7 Ways To Cook Snow Crab & All You Want to Know

by Ella

Snow crab, known for its sweet and succulent meat, is a delectable seafood delicacy enjoyed by people around the world. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a home cook looking to explore the world of seafood, learning how to cook snow crab is a valuable culinary skill. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the intricacies of preparing snow crab, exploring various cooking methods, and providing expert tips to ensure your crab dishes are a hit. So, put on your apron and get ready to master the art of cooking snow crab.

Understanding Snow Crab

1. The Snow Crab Species

Snow crab (Chionoecetes opilio) is a species of crab found in cold waters, primarily in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. It is also known as opilio crab or queen crab. Snow crabs are prized for their sweet, delicate meat, making them a sought-after seafood option.


2. Harvesting Snow Crab

Snow crab is typically harvested using pots or traps, which are lowered to the ocean floor to catch crabs. The crabs are then sorted, and the ones of suitable size are retained for sale.


3. Snow Crab Seasonality

The availability of snow crab can vary depending on the region, but it is generally in season during the late winter and early spring months when the crabs migrate to shallower waters to reproduce. This seasonality ensures that you can enjoy fresh snow crab during specific times of the year.


Choosing the Best Snow Crab

1. Fresh vs. Frozen Snow Crab

When selecting snow crab, you’ll often have the choice between fresh and frozen options. Fresh snow crab is typically available during the crabbing season and can be a fantastic choice if you can find it. However, frozen snow crab is a convenient and high-quality alternative that is available year-round. The key is to ensure that the frozen crab is of high quality and properly stored.


2. Buying Snow Crab Legs vs. Whole Snow Crabs

Snow crab is commonly available as clusters of legs or as whole crabs. Snow crab legs are popular because they contain the most meat, and they are easier to prepare. Whole snow crabs, on the other hand, can be a culinary adventure, allowing you to experience the full crab from shell to claw.

3. Sizing and Grading Snow Crab

Snow crab is graded based on size, with larger crabs often being more expensive. Common size grades include small, medium, large, and jumbo. Smaller crabs are generally more tender, while larger ones have larger leg clusters with more substantial chunks of meat. Choose the size that suits your recipe and preferences.

Essential Tools and Equipment

1. Crab Crackers and Picks

To enjoy snow crab fully, you’ll need crab crackers and picks. These tools are essential for cracking the shells and extracting the meat. Look for sturdy crab crackers that can handle the task without breaking.

2. Large Stockpot or Steamer

A large stockpot or steamer is necessary for boiling or steaming snow crab, especially if you’re cooking for a group. Make sure it’s large enough to accommodate the crab legs comfortably.

3. Tongs and Slotted Spoon

Tongs and a slotted spoon come in handy when handling snow crab, especially when transferring them from boiling water or steamer to an ice bath or serving platter.

Preparing Snow Crab for Cooking

1. Thawing Frozen Snow Crab

If you’ve opted for frozen snow crab, it’s essential to thaw it properly before cooking. The best way to do this is by placing the crab in the refrigerator overnight. Alternatively, you can use the cold water thawing method, where you seal the crab in a plastic bag and submerge it in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes until thawed.

2. Cleaning Snow Crab

Cleaning snow crab typically involves rinsing off any ice or debris from the crab’s surface. Ensure that the crab you purchase is free of any visible contaminants or foreign objects.

3. Breaking Down Snow Crab Legs

To make it easier to enjoy snow crab, you’ll need to break down the legs into manageable portions. Use crab crackers or kitchen shears to crack the shells, and crab picks to extract the meat.

Cooking Methods

1. Steaming Snow Crab

Steaming is a gentle and effective way to cook snow crab while preserving its delicate flavor. To steam snow crab, follow these steps:

Fill a large pot with about an inch of water and insert a steamer basket.

Place the crab legs in the steamer basket.

Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil.

Steam the crab legs for about 5-7 minutes, or until they are heated through.

2. Boiling Snow Crab

Boiling snow crab is a straightforward method that yields flavorful results. Here’s how to boil snow crab:

Fill a large pot with water, leaving enough room for the crab.

Add salt to the water, using about 2 tablespoons per gallon of water.

Bring the water to a rolling boil.

Gently place the crab legs into the boiling water.

Cook for 4-5 minutes for thawed crab legs or 6-8 minutes for frozen crab legs.

Remove the crab legs from the water and place them in an ice bath to halt the cooking process.

3. Baking Snow Crab

Baking snow crab can infuse it with additional flavors. Here’s a simple baked snow crab recipe:


  • Snow crab legs
  • Melted butter
  • Lemon juice
  • Garlic (optional)
  • Parsley (optional)


Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).

Arrange the crab legs on a baking sheet or in a baking dish.

Drizzle melted butter over the crab legs.

Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the crab legs and add minced garlic and chopped parsley for extra flavor, if desired.

Cover the baking dish with foil.

Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the crab legs are heated through.

