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How To Cook Snow Crab Legs

Learn how to cook snow crab legs…and it’s easier than you think! In this guide, we’ll walk you through three different cooking methods – boiling, baking, and steaming – along with tips on how to choose the best crab legs and how to savor every delicious bite.

king crab legs

Crab legs, with their sweet, succulent meat, are a delicacy enjoyed by seafood lovers worldwide. Among the most popular types of crab legs are snow crab legs, prized for their tender meat and delicate flavor. Whether you’re hosting a special dinner or simply craving a taste of the sea, cooking snow crab legs doesn’t have to be intimidating.

Snow Crab Legs Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions

  • Snow crab leg clusters – If you get frozen crab, thaw the crab legs in the fridge overnight before cooking. Otherwise, refer to this guide to cooking frozen crab legs.
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Old Bay seasoning: You can also make your own cajun seasoning with a blend of celery salt, paprika, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
  • Lemon wedges
  • Unsalted butter

How to Choose Crab Legs

There are three main types of crab you will find at your local grocery store:

  • Snow Crab: Known for their long and slender legs, and sweeter meat. These are a little smaller than King Crab and easier to handle. This type is ideal for beginners!
  • King Crab: Also known as Alaskan king crab, this type has thick, long legs that are full of delicious crab meat. These are more expensive than Snow Crab, but are much richer in flavor.
  • Dungeness Crab: With a sweet and nutty flavor, Dungeness crab meat tends to be a little firmer and less delicate than King or Snow Crab. The legs are shorter and fatter but still yield plenty of meat.

When you head to the grocery store or seafood market, look for legs that are firm and plump, with a bright, shiny shell. Avoid shells that are squishy and appear dull or have an off-putting odor, as this could indicate they are past their prime. 

Fresh or frozen crab legs are both excellent options, but if you’re buying frozen, be sure to thaw them thoroughly before cooking.

How to Cook Snow Crab Legs

Before you start cooking, it’s essential to choose high-quality snow crab legs. 

Boiled Snow Crab Legs

Boiling is perhaps the most straightforward method for cooking snow crab legs, ensuring they stay juicy and flavorful.

Start by filling a large pot halfway with water and bringing it to a boil. Season the boiling water with salt and Old Bay seasoning. 

Once the water is boiling, carefully add the crab legs and let them boil for 5 to 6 minutes until heated and aromatic. Using tongs, remove the cooked crab legs from the pot and place them on a large platter. Sprinkle additional Old Bay seasoning over the crab legs and serve immediately with melted butter, lemon wedges, and cocktail sauce on the side.

Baked Snow Crab Legs

This is my favorite way to make crab legs and always yields the best results! It takes only a matter of minutes! Baking snow crab legs in the oven allows the flavors to meld together beautifully, resulting in tender, aromatic crab meat. This method is also great for cooking King Crab Legs in the oven, too.

To start, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with large pieces of aluminum foil, and place crab legs on top of the foil in a single layer. Brush crab legs with a mixture of melted butter, garlic, lemon juice, and cajun seasoning. Add additional Old Bay if desired.

Then, cover the baking sheet with foil and bake for 5-7 minutes.

Steamed Snow Crab Legs

Steaming snow crab legs is a gentle cooking method that preserves their natural sweetness and tenderness.

Fill a large pot with a few inches of water and bring it to a gentle simmer. You can use a steamer basket placed in the pot or a large pot with a colander insert—both work well for this method.

Once the water is simmering, carefully add the crab legs to the steamer basket or colander and place the lid on. Steam the crab legs for 5 to 7 minutes, until heated through.

After steaming, carefully remove the crab legs from the pot and serve them immediately.

close view of baked crab legs being dipped in butter sauace

Tips for Enjoying Snow Crab Legs

  • If you are boiling or steaming, be sure not to overcrowd the pot. You may need to work in batches for even cooking.
  • Use kitchen shears or a crab cracker to gently crack open the shells, making it easier to access the meat. You can easily find these in a grocery store or online.
  • Avoid overpowering the sweet, delicate meat with heavy sauces and seasonings. I prefer Old Bay seasoning.
  • Savory melted butter and lemon juice are always great ideas to finish off this recipe.

