How to Cook Frozen Crab Legs: 4 Ways

crablegs set on a plate with lemon wedges on side

Seafood is all about the tapestry of flavors from the depth of water. The succulent taste of seafood dishes makes it stand out from the rest. If you are a seafood lover and love trying out various recipes with a twist to make your ordinary meals special, you have come to the right place. In this article guide, we plan on covering the recipe for seafood star, which not everyone admires but also loves trying different variations of it. I am talking about crabs, the pinnacle of luscious flavor. Just like a crab sandwich and soft crab dishes, the crab legs are sure to tantalize the taste buds with umami-rich sauce and bring flavors. The decadent buttery and subtly oceanic taste of crab legs embraces almost every kind of taste profile. So, sharpen your knives and get ready to learn how to cook frozen crab legs in different ways.

types of crabs

Types of Crab Legs

Folks, before we master how to cook crab legs frozen from the refrigerator, let’s get to know about its types first. It’s important to know the many kinds of crab legs that you might come across before you begin cooking. The most typical kinds are:

  • King Crab Legs: Often regarded as the most sumptuous cut, these are big and meaty. Usually taken from the chilly waters of the Bering Sea, they have a sweet flavor.
  • Snow Crab Legs: The second type is snow crabs. Known for their delicate, sweet flavor, snow crabs are smaller than king crab legs. Both the North Atlantic and Pacific waters are frequently tapped for their collection.
  • Dungeness Crab Legs: These have a mildly nutty and sweet flavor, and they are medium in size. On the US West Coast, they are frequently encountered.

While there are differences between each variety of crab leg, most cooking techniques are the same. The secret is to not overcook the crab legs; you just need to reheat them because they’ve already been cooked and frozen.

crabs placed in a white tray lemon wedges and sauce

Learn How to Cook Frozen Crab Legs

Begin with Thawing

Although crab legs can be cooked straight from frozen, it’s usually best to thaw them beforehand. Here are two ways to defrost the legs:

1. Thawing in the Refrigerator: Let the frozen crab legs sit in the fridge for a duration of 8 to 12 hours. The taste and texture are preserved by using this approach of slow thawing. If you are smart and plan ahead, this is the best way since it minimizes the chance of partial cooking by allowing the crab legs to thaw uniformly.

2. Cold Water Thawing: If time is of the essence, put the frozen crab legs in a plastic bag that has been sealed and immerse it in cold water. Until the crab legs are thawed, which normally takes one to two hours, change the water every thirty minutes. Although this method is faster, it needs more care to guarantee that the water stays cold.

crab legs stacked upon each other

Thorough Cleaning of Crab Legs

The next step in mastering how to cook frozen crab legs is cleaning them. After thawing, wash the crab legs in cold water to get rid of debris and ice crystals. Using paper towels, pat dry the areas. This step aims to ensure the crab legs are clean and prepared for cooking. Additionally, it helps in avoiding any taste diluting when cooking.

crab legs in a skillet

Methods to Cook Frozen Crab Legs

After cleaning comes the main step, i.e., cooking. When you are learning how to cook frozen snow or king crab legs, you should know that there are several methods to do it. You can choose to go for steaming, grilling, or boiling at your ease.

1: Steaming

One of the most widely used cooking techniques for crab legs is steaming, which maintains their delicate flavor and moisture content.


  • A pound or two of crab legs
  • Salt (optional)
  • Water


1. Pour about two inches of water into a large saucepan, and if you’d like, add a bit of salt. Heat the water until it boils.

2. Make sure the steamer basket or insert is positioned above the water line in the pot.

3. Position the thawed crab legs inside the steamer basket. Put a lid on the pot.

4. If using frozen crab legs, cook them for 10 to 12 minutes or for 5 to 7 minutes if they are thawed. The crab legs can vary slightly in size; therefore, steaming times may also vary.

5. Before serving, take the crab legs out of the pot and allow them to cool a bit.

The crab meat stays soft and succulent due to the gentle, even cooking of the crab legs through steaming. This is especially the preferred way for people who want the flavor of crab to be 100% natural.

2: Boiling

Are you eager to learn how to cook frozen red king crab legs using boiling water?  Another easy and quick way to cook crab legs is to boil them.


  • A pound or two of crab legs
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice or wedges for flavor (Totally Optional)


1. Add a healthy pinch of salt to a large saucepan of water and bring it to a vigorous boil.

2. Make sure the crab legs are completely submerged by adding them to the boiling water.

3. If the crab legs are thawed, boil them for 4–5 minutes; if they are frozen, boil them for 8–10 minutes. It is advised to monitor the time because overcooking can result in dry and rough crab meat.

4. Take the crab legs out of the pot with tongs and allow them to drain.

5. You can serve with lemon wedges as an important step to learning how to prepare the cooked frozen king crab legs.

We can render this method as a quick one because the boiling water reduces the cooking time. The crab meat’s innate sweetness is brought out by the salted water, and the lemon wedges offer a crisp citrus touch.

3: Baking

Well, I think nothing compares to the taste of baked king crab legs. If you are wondering how to cook frozen crab legs, you can always go for my personal favorite method, i.e., baking. Get ready to add more flavor to regular crab legs.


  • A pound or two of crab legs
  • Four teaspoons of melted butter
  • Two minced garlic cloves
  • Lemon Wedges


1. Set the oven temperature to 375°F or 190°C.

2. Arrange the crab legs on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.

3. Combine the minced garlic and melted butter in a small bowl.

4. Apply the garlic butter mixture to the crab legs.

5. In order to prevent the crab legs from drying out, cover them with aluminum foil.

6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in a preheated oven. The butter and garlic will make the crab meat deeply flavorful and rich.

