Cooking Frozen King Crab Legs: Steam, Boil, Grill & Air Fryer

by Ella

King crab legs, with their succulent meat and rich flavor, are a true delicacy from the sea. Whether you’re a seasoned seafood enthusiast or a curious culinary explorer, learning how to cook frozen king crab legs is a skill that can elevate your dining experience. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the art of preparing frozen king crab legs, step by step, ensuring that your journey from freezer to plate is nothing short of exquisite.

The Allure of King Crab Legs

King crab legs are renowned for their generous meat content, delicate sweetness, and tender texture. These crustaceans, harvested from cold ocean waters, provide a luxurious culinary experience that’s perfect for special occasions or moments of indulgence. Cooking frozen king crab legs may seem daunting, but armed with the right techniques, it’s an accessible and rewarding endeavor.


See Also: 8 Most Expensive Crabs in the World


Selecting and Purchasing Frozen King Crab Legs

When purchasing frozen king crab legs, it’s essential to prioritize quality. Look for options that are:


1. Wild-Caught: Opt for wild-caught king crab legs, as they tend to have a better flavor and texture compared to farmed alternatives.


2. Frozen Fresh: Choose packages that have been frozen shortly after being caught to preserve the quality and taste of the crab meat.

3. Intact Shells: Look for crab legs that have shells that are intact, as broken shells can indicate mishandling or poor quality.

See Also: Pros & Cons of Eating Seafood Every Day

Why Thaw King Crab Legs?

Thawing king crab legs before cooking can have several benefits:

1. Even Cooking: Thawed crab legs will cook more evenly, ensuring that the meat is heated through without overcooking the exterior.

2. Texture Preservation: Thawing prevents the crab meat from becoming tough or rubbery during cooking.

3. Flavor Enhancement: Thawing allows the crab meat to absorb seasonings and flavors more effectively.

Methods for Thawing King Crab Legs

Refrigerator Thawing:

Refrigerator thawing is the recommended method for thawing king crab legs. It is safe and gradual, allowing the crab legs to thaw while maintaining their quality.

1. Prepare the Crab Legs: Remove the frozen king crab legs from their packaging and place them in a shallow dish or on a plate.

2. Cover: Cover the crab legs with plastic wrap or place them in an airtight container to prevent any potential cross-contamination with other foods.

3. Refrigerate: Place the crab legs in the refrigerator and allow them to thaw slowly over a period of 12 to 24 hours. Larger crab legs may require more time to thaw completely.

Cold Water Thawing:

Cold water thawing is a faster method that can be used if you need to thaw crab legs more quickly.

1. Prepare the Crab Legs: Seal the frozen crab legs in a leak-proof plastic bag to prevent water from entering and diluting their flavor.

2. Cold Water Bath: Fill a large bowl or basin with cold water. Submerge the sealed bag of crab legs in the water.

3. Change Water: Change the cold water every 30 minutes to ensure that it remains cold and effective at thawing.

4. Thawing Time: The crab legs should thaw in approximately 1 to 3 hours using this method. Larger crab legs may require more time.

Cooking Methods for Frozen King Crab Legs


Steaming is a preferred method for cooking frozen king crab legs, as it allows the crab meat to heat gently, preserving its tenderness and succulence. Here’s how:

1. Bring Water to a Boil: Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. You can also add aromatics like lemon, herbs, and garlic to infuse subtle flavors into the crab meat.

2. Place Crab Legs in a Steamer Basket: If you have a steamer basket, arrange the crab legs in a single layer. Alternatively, you can place the crab legs directly into the boiling water.

3. Cover and Steam: Cover the pot with a lid and let the crab legs steam for 5 to 7 minutes. Cooking times may vary based on the size of the crab legs.

4. Check for Doneness: The crab legs are ready when the shells turn a vibrant orange-red color and the meat is heated through.


Boiling is another effective method for cooking frozen king crab legs. While it may result in slightly less tender meat compared to steaming, it’s a quick and efficient approach:

1. Boil Water: Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a rolling boil.

2. Add Crab Legs: Gently place the frozen crab legs into the boiling water.

3. Cook: Boil the crab legs for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the shells turn a vibrant color and the meat is heated through.

4. Drain and Serve: Carefully remove the crab legs from the water and drain them. Serve them hot with your favorite dipping sauces.

