Alaskan king crab legs make the most luxurious dinner party entree for two. But if you buy them at the grocery store, these giant clusters of crab legs are most often sold frozen. So how do you turn these meaty legs of ice pops into that gorgeous, succulent flavor you crave? So glad you asked. I have the easiest way to create a restaurant-quality seafood dinner for you.
If you grew up anything like me – nowhere near an ocean and in a blue collar neighborhood – crab legs were reserved for special occasions. I don’t think I even saw a king crab leg until I was in my 20’s. I still remember the first time my family of 6 walked into a Chinese buffet and they had snow crab legs on the buffet line and I was sure we’d won the lottery.
While still a luxury item, buying king crab legs in one of your local grocery stores will be less expensive than ordering them in a restaurant. So what is the best way to cook king crab legs?
First, it’s important to note that almost all crab legs in the US are sold already cooked and frozen. These legs are steamed or boiled and frozen shortly after they are caught to preserve freshness. So chances are, if you’re cooking crab legs at home, they are frozen.
After testing and sampling a variety of cooking methods, baking the crab legs proved to be my favorite way to prepare them at home. The moist heat created inside the shells essentially steamed the crab meat, enhancing their natural flavors and heating the meat thoroughly without drying it out.
So let me share with you my favorite cooking method for king crab legs, as well as a few alternatives!
What you’ll need to Cook Frozen King Crab Legs, including Butter Sauce:
King crab legs – the king of all crabs is what we’re cooking here! If you have snow crab legs, never fear. I’ve included instructions for this type of crab below.
Butter – salted butter is my preference, but your homemade butter dipping sauce will be salted to taste, so feel free to use whatever butter you have on hand.
Fresh garlic – just one clove is all you need to bring a fresh, savory flavor to your dipping sauce.
Fresh lemon juice – the perfect balancing freshness to the savory, buttery sauce.
Salt – to taste!
(detailed measurements included in the printable recipe card below)
Step-by-step instructions for this Baked Alaska King Crab recipe:
To begin, preheat your oven to 375℉. Arrange your thawed king crab legs on a large sheet pan or baking sheet in a single layer. Once the oven comes up to temperature, bake the king crab legs for 15 minutes. Remember the crab legs are already cooked, so we are using the “cooking process” to evaporate the water inside the legs and re-heat the meat, without drying out our delicious crab legs. You’ll know the crab is ready when it is fragrant and very warm to the touch.
While the crab is baking, make your lemon butter sauce.
Add butter, a lightly crushed garlic clove and a pinch of salt to a small pan. Melt the butter and steep the garlic clove over medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Add two teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Stir to combine, then taste. Add more lemon juice, if desired. Remove the crushed garlic clove.
Transfer crab to a pan when it is finished baking. For king crab, I use kitchen shears to gently split open each crab leg to make it easier to remove all of the long pieces of crab inside the thicker legs.
For snow crab legs, serve the legs with a crab cracker. Serve your hot crab legs with lemon garlic butter and garnish with chives or parsley, if desired.
FAQ’s for Cooking Frozen Crab Legs Recipe:
The other two methods that I like for cooking king crab legs are grilling and steaming. If you have an outdoor grill, heat the grill to about 425℉ and use heavy-duty aluminum foil to create a foil packet for your crab clusters. Grill in the packet for 10-15 minutes. The second optional cooking style is the steaming method. This process involves a large stock pot and steam basket. Add about a cup of water or stock to the bottom of the pot, fill the steam basket with crab legs and bring the liquid to a boil. Cover and cook your thawed crab legs for 6-7 minutes. Serve with lemon butter sauce!
For king crab legs, I’m all about the kitchen shears. You can serve them at the table with the crab legs, or cut open each leg before service.
Generally, 3/4-1 pound for each person, if the crab legs are your main entree. For an appetizer, 1/3-1/2 pound should suffice.
You can cook your crab legs from a frozen state, just plan to leave them in the oven for 25 minutes instead of 15 minutes. As always, check for doneness and add more time, as needed. Be aware that with frozen crab legs, more water will collect in the bottom of the pan as your seafood thaws and cooks, so instead of a baking sheet, it may be best to use a shallow baking pan.
I love serving corn on the cob and boiled potatoes and using the combination of butter, garlic and lemon as a dipping sauce for all of it. Tossed Mediterranean salad or gazpacho salad would both add freshness and crunch to your seafood dinner. Napa Coleslaw is a lovely savory slaw option. And for dessert, I’d be looking at Strawberry Almond Cake or Brown Sugar Crumble Peach Pie all day long.
You sure can. I try to be careful that my butter sauce complements the delicate flavor of the crab meat and doesn’t compete with it. But that’s a personal preference. If you love garlic, add a couple of minced garlic cloves to the butter sauce and don’t remove them when serving. Looking for an Asian flair, add a tablespoon of ginger scallion sauce to the butter sauce, or make this miso butter as your dipping sauce. If you’re hoping for that crab boil flair, add a teaspoon of Old Bay seasoning to the butter sauce. Taste and adjust before serving.
Crab cakes and crab salad are two classics if you have leftovers. My favorite method for using up any leftover crab meat (especially from the knuckle part of the crab cluster) is to make king crab temaki rolls with miso butter. Each roll only needs about a tablespoon or two of crab meat, so it will stretch your leftovers and give you a completely different and sophisticated flavor profile. Another great option is Crab and Shrimp Stuffed Salmon – the perfect fancy fish option for your leftovers.
To store leftovers, remove the crab meat from the crab leg clusters (including the joints) and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. To reheat, steep the meat gently in butter sauce or miso butter until just heated through.
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Looking for more easy and impressive seafood dinner recipes? Try these next!
- Argentinian Shrimp Skewers with Pistachio Chimichurri
- Creamy Cajun Shrimp Sauce
- Sushi Crab Mix Recipe
- Phillips Maryland Crab Soup