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graphic with crab legs in background + text: how to steam + crack crab legs
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How to Steam + Crack Crab Legs

Did you buy crab legs and aren't sure how to prepare them? This tutorial will walk you through how to steam and crack crab legs.
Prep Time30 mins
Active Time10 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Meal Prep
Cuisine: American
Diet: Gluten Free
Yield: 1 lb crab (amount variable)
Calories: 300kcal
Cost: $20 per pound of crab legs (amount variable)

Equipment

Materials

Instructions

Steaming the Crab Legs:

  • Start with a stockpot large enough to hold all the crab legs.  Fill the pot with about ½" water, and bring water to a boil over medium-high heat.
    Add a steamer basket to the pot.  Set the crab legs inside the pot, and cover with a lid.  (If the legs stick out of the pot slightly and prevent the lid from sealing, use a piece of aluminum foil as a lid and pinch it against the pot to create a sealed environment.)
    Steam the crab legs 4-6 minutes total for thawed crab legs or 10-11 minutes total for frozen legs.
    Carefully remove crab legs from the pot using tongs, and rinse the legs with cold water.
    Steam the Crab Legs

Crack King Crab Legs:

  • Using the back of a chef’s knife, cut the crab legs at each joint.  Cut off the shoulder meat (but do not discard!!!). Pull out the long plastic-like strips of cartilage.
    Next, attempt to push the crab meat straight out of the shell section with your finger.  (This will be easiest on the upper portions of the legs, but will likely not work for each section.)  
    Cut King Crab Legs at the Joints
  • If you own a seafood cracker or a nutcracker, use it to break the shell apart. Alternatively, attempt to crack the shells with the back of a wooden spoon.
    Or do the following:
    To split the remaining large leg sections, hold the crab leg on its end, and insert the tip of a chef’s knife into the top of the shell.  Push down.
    Split Shell with a Chef's Knife (Easiest with Larger Legs)
  • To split the rest of the leg sections, use kitchen shears to cut the shell open.  Use the scissors to open the claws up too, or pick the meat out with a seafood fork or pick.
    Cut Shell with Kitchen Shears (Easiest with Smaller Legs)
  • Once the shells are cracked (or crushed, or cut), it's time to remove the shells.
    Using your fingers, pry the split or cut shells off, and reserve the meat.  Peel the shell off of the shoulder meat.  Set the shells aside, collect the meat.
    Peel off the Shells

Crack Dungeness Crab Legs:

  • Break off any shoulder meat from the legs by bending the joint back and forth until it snaps.
    Break Crab Legs at Shoulder Joint
  • Next, break the crab legs at their joints by bending the legs in the opposite direction of their natural bend.  Bend back and forth until they snap.
    Break Legs at Joint
  • Next, take kitchen shears and cut along the bottom, lighter-colored side of the legs.
    Alternatively, set the crab leg on a hard surface so that it’s resting on the long, narrow edge of the leg.  Using the back of your palm or the back of a wooden spoon, push down and crack the leg.
    Another option: If you own a seafood cracker or a nutcracker, you can use it to break the shell apart.
    Cut Shell with Kitchen Shears
  • Once the shells are cracked (or crushed, or cut), it's time to remove the shells.
    Using your fingers, pry the shells off, and reserve the meat. Peel the shell off of the shoulder meat.  Watch out for transparent shell pieces hidden within the shoulder meat.  Set the shells aside, and collect the meat.
    Peel Off the Shells

Notes

This tutorial assumes you're using pre-cooked crab legs.  (Since crab must be cooked almost immediately after harvesting, any commercially purchased crab legs should be pre-cooked.)

Nutrition

Calories: 300kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 10g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 215mg | Potassium: 1040mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 6070IU | Vitamin C: 66.7mg | Calcium: 184mg | Iron: 3.8mg