How To Cook Crab Legs 

 Last Update December 11, 2023

By Jenny Zhang

As delicious as crab legs are, they are messy to eat, labor-intensive, and require patience to indulge. The truth is, no matter how delicious they are, not all of us know how to eat crab legs like a pro. With all different pieces that vary in size, it can be confusing and even intimidating to know which tool to use.

The good news is that the more you practice, the easier it will get, and you will eat crab legs like a pro in no time. Here are some of my tips on how to eat crab legs like a pro so you can feel confident chowing it down the next time you walk into seafood restaurants or at family gatherings.

What Type Of Crab Legs To Buy

If you are looking for crab legs, there are two varieties you can get from the store: snow crab or Alaska king crab legs. Snow crab legs are sold in clusters, while Alaska king crab is sold individually. They are much bigger than snow crab, and they are also much more expensive than snow crab.

Tools you May Need To Eat Crab Legs

Depends on the variety of crab you are purchased, you may or may not need some help with the following tools:

Kitchen scissor

Claw cracker

Crab mallet

How To Eat Crab Legs

1. Clean and cook

When you purchase whole crabs from the grocery store, the first step is to clean and cook them based on your liking. To clean your whole crab, rinse it in running water and then cook based on your personal preference: boil, broil, or steam. Then rinse the inside of the cooked crab under cool running water to remove the guts.

Large varieties are available for purchase by the legs. To clean the legs, rinse them under water before cooking. 

2. Break The crabs In half

Once your whole crabs are fully cooked, let them cook down. Then grab one and break it in half with your hand or in quarters, depending on the size. Most varieties can break in half by hand, but a knife can help to break the bigger and tougher crabs.

3. Separate the Legs

Separating the legs from the body is super easy. Simply twist and pull the leg, and it will easily separate from the body. Sometimes, a little bit of meat will come out with the leg. For larger varieties, you may need to use a claw cracker.

Once you separate the legs, you may need to break down the parts even further by breaking them at each snapping point. To break apart, hold each side of the leg with the snapping point in the middle. Gently bend back and forth until the shell breaks.

4. Crack the claws/ cluster

The claws are the meatiest part of the legs. It is sweet and tender, and it is usually the first part people start. To crack the claws open, use a claw cracker and a small amount of pressure. Once you break it open, it is easy to pull out the meat with minimal force. If you cannot pull it out, use a cracker or crab mallet and crack the shell further, but avoid using too much pressure and shatter the shell because broken shell pieces can get into the meat. The same method applies to the cluster. You may need tools such as a chopstick, small fork, or a skewer to help you remove the pockets of meat.

5. Split open the crab legs

You can crack the remaining legs just like how you break the claws. Depending on the varieties, some are soft enough that you can snip them open by hand or using a kitchen scissor. Once you split it open, you should be able to pull out a solid piece of meat. When using tools to help, remember to use a small amount of pressure because you do not want the small shell pieces to get stuck in your crab meat.

For Alaskan king crab legs, you can use a pair of kitchen scissors and cut down the shell, and remove the crab meat in one piece.

6. Enjoy

If you plan on using the crab meat in another meal, you can use a skewer and pick out the meat as you go. And you will have a nice pile of meat when you are done. Otherwise, enjoy the delicious sweet and tender meat as you go along.

How To Cook Crab Legs

Crab legs are super easy to cook right in your kitchen because all crabs in the grocery store must be sold as alive or cooked, even the frozen crab. This makes the "cooking" process much easier, and the three most popular ways to prepare them: Oven boiling, steaming and boiling. Each method has its pros and cons.

How to Boil

Bring a large pot with water to boil and add seasoning ingredients of your choice. Submerge the legs in the boiling water and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

How To Steam

Bring a large pot of water to boil and put a steamer basket over the boiling water. Place the legs in the steamer basket and put a lid over the pot. Let it steam for about 7-8 minutes.

How To Broil

Preheat your oven on the broiler setting. Place the baking sheet in a baking pan and then place the legs on top—brush oil or butter on top. Place the pan beneath the broiler and broil for about 3-4 minutes per side. You will need to flip them halfway.

How To Serve Crab Legs

There are many ways you can serve crab legs. The Western culture's most popular ways to eat them is to dip them in butter and serve lemon wedges on the side, or with Old Bay seasoning. In Asian cuisine, the most popular way to eat them is to serve with vinegar ginger dipping sauce.


Making your own crab legs at home is super easy and much less than what you would pay at restaurants. Even though it may take you some time, work, and patience to get that delicious lean protein, remember good things takes time.

Now that you are a pro at eating crab legs, it's time to master the best recipe for making crab legs.

Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.