See Also: Boiling vs. Steaming: Which is Better for Crab Legs?


Grilling frozen king crab legs adds a smoky and charred flavor to the meat. Here’s how to do it:

1. Preheat the Grill: Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.

2. Prepare the Crab Legs: Brush the frozen crab legs with melted butter or olive oil and season with your favorite spices and herbs.

3. Grill the Crab Legs: Place the crab legs on the grill grates and cook for about 5 to 6 minutes, turning them occasionally. The shells should become slightly charred, and the meat should be heated through.

4. Serve: Once grilled to your desired level of char and warmth, remove the crab legs from the grill and serve them immediately.

Air Fryer

1. Preheat the Air Fryer: Preheat your air fryer to 400°F (200°C) for a few minutes. Preheating ensures consistent cooking results.

2. Season and Arrange the Crab Legs: Brush the king crab legs with a light coat of olive oil or melted butter. This helps enhance the flavor and promotes a crispy texture. Sprinkle your chosen seasonings over the crab legs, ensuring even coverage.

3. Place in the Air Fryer: If desired, lightly coat the air fryer basket with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Arrange the seasoned king crab legs in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Avoid overcrowding to ensure proper air circulation.

4. Cook the Crab Legs: Slide the basket into the preheated air fryer. Cook the king crab legs for 6 to 8 minutes, flipping them halfway through the cooking time. Cooking times may vary based on the size of the crab legs and the specific air fryer model.

5. Check for Doneness: The crab legs are ready when the shells turn a vibrant orange-red color and the meat is heated through.

Serving and Enjoying King Crab Legs

Serving frozen king crab legs is an experience in itself. Here are some tips to enhance your dining pleasure:

1. Cracking and Extracting: Use crab crackers, seafood forks, or kitchen scissors to crack open the shells and extract the meat. The sweet and succulent crab meat is the ultimate reward.

See Also: How to Eat Crab: 3 Easy Steps

2. Dipping Sauces: Pair king crab legs with a variety of dipping sauces, such as melted butter, lemon aioli, garlic butter, or cocktail sauce, to complement their natural flavors.

3. Side Dishes: Serve crab legs with sides like buttery corn on the cob, steamed vegetables, or a fresh salad for a well-rounded meal.

See Also: What to Serve with Crab Legs: 6 Fun Side Dishes

Properly Storing Crab

Storing Cooked Crab

1. Cool Down Promptly: After cooking crab, it’s important to cool it down quickly to prevent bacterial growth. Place the cooked crab in a shallow container and allow it to cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

2. Refrigeration: Once the crab has cooled down, transfer it to the refrigerator as soon as possible. Use an airtight container or wrap the crab in plastic wrap before placing it in the refrigerator. Cooked crab can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.

3. Label and Date: To help keep track of its freshness, label the container with the date of storage. This will ensure that you use the crab before it reaches its expiration date.

See Also: Shelf Life of Seafood & How to Store It (Fresh+Cooked)

Storing Uncooked Crab

1. Freshness Matters: When purchasing uncooked crab, choose specimens that are lively, have intact shells, and exhibit a fresh ocean scent. Live crabs should be heavy for their size and show signs of activity.

2. Short-Term Storage: If you plan to cook the crab within a day or two, store it in a well-ventilated container in the coldest part of your refrigerator, such as the crisper drawer. Cover the crab with a damp cloth or paper towel to maintain moisture and prevent it from drying out.

3. Long-Term Storage: If you won’t be cooking the crab immediately, it’s best to store it alive. Keep the crab in a cool, damp place, such as a cooler or a large container lined with damp newspaper or seaweed. Place the container in a cool area, but do not store the crab in freshwater, as this can cause it to suffocate.

See Also: How Long Do Crab Legs Last in The Freezer?


Cooking frozen king crab legs is a culinary adventure that rewards your palate with delicate sweetness and sumptuous meat. From steaming to grilling, each cooking method offers a unique twist on these exquisite crustaceans. Whether you’re enjoying them for a special occasion or simply indulging in a luxurious meal, mastering the art of cooking frozen king crab legs allows you to savor the essence of the sea in the comfort of your own home. So, embrace the journey, ignite your culinary creativity, and relish every delectable bite of these coveted treasures from the ocean depths.



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