How to Cook King Crab Legs to Tender, Succulent Perfection

King crab legs are expensive but totally worth every penny. Protect your investment by cooking it correctly every time.

Updated December 28, 2023
King crab legs

King crab legs are expensive and can be hard to find. They're also filled with sweet crab meat that's tender and sublime when cooked correctly or rubbery and meh when overdone. Given what you probably spent on these crab legs, we're guessing you want to make sure you cook them perfectly so you get the most out of your investment, and we don't blame you one bit. That's why we have all the deets on how to cook king crab legs perfectly every time. 

Best Ways to Cook King Crab Legs

If you find fresh king crab legs, lucky you. Red king crab is in season from November through January, while golden king crab is usually available from February through June. If you've purchased king crab outside of these windows, chances are it's frozen. Not to worry, though. Flash-frozen crab can be just as good as the fresh stuff. Whether fresh or frozen, you can cook your king crab legs by steaming them on the stove or in an instant pot or baking them in the oven.

Cooking Method Cooking Time
Steamer basket over boiling water 6 to 8 minutes
Instant pot - high pressure, quick release 4 minutes
Oven - 350°F 7-10 minutes

How to Steam King Crab Legs

Steaming king crab legs requires a pot large enough to fit the large crab legs and a steamer basket. If needed, cut the legs at the joints using kitchen scissors. Consider cooking in small batches. 

  1. Place water in the bottom of the steamer pot, at a level below where the steamer basket will sit, and turn the burner on high heat.
  2. Allow the water to come to a full boil.
  3. Add the crab legs to the steamer basket so that no water touches the legs and cover the pot.
  4. Steam the crab legs for 6 to 8 minutes.
  5. Once the crab has turned bright red and smells cooked — even just faintly — it's ready.

How to Cook King Crab Legs in an Instant Pot

If you have an instant pot pressure cooker, it's super easy to steam your crab legs in it.

  1. Fill the bottom of the pot with 1 inch of water.
  2. Use a trivet to hold the crab legs above the level of the water.
  3. Seal the lid and turn the pot on to high pressure for 4 minutes.
  4. Instant release the pressure.

How to Cook King Crab Legs in the Oven

Oven-baking king crab is a good choice for maintaining the subtle flavor and consistency of the crab meat without letting excess water get into the meat to make it soggy. To cook crab legs in the oven, you'll need a large baking pan and some aluminum foil.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Arrange the crab legs in a single layer on the baking pan, cutting it into smaller pieces if needed.
  3. Add ⅛ inch of hot water to the baking pan.
  4. Wrap the baking pan tightly with foil, poking a few holes to allow the steam to escape.

  5. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes.
Need to Know

Never boil king crab legs.  The meat has such a delicate flavor that cooking it directly in water or using a crab boil seasoning can destroy it. Plus, it can make the crab meat watery. So don't be tempted to boil... skip this one at all costs if you value your crab meat.

King Crab Cooking Tips

We've had lots of experience with king crab legs, and we've learned some stuff along the way. Here's what you need to know.

  • King crab tastes best fresh or flash-frozen.
  • Frozen king crab legs are generally cooked in advance on the boat by the processor, so they only need to be thawed and heated.
  • If you purchase fresh king crab legs, cook them right away or freeze them.
  • Thaw frozen king crab legs before cooking. Either thaw overnight in the fridge or place the crab legs in a sealed plastic bag and soak the bag in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes until fully thawed. Always cook thawed king crab legs within 48 hours of thawing.
  • Always cook king crab legs in the shell. 
  • If making king crab legs as the main dish, cook 8 ounces to one pound per person.
  • Be very careful not to overcook the crab as it quickly becomes tough and flavorless.

Serving King Crab

King crab is so perfectly delicious on its own that there's not much you need to do to embellish it. Give it a quick steam or bake, and serve it with lemon wedges and melted butter. It may be a little work for everyone to get the meat out of the legs and claws, but it's totally worth the effort. 

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How to Cook King Crab Legs to Tender, Succulent Perfection