How to Eat Snow Crab Legs

  1. Break the leg away from the cluster to remove, then snap at the joints.
  2. Crack the Shell: Use kitchen shears or a crab cracker to gently crack open the shell along the length of the leg. Start by breaking the sections of the shell without crushing the meat inside.
  3. Remove the Meat: Once the shell is cracked, carefully pull it apart to reveal the sweet crab meat inside. Use your fingers or a fork to gently remove the meat from the shell. Snow crab legs typically have large chunks of meat in the body and smaller bits in the thinner sections.
  4. Dip and Enjoy: Dip the crab meat into melted butter, lemon juice, or your favorite dipping sauce for added flavor. The rich, buttery taste of melted butter complements the sweetness of the crab meat perfectly.

What to Serve with Snow Crab Legs

Looking for side dishes that go with snow crab legs?

Frequently Asked Questions

How to season crab legs?

Adding salt, pepper, lemon juice, butter, or cajun seasoning to the crab legs before cooking is a great way to bring out the natural flavor.

Can you overcook snow crab?

Yes, to avoid overcooking, remove the crab legs from the heat and allow them to rest. The meat inside the shell will continue to cook due to carryover cooking.

How do I thaw snow crab legs?

The safest way to thaw snow crab legs is to place them in the refrigerator overnight. Alternatively, you can thaw them more quickly by placing them in a bowl of cold water for a few hours, ensuring they are fully submerged.

What’s the best way to cook snow crab legs?

Snow crab legs can be cooked using various methods, including boiling, steaming, and baking. The best method depends on personal preference and available equipment. Boiling and steaming are popular options for maintaining the crab’s natural flavor and tenderness.

How long do I cook snow crab legs?

The cooking time for snow crab legs depends on the method used and the size of the legs. Generally, they should be cooked for about 4 to 6 minutes when boiled or steamed, or 15 to 18 minutes when baked in a preheated oven.

Should I season the water when boiling snow crab legs?

Seasoning the boiling water with salt and spices, such as Old Bay seasoning, can enhance the flavor of the crab meat. However, it’s optional and depends on personal preference.

How do I know when snow crab legs are cooked?

Snow crab legs are typically cooked when the shell turns bright red and the meat is opaque and firm. You can also insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the leg; it should register 145°F (63°C) when fully cooked.

Can I eat snow crab legs cold?

Yes, snow crab legs can be enjoyed cold, especially in salads or chilled seafood platters. However, they are most commonly served hot, either steamed, boiled, or baked.

What should I serve with snow crab legs?

Snow crab legs are often served with melted butter for dipping and lemon wedges for squeezing over the meat. Other popular accompaniments include cocktail sauce, garlic aioli, and seasoned rice or steamed vegetables.

How do I remove the meat from snow crab legs?

o remove the meat from snow crab legs, use kitchen shears or a crab cracker to crack open the shells along the length of the legs. Then, gently pull the shell apart to reveal the meat inside, picking it out with your fingers or a fork.

Are snow crab legs high in cholesterol?

Snow crab legs are relatively low in fat and calories but are naturally high in cholesterol. However, they are also a good source of protein and essential nutrients like vitamin B12 and zinc.

Can I freeze cooked snow crab legs?

Yes, you can freeze cooked snow crab legs for future use. To do so, allow them to cool completely, then place them in airtight containers or freezer bags. They can be stored in the freezer for up to three months.

Storing and Reheating

You can fridge or freeze leftover crab meat inside the shell or removed from the shell.


 If you have leftover cooked crab legs, store them in an airtight container or wrap them tightly in plastic wrap. Place them in the refrigerator and use them within 2-3 days for the best quality.


If you want to store crab legs for a longer period, you can freeze them. First, ensure they are completely cooled down. Then, place them in airtight freezer bags or containers, removing as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. Frozen crab legs can last for up to 3 months in the freezer.


Thawing: If your crab legs are frozen, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight or place them under cold running water until thawed. Do not thaw crab legs at room temperature to avoid bacterial growth.

Microwaving: While not the ideal method, you can also reheat crab in the microwave. Place the crab meat in a microwave-safe dish and cover them with a damp paper towel to prevent from drying out. Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or until heated through, checking regularly to avoid overheating.

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