking sheet. Brush them with oil or butter and place the baking sheet under the broiler. Cook with a high broil for 7 to 8 minutes, flipping the legs halfway through. Keep a close eye on the crab under the broiler, as all broilers differ and some tend to burn things the minute you look away.

Steamed Crab Legs

To quickly steam crab legs, place a steamer basket in a large pot with a few inches of water in the bottom. Bring the water to a simmer, add the crab, cover the pot, and steam for 5 to 7 minutes. This is a fast way to cook crab legs on the stove, as you don’t have to wait for a full pot of water to reach a boil.

Steak shrimp and crab

Boiled Snow Crab Legs

How to boil snow crab legs for the easiest seafood dinner recipe.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 100 kcal


  • Large pot with a lid
  • Long tongs


  • 4 clusters snow crab legs
  • salt


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.
  • Add the crab legs and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the pot and serve hot.
Keyword snow crab legs

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