7. If desired, garnish with more melted butter and serve with lemon wedges.

Baking offers tasty results while allowing for a more hands-off approach. Many seafood lovers find this approach to be their favorite because of the delicious aroma and flavor that the garlic butter imparts. In addition, it’s a great technique to make baked king crab legs.

4: Grilling

Grilling is folks’ favorite when it comes to learning how to cook frozen crab legs. Crab legs are naturally sweet, but grilling them adds a smokey flavor.


  • A pound or two of crab legs
  • Olive oil
  • Slicing lemon
  • Butter with garlic (optional)


1. Turn the heat up to medium-high on your grill.

2. To keep the crab legs from sticking, gently coat them with olive oil.

3. Grill the crab legs for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, flipping them from time to time. The tiny charring of the shell could enhance the smokey flavor.

4. Take off from the grill and give it a little chill.

5. As the last step, garnish with garlic butter and lemon wedges.

If you like a little smokiness to your seafood, grilling is a great way to achieve it. The crab meat has a sweet yet spicy taste that is achieved by caramelizing the natural sugars in the meat due to the high heat of the grill.

crab legs in a tray garnished with parsley lemon wedges on side

Recipe Variations for Crab Legs

Chefs with all their culinary prowess try out different twists for the same recipe, and the result is succulent dishes, some of which to be discussed below:

1: Butter Garlic Crab Legs


  • A pound or two of crab legs
  • Four tablespoons of butter
  • Three minced garlic cloves
  • One tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • Lemon wedges


1. Start by steam-preparing the crab legs.

2. Melt the butter in a small pot over a medium heat.

3. Add the minced garlic and simmer for one to two minutes or until fragrant.

4. Turn off the heat and add the parsley that has been chopped.

5. After the crab legs are steamed, drizzle with the garlic butter.

6. Present with wedges of lemon.

A traditional favorite is crab legs with garlic butter. The natural flavor of the crab meat is enhanced by the simple yet delectable dipping sauce made with butter, garlic, and fresh parsley.

You can find a detailed recipe for butter garlic crab legs in this article.

2: Spicy Cajun Crab Legs


  • A pound or two of crab legs
  • One tablespoon of Cajun seasoning
  • Two teaspoons of olive oil
  • Lemon wedges


1. Use the baking method to prepare the crab legs.

2. Combine the olive oil and Cajun seasoning in a small bowl.

3. Apply the Cajun mixture to the crab legs.

4. Bake following the baking method’s instructions.

5. Present with wedges of lemon.

Spicy Cajun crab legs are a great option for people who like a little heat. The Cajun seasoning gives the sweet, soft crab meat a strong, zesty taste that complements it perfectly.

3: Herbed Lemon Crab Legs


  • A pound or two of crab legs
  • Four teaspoons of melted butter
  • One tablespoon of lemon zest
  • One tablespoon of finely chopped fresh thyme
  • Slicing lemons


1. Grill the crab legs till they are crispy.

2. Combine the chopped thyme, lemon zest, and melted butter in a small bowl.

3. Apply the herb butter mixture to the crab legs that have been grilled.

4. Present with wedges of lemon.

Herbed lemon crab legs provide a light and fragrant variation. The bright, lemony flavor of the lemon zest and fresh thyme goes well with the richness of the crab meat.

dipping sauce in a small bowl crab legs in a plate

Serving Tips for Crab Legs

  • Cracking Tools: To help guests crack open the meat from the shells, provide them with seafood forks and crab crackers.
  • Sauces: Present a variety of dipping sauces, including melted.
  • Side Dishes: Serve crab legs with complimentary sides like coleslaw, garlic bread, steaming veggies, or a crisp green salad. Corn on the cob or potato salad also make great sides.
  • Presentation: To display the crab legs in an attractive and tasty way, arrange them on a sizable dish with lemon wedges and fresh herbs. The dish can be made even more aesthetically pleasing by adding some edible flowers or colorful vegetables.
number of crab legs

How to Keep Crab Legs Leftovers?

After you have prepared cooked frozen legs, the extra pieces can be stored. To preserve the quality of any remaining crab legs, store them carefully.

  • Refrigeration: Keep any leftover crab legs in the fridge for up to two days by placing them in an airtight container. To prevent overcooking, gently bake or steam while reheating food.
  • Freezing: Place the crab legs in a freezer bag after wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap for extended storage. For up to three months, freeze. Refrigerate to thaw before reheating.
Delicious Snow Crab Leg Clusters On A Rustic Wood Table

Nutritional Information of Crab Legs

Crab legs are nutrient-dense and delicious. They are a trustworthy provider of:

  • Protein: Needed for the growth and repair of muscle. Crab legs can have as much as 20 grams of protein per serving.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Good for the cardiovascular system. These beneficial fats have the potential to lower inflammation and enhance heart health.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Zinc, selenium, and vitamin B12 are among the nutrients that support different body activities. Selenium functions as an antioxidant, zinc supports immunological response, and vitamin B12 is essential for nerve function.


Summing up, the article covered detailed recipes for crab legs along with different variations. Seafood lovers can try out these easy peasy recipes and thank us later.

Written by Kari

From the bustling fish markets of coastal towns to the kitchens of Michelin-starred restaurants, I have honed their craft through years of immersive culinary exploration. Their journey has taken them from mastering the delicate art of sushi to crafting succulent seafood paellas and everything in between, earning them a reputation as a true virtuoso of seafood cuisine.

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