How to Steam Crab Legs Like a Pro

How to Steam Crab Legs
10 min reading time

If you love seafood, then crab legs are a decadent treat that you won’t want to miss. Not only are they delicious and tender, but they’re also surprisingly easy to prepare if you know how to steam them properly. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process of how to steam crab legs, so you can enjoy this tasty delicacy from the comfort of your own home.

Understanding Crab Legs

Before we dive into the easy and step-by-step process of crab leg steaming, it’s important to have a good understanding of what crab legs are. These delicious seafood delicacies are prized for their tender and sweet meat, and are usually sold pre-cooked and frozen.

When it comes to crab legs, the type of crab can vary. Some popular varieties include king crab legs, snow crab legs, and Dungeness crab legs. Regardless of the type of crab legs you choose, the process for steaming them is generally the same.

Thawing frozen crab legs is the first step to ensure even cooking. It’s important to avoid thawing them in hot water or in the microwave as this can cause the delicate meat to become tough or unevenly cooked. Instead, we recommend thawing your crab legs in the refrigerator overnight or in cold water for a few hours before steaming.

Now that you have a good understanding of crab legs, let’s move on to the equipment needed for easy crab leg steaming.

Equipment Needed

Preparing to steam crab legs requires a few essential tools to ensure the process runs smoothly. Here are some professional tips for crab leg steaming:

Large Pot with Steamer BasketA large pot with a steamer basket is essential for steaming crab legs. The basket should be big enough to hold all the crab legs without overcrowding them, which can result in uneven cooking.
TongsHaving a pair of tongs makes it easy to remove the hot crab legs from the steamer basket without burning your fingers.
Kitchen ShearsA pair of kitchen shears comes in handy when it’s time to crack open the crab legs. Use them to snip the shells open, making it easy to access the juicy meat inside.

With the right equipment, you’ll be able to steam your crab legs to perfection and impress your guests with a delicious seafood dish.

Thawing Crab Legs: The Best Method for Steaming Crab Legs

Thawing crab legs properly is essential for even cooking and maximum flavor. While it may be tempting to rush the thawing process, it’s important to take your time to ensure the best results. Here is the best method for thawing frozen crab legs:

  1. Remove the crab legs from the freezer and place them in a large bowl or on a large plate.
  2. Cover the crab legs with plastic wrap or place them in a sealed plastic bag.
  3. Place the bowl or plate in the refrigerator and allow the crab legs to thaw overnight. This slow thawing process allows the crab legs to defrost evenly and maintain their texture and flavor.

If you are short on time, you can also thaw crab legs more quickly by placing them in a sealed plastic bag and submerging them in cold water for 30-60 minutes. Alternatively, you can microwave the crab legs on a defrost setting, but be sure to follow the instructions carefully to avoid overcooking or drying out the meat.

Once your crab legs have thawed, it’s time to get ready for steaming. In the following section, we’ll discuss how to prepare your steaming setup for the best results.

Preparing the Steaming Setup

Now that you have the equipment ready, it’s time to prepare your steaming setup for the perfect crab leg steaming technique.

Start by filling a large pot with water, making sure the water level is below the steamer basket. You don’t want the water to touch the crab legs as they steam.

Next, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, reduce the heat to a simmer.

Place the steamer basket in the pot, ensuring it fits snugly and is not touching the water.

Pro Tip: If you prefer a more flavorful steamed crab leg recipe, you can add seasonings or aromatics to the water, such as bay leaves, garlic cloves, or lemon wedges.

Arrange the crab legs in the steamer basket, making sure they are not overcrowded. You may need to steam the crab legs in batches if your pot is not large enough to accommodate them all at once.

Preparing the Steaming Setup:

Equipment Needed:Ingredients Needed:
Large potWater
Steamer basketSeasonings (optional)
Kitchen shears 

Steaming the Crab Legs

How to Steam Crab Legs

Now that you’ve got your setup ready, it’s time to start steaming those crab legs to perfection. Follow our top tips for quick and easy crab leg steaming:

  1. Place the thawed crab legs in the steamer basket.
  2. Fill the pot with water, making sure the water level is below the basket.
  3. Turn the heat on high and wait for the water to boil.
  4. Once the water is boiling, cover the pot with a lid and let the crab legs steam for 5-7 minutes.
  5. Check the crab legs for doneness. The meat should be opaque and white, with a slight pinkish hue. If the meat is still translucent, steam for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  6. Use tongs to carefully remove the steamer basket from the pot and transfer the crab legs to a serving platter.

Congratulations, you’ve successfully steamed your crab legs! Now it’s time to enjoy the delicious flavors of this seafood delicacy.

But before that, don’t forget to check out our next section for foolproof methods to check if your crab legs are fully cooked.

