How to Cook Snow Crab Legs, 4 Ways

Follow our step-by-step instructions to learn how to make crab legs like a pro!

If you’ve only had the imitation crab that fills your California sushi rolls, you’re missing out. Real crab has a rich, sweet flavor that is impossible to emulate. Once you’ve enjoyed a few crab legs dipped in some garlic butter (or added to your low country boil), you may never go back! The only problem: Maybe you don’t know how to make crab legs, and since this seafood isn’t exactly a budget-friendly item, cooking it can cause some anxiety. Our no-fail cooking methods walk you through the four best ways to cook crab legs

How to Make Crab Legs

You’ll Need:

8 quarts water

1/4 cup salt

2 pounds fresh or frozen cooked snow crab legs thawed

Melted butter and lemon wedges

Quick tip: Snow crab is typically sold as clusters, with somebody meat attached to a few legs and claws. The crab is most often sold pre-cooked and frozen, so you can thaw it by placing the legs in the refrigerator overnight. If you’re pressed for time, run them under cold tap water until no ice remains


A large stockpot

Long-handled tongs

Kitchen shears, a seafood cracker or mallet, or a nutcracker

A steamer basket (optional)

Step 1: Boil the Water

The most important part of this step is to locate a stock pot large enough to fit your crab legs. Most large stock pots or Dutch ovens can fit about 2 pounds of crab legs without overflowing. Once you’ve found your pot, fill it with cold tap water and add the salt. Place the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil.

Test Kitchen Tip: All you need is salted water, but you can add additional flavoring agents to the water in this step (like lemon wedges, bay leaves or Old Bay seasoning).

Step 2: Add the Crab Legs

Once the water is boiling, slowly lower the crab legs in using long-handled tongs. Bend the crabs at the joints and tuck them in so that the hot water fully covers them. Return the water to a boil before reducing the heat to a simmer.

You should only need to simmer the crab legs for about 5 minutes until they are heated through. Once they’re fully heated, remove the legs using your tongs and set them aside to cool slightly before handling

Method 2: Steaming Crab Legs

Steaming crab legs is very similar to boiling them. Some people say that steaming is actually better because it allows all of the crab flavor to stay within the shell instead of leaking out into the cooking water. Most steamer baskets only hold about 1 pound of crab legs, so if you’re cooking the full 2 pounds in this recipe, plan accordingly

Step 1: Prepare the Water

As with boiling crab legs, make sure you have a stock pot large enough to fit your crab legs. Place the steamer basket over 1 inch of water. Place the crabs in the steamer basket and bring the water to a boil

Step 2: Steam for 5-7 Minutes

When the water has reached a boil, reduce the heat a simmer and cover the stockpot. Maintain a simmer as you steam the crab legs until they are heated through, 5-7 minutes. When the crab is heated, remove the legs with long-handled tongs and set them aside to cool slightly