4. Grilling Snow Crab

Grilling snow crab can impart a smoky and slightly charred flavor. Follow these steps to grill snow crab:

Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.

Brush the crab legs with melted butter or a marinade of your choice.

Place the crab legs directly on the grill grates.

Grill for about 4-6 minutes, turning occasionally, until heated through and grill marks appear.

5. Sautéing Snow Crab

Sautéing snow crab can create a delicious, buttery coating on the meat. Here’s how to sauté snow crab:

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add butter or olive oil.

Add the crab legs to the skillet.

Sauté for about 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally, until the crab legs are heated through and lightly browned.

6. Frying Snow Crab

Frying snow crab is a unique way to enjoy this seafood delicacy. Here’s a simple fried snow crab recipe:


  • Snow crab legs
  • All-purpose flour
  • Egg wash (whisked eggs)
  • Bread crumbs
  • Oil for frying
  • Salt and pepper


Heat oil in a deep fryer or large, deep skillet to 350°F (175°C).

Dip the crab legs into the flour, ensuring they are coated evenly.

Next, dip them into the egg wash.

Roll the crab legs in bread crumbs, pressing lightly to adhere.

Carefully place the coated crab legs into the hot oil.

Fry for about 2-3 minutes or until they turn golden brown and crispy.

Remove the crab legs from the oil and place them on paper towels to drain excess oil.

7. Making Snow Crab Soup and Bisque

Snow crab can also be used to prepare delicious soups and bisques. The shells and legs can be used to make flavorful seafood broths. Here’s a basic recipe for snow crab bisque:


  • Snow crab shells and legs
  • Onion, celery, and carrots (mirepoix)
  • Garlic
  • White wine
  • Heavy cream
  • Seafood stock or broth
  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Herbs and spices (such as thyme and bay leaves)


In a large pot, melt butter and sauté mirepoix (onion, celery, and carrots) until softened.

Add minced garlic and continue sautéing for a minute.

Deglaze the pot with white wine and allow it to cook off alcohol.

Add the snow crab shells and legs, along with herbs and spices.

Pour in seafood stock or broth and bring to a simmer.

Allow the broth to simmer for about 30 minutes to infuse flavors.

Strain the broth to remove solids, pressing down on the shells to extract all the flavorful liquid.

In a separate pot, make a roux by melting butter and stirring in flour until it forms a paste.

Gradually whisk in heavy cream and the strained crab broth.

Simmer the bisque until it thickens, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Seasoning and Flavoring Snow Crab

1. Classic Snow Crab Seasonings

Butter and Lemon: The classic combination of melted butter and fresh lemon juice is a timeless favorite for dipping crab meat.

Old Bay Seasoning: Old Bay is a popular seafood seasoning blend known for its distinctive flavor, which includes a mix of herbs and spices like paprika, celery salt, and red pepper flakes.

Garlic and Herbs: Combining garlic, parsley, and other herbs can infuse your snow crab with aromatic flavors.

2. Creative Snow Crab Flavors

Asian-Inspired: Consider using soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and scallions for an Asian twist on your snow crab.

Cajun Spice: A blend of Cajun spices can add heat and depth of flavor to your crab dishes.

Citrus Zest: Experiment with the zest of citrus fruits like oranges or limes to brighten up your crab.

3. Marinades and Sauces

Garlic Butter Sauce: A garlic butter sauce is a rich and indulgent option that complements snow crab beautifully. You can add minced garlic, fresh herbs, and even a splash of white wine for extra depth.

Cocktail Sauce: A zesty cocktail sauce made with ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice is a classic choice for dipping crab.

Aioli: Homemade aioli, a garlicky mayonnaise-based sauce, can be customized with various flavors like saffron, chipotle, or herbs.

Serving Snow Crab

1. Plating and Presentation

When serving snow crab, presentation can elevate the dining experience. Consider arranging the crab legs neatly on a platter, garnishing with fresh herbs and lemon wedges. If you’re serving whole crabs, you can crack them beforehand or provide crab crackers and picks for diners to enjoy the process themselves.

Ideal Sides and Accompaniments

Snow crab pairs well with a variety of sides and accompaniments, including:

Melted Butter: A classic choice for dipping crab meat.

Lemon Wedges: Squeezing fresh lemon juice over crab adds a burst of citrusy flavor.

Corn on the Cob: Sweet and buttery corn complements the sweetness of crab meat.

Garlic Bread: Crusty garlic bread can be used to make a sandwich with crab meat.

Coleslaw: A crisp and tangy coleslaw can balance the richness of snow crab.

Salad: A fresh green salad with a light vinaigrette provides a refreshing contrast.

Rice or Pasta: Serve crab meat over rice or pasta for a more substantial meal.

2. Snow Crab Pairing Recommendations

When it comes to beverages, consider pairing snow crab with:

White Wine: A crisp, dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay complements the delicate flavor of snow crab.

Beer: A light beer, such as a pilsner or wheat beer, can be a refreshing choice.