Checking for Doneness

Once your crab legs have been steaming for the recommended time, it’s important to check for doneness. Undercooked crabmeat can be rubbery, while overcooked meat can be tough and dry. To avoid both scenarios, follow these simple steps:

  1. Using tongs, carefully remove one crab leg from the steamer basket.
  2. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the leg. The temperature should read between 145ºF and 150ºF.
  3. If you don’t have a thermometer, look for other indicators that the crab legs are done. The shell should be a bright red color and there should be no visible traces of translucent meat.

By following these simple steps, you’ll ensure that your crab legs are perfectly cooked and ready to be enjoyed. Congratulations! You’ve just become an expert in the ultimate guide to steaming crab legs.

Serving Suggestions

Now that your crab legs are perfectly steamed, it’s time to think about presentation and serving suggestions. Here are some creative ideas on how to serve your crab legs:

  • Serve with melted butter and lemon wedges for a classic touch.
  • Add some spice by mixing hot sauce and butter for a zesty dip.
  • For a Mediterranean twist, serve with garlic butter and a side of pasta or salad.
  • Enhance the flavors with a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning or paprika.

You can also pair your steamed crab legs with sides such as roasted vegetables, coleslaw, or baked potatoes. Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with different flavors and textures.

Storing Leftover Crab Legs

It’s not uncommon to have leftover crab legs after a satisfying meal. To ensure that they remain fresh, it’s essential to know how to store them correctly.

The first step is to remove the meat from the crab legs and place it in an airtight container. You should also cover the container with plastic wrap to prevent any air from getting in and drying out the meat.

Another essential aspect of storing leftover crab legs is refrigeration. You should always store them in the refrigerator at a temperature of 40°F or below. Crab legs can also be stored in the freezer, and they will last for up to three months.

When you’re ready to enjoy your leftover crab legs, the best way to reheat them is to steam them again. You can use the same method as outlined in the previous sections. This will ensure that the crab legs are heated evenly and retain their moisture and flavor.

Cleaning Up After Steaming Crab Legs

After enjoying a delicious meal of steamed crab legs, it’s time to clean up. Follow these simple steps to make the process quick and hassle-free:

  1. Dispose of Shells: Start by disposing of the crab shells and any leftover bits in a compost bin or trash can. Be sure to check for any shells that may have fallen on the floor.
  2. Clean the Pot: Allow the pot to cool down to room temperature. Then fill it with warm, soapy water and let it soak for a few minutes. Use a non-abrasive sponge or brush to scrub the pot clean, removing any residual salt or crab bits. Rinse the pot thoroughly and dry it with a clean towel or let it air dry.
  3. Clean the Steamer Basket: If you used a steamer basket, clean it with a dish brush or sponge. If there are any stubborn bits stuck to the basket, soak it in warm, soapy water for a few minutes. Rinse the basket thoroughly and dry it with a clean towel.
  4. Clean the Tongs and Shears: If you used tongs and kitchen shears, clean them with warm, soapy water. Rinse them thoroughly and dry them with a clean towel.
  5. Clean the Countertop: Wipe down the countertop with a damp cloth to remove any residual crab juice or salt.

With these simple cleaning tips, you can have your kitchen cleaned up in no time after steaming crab legs. Bon appetit!


Steaming crab legs may seem daunting, but with our easy guide, you’ll be able to achieve restaurant-quality results in the comfort of your own home. By understanding the nuances of crab legs and properly preparing them for steaming, you’ll be able to savor the sweet and tender meat that they offer.

Remember to follow our tips for thawing, equipment, and steaming setup to ensure the best possible results. And once your crab legs are steamed to perfection, don’t forget to get creative with your serving suggestions to wow your guests.

Enjoy Your Delicious Crab Legs!

With the knowledge gained from this ultimate guide to steaming crab legs, you’ll be able to prepare this delightful seafood delicacy with confidence. Whether you’re looking for a quick and easy dinner or a dish to impress your guests, you’ll be able to achieve delicious results with ease.

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I store leftover steamed crab legs?

Leftover steamed crab legs can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, simply steam them again for a few minutes until heated through.

What should I serve with steamed crab legs?

Steamed crab legs pair well with melted butter, lemon wedges, coleslaw, corn on the cob, and a crisp white wine.

Can I flavor the steaming water for extra taste?

Yes, adding seasonings like Old Bay, lemon slices, or garlic to the steaming water can infuse the crab legs with additional flavor.

How can I tell when my crab legs are done steaming?

Pre-cooked crab legs are done when they are heated through and have a bright red color. Raw crab legs are done when their color changes from blue-green to bright red and the meat is flaky when tested with a fork.

How much water should I use to steam my crab legs?

You only need enough water to create steam, not to submerge the crab legs. Usually, 1-2 inches of water in the bottom of your pot is sufficient.

Read Also

About Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Protection Status

Win one of the 20 coolest kitchen gadgets!

Image of Chefd giveaway Nessie Ladle.

Surprises every month. The fun twist is that you can choose your own in the next step.


Chefd subscribers - contest