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My Steamed Crab Legs recipe is tender, sweet, and so easy to make! Learn how to steam crab legs for the best results following my step-by-step guide. You can make them right on your stove-top in less than 30 minutes with garlic butter sauce on the side for dipping!
Steam Crab Legs
There is nothing my family loves more than sitting around the table and enjoying a big plate of crab legs together. Seafood dinners are some of our favorites, and what could be better than a crab dinner recipe?
Whether it’s steamed, boiled, or grilled crab, crab legs are one of those dinners that consistently get the table excited. I am thrilled to show you how to steam crab legs!
How to Season Crab Legs
- Old Bay Seasoning: A classic choice for seafood, Old Bay combines primarily celery salt and paprika with other spices such as cayenne and mustard powder. You can use any seasoning of your preference.
- Salt: I always recommend Maldon Sea Salt Flakes.
- Crab Legs: You can use fresh or frozen crab legs for this recipe, both work!
- Vegetable Oil: Use a neutral vegetable oil such as canola oil or avocado oil.
- Light Beer: You want to use canned light beer, not beer from a bottle.
- Corn Cob Halves: This is optional, but I love to cook some corn on the cob at the same time as crab for an easy side dish.
Crab seasoning is a matter of preference. Steaming allows you to infuse the meat with more flavor, so you can use just a bit of seasoning and get the most amazing results!
My personal favorite seasoning for crabs uses a can of light beer and Old Bay. I love the flavor it infuses in the crab legs! But, you can steam them in plain water and enjoy them just as much. Crab meat is so tasty either way!
You will also need the following tools:
- A large stock pot for steaming the crab
- Tongs to remove the crab legs from the pot
- I love using crab leg crackers!
How to Steam Crab Legs
- Fill a large pot a quarter of the way full with water, leaving plenty of room for the crab legs. Bring the water to a boil.
- Add Old Bay seasoning, salt, vegetable oil, and beer to the pot of water once boiling.
- Place the crab legs in the pot and bring the water back to a boil. They should sit over the water rather than submerged within it. Steam the crab legs for 5 minutes.
- Carefully remove the legs using tongs and set aside. Cover them to keep warm.
- At this point, you can also optionally make it a crab boil. Add frozen corn cobs to the same pot and bring it back to a boil. Remove and serve with lemon garlic butter sauce.
Lemon Garlic Butter Sauce for Crab
Lemon garlic butter sauce is a super easy seafood dipping sauce to make, so I recommend giving it a try to serve on the side.
You can also serve this recipe for steamed crab with our compound garlic butter recipe, too. It uses garlic and parsley for a rich garlic butter sauce that goes well with everything!
What are the best crab legs?
Cooking crab legs is the same whether you’re using snow crab legs, dungeness crab legs, or king crab legs, so it’s up to your preference which variety you use.
For this recipe, I use king crab legs. They’re nice and long, with plenty of meat inside. King crab leg meat is so sweet and tender. Cooking king crab is easy, and some come pre-scored so you can easily pry them open with your hands to get the meat out without a hassle.
Can I use frozen crab?
Yes, you can! If you can find fresh crab in your area, consider yourself lucky. I recommend using fresh if available! If not, frozen crab legs are also delicious and perfect for making steamed crab legs.
Frozen crab is commonly found and perfect for this recipe. You don’t even have to defrost the crab legs prior to cooking. You can place them right in the water and the steam will cook them perfectly.
How to Boil Crab Legs
You can also use this same recipe to boil crab legs, rather than steam them. Follow these directions for boiling crab legs:
- Fill a large pot about half full with water, leaving enough room for the crab legs. Wait for the boiling water to rise.
- Add Old Bay seasoning, salt, vegetable oil, and beer to the water once boiling.
- Place the crab legs in the pot, submerged in the water, and return to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes.
- Remove the legs and set aside.
How Long to Steam Crab Legs vs. Boiling
It takes 5 minutes whether you’re boiling crab legs or steaming them. Prepare them whichever way you like the most!
For exact measurements, tips, and more, keep scrolling down to the recipe card!
How to Eat Crab
If your crab legs came pre-scored, you can easily remove the meat from them by prying them open with your hands.
Otherwise, you can carefully crack them by hand or by using a tool such as a crab cracker, lobster cracker, nutcracker, or even a meat tenderizer.
Avoid breaking too much of the shell so you don’t wind up with shell pieces in your crab meat! Once you have the crab legs open, you can easily remove the meat with a small fork or seafood fork.
Cracking crab legs is easy to do once you do it a couple of times. It’s really a lot of fun to be able to pull out a full juicy crab leg and dip it into a bowl of lemon garlic butter sauce. Every time, it feels like you won the jackpot!
Steaming Crab Legs FAQ
No, you don’t need to thaw crab legs before steaming them. You can steam or boil them straight from frozen. They cook quickly!
Crab legs are done when the crab meat is an opaque white and there is an orange or red coloration to it. They are overcooked when they start to turn pink. Don’t cook them for too long or you’ll have rubbery crab legs!
This is really up to your preference. I personally prefer to steam my crab legs as I find it gives them more flavor than boiling. However, some people do prefer to boil theirs. Try steaming them first, and when you’re comfortable with steaming crab legs, try boiling them. See which you prefer!
Side Dishes for Crab
A crab leg boil, made by boiling corn right in the same pot as the crab legs, makes for the most delicious crab dinner. It’s a simple seafood boil recipe, but it works perfectly every time.
There is nothing quite like a big, warm, and welcoming platter of steamed crab legs with a vegetable side. Here are a few of my favorite side dishes for crab:
- Oven Roasted Potato Wedges
- Air Fryer Asparagus Fries
- Homemade Coleslaw
- Mexican Street Corn Recipe
- Instant Pot Corn on the Cob
Steaming crabs is an easy way to have an impressive seafood dinner at home that your family and guests will rave about! There is nothing quite like juicy crab meat with a side of garlic butter.
Loved the recipe? Leave a comment and a rating below!
Steamed Crab Legs
See our Cooking Conversions Chart for help converting measurements!
- Fill a large stock pot about a quarter full with water (leaving plenty of room for the crab legs) and bring to a boil.
- Add Old Bay seasoning, salt, vegetable oil, and beer.
- Add crab legs and return to a boil. Steam crab legs for 5 minutes.
- Carefully remove crab legs and set aside. Cover to keep warm.
- Optional: Add frozen corn cobs in same pot and bring to a boil. Remove. Serve everything warm with lemon butter sauce.
For Lemon Butter Sauce
- Melt butter and add garlic salt, lemon juice, and salt.
Photography by Kristen King.