Iced Tea: A glass of sweet or unsweetened iced tea can be a refreshing and non-alcoholic option.

Health and Nutritional Benefits of Snow Crab

1. Rich in Protein

Snow crab is an excellent source of lean protein, which is essential

for muscle health and overall body function. A 3-ounce (85g) serving of snow crab typically provides around 16 grams of protein.

2. Low in Calories

Snow crab is relatively low in calories, making it a suitable choice for those looking to maintain or lose weight. A 3-ounce (85g) serving of cooked snow crab contains approximately 80-90 calories.

3. A Source of Essential Nutrients

Snow crab is a good source of essential nutrients, including:

Vitamin B12: Important for nerve function and the formation of red blood cells.

Zinc: Supports immune function and wound healing.

Selenium: Acts as an antioxidant and supports thyroid function.

Phosphorus: Essential for bone health and energy metabolism.

Copper: Involved in various enzymatic processes in the body.

4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Snow Crab

Snow crab also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their heart-healthy benefits. Omega-3s can help reduce the risk of heart disease, improve cholesterol levels, and support brain health.

Handling Leftover Snow Crab

1. Proper Storage

If you have leftover snow crab, it’s important to store it properly to maintain its freshness and quality. Follow these storage guidelines:

Refrigeration: Store leftover crab meat in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.

Freezing: If you don’t plan to use the crab within a few days, you can freeze it. Place the crab meat in an airtight, freezer-safe container or bag, and store it in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.

2. Reheating Snow Crab

Reheating leftover snow crab can help restore its flavor and texture. Here are a few methods for reheating crab:

Steaming: Steam the crab legs for 2-3 minutes until heated through.

Microwave: Place the crab meat in a microwave-safe dish, cover it with a damp paper towel, and microwave on low power in 20-second intervals until warmed.

Oven: Wrap the crab legs in aluminum foil and bake them in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 10-15 minutes or until heated.

3. Creative Leftover Snow Crab Recipes

Don’t let leftover snow crab go to waste. Get creative with these leftover crab recipes:

Snow Crab Salad: Toss flaked snow crab with a light dressing, diced vegetables, and fresh herbs to create a refreshing salad.

Crab Cakes: Combine crab meat with breadcrumbs, herbs, and spices to make delicious crab cakes. Pan-fry or bake them until golden brown.

Crab Pasta: Add crab meat to your favorite pasta dish for a seafood-inspired meal.

Crab Dip: Mix crab meat with cream cheese, mayonnaise, and seasonings to create a creamy crab dip. Serve with crackers or bread.

Common Snow Crab Cooking Mistakes

1. Overcooking

Overcooking snow crab can result in tough and dry meat. To avoid this mistake, follow recommended cooking times and methods, and use a timer to ensure you don’t leave the crab in the heat for too long.

2. Underseasoning

Snow crab has a delicate flavor, so it’s essential to season it adequately. Don’t be shy with seasonings like salt, pepper, and other spices or herbs. Experiment with different seasonings to find your preferred flavor profile.

3. Neglecting Proper Preparations

Skipping essential steps like thawing frozen crab, cleaning the crab, or breaking down the legs can lead to subpar results. Proper preparation is crucial for an enjoyable dining experience.

4. Not Handling Leftovers Correctly

Improperly storing or reheating leftover snow crab can lead to food safety issues and loss of quality. Follow the guidelines provided earlier in this guide for handling leftovers.


Q1. How do I know when snow crab is cooked?

Snow crab is cooked when the meat turns opaque and white. The shells will also turn red or orange when the crab is fully cooked. Cooking times vary depending on the method and whether the crab is fresh or frozen, but a general guideline is 4-5 minutes for thawed crab legs and 6-8 minutes for frozen crab legs.

Q2. What is the best way to crack snow crab shells?

Use dedicated crab crackers or kitchen shears to crack the shells. Start by breaking the larger sections of the shell, and then use a crab pick or fork to extract the meat. Take your time and be gentle to avoid breaking the delicate meat inside.

Q3. Can I cook frozen snow crab without thawing it first?

While it’s possible to cook frozen snow crab legs without thawing, it may require slightly longer cooking times. Keep in mind that thawing the crab legs first ensures more even cooking and better results.

Q4. How long can I store leftover snow crab in the fridge?

You can store leftover snow crab in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days. Be sure to keep it in an airtight container to maintain freshness.


In this comprehensive guide, we’ve explored the world of snow crab, from understanding the species and choosing the best crab to mastering various cooking methods and flavoring techniques. Whether you prefer the simplicity of classic butter and lemon or want to get creative with marinades and sauces, cooking snow crab offers a world of culinary possibilities.

Remember that cooking snow crab is not just about technique; it’s also about savoring the experience. So, gather your tools, select your seasonings, and embark on your culinary adventure with snow crab. With the knowledge and tips provided in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to creating unforgettable crab dishes that will delight your taste buds and those of your guests. Enjoy your journey into the world of snow crab cuisine!



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