Crab legs are a delicious option for a main course or appetizer. They're perfect because cooking them requires little preparation. They cook very quickly, even if you're using some of the very large king crab legs. Smaller species like snow crab will take only a few minutes to cook. While most crab legs are already cooked when purchased, cooking raw crab legs is done the same way as preparing already cooked and frozen crab, with the exception of a longer cook time. Crab legs may be boiled, steamed or oven-baked.
Prepare the cooking pot or pan. If boiling, fill the large pot two-thirds of the way with water and add 1/8 cup of salt. If steaming, put enough water in the steamer to fill the bottom section. If baking, put about a half-inch of water in the baking pan. If desired, add 1/8 cup crab boil seasoning to the water in any of the three types of pans.
Rinse the raw crab legs well under cold running water. Scrub them with a bristle brush to remove any grit or debris like bits of seaweed or sand. Break the crab legs, if necessary, into pieces small enough to fit into the pot or baking pan. Break them at the joints by bending the legs backward against the normal direction the joint bends.
Heat the pot or steamer until the water is boiling vigorously. If oven baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add the raw crab legs to the rapidly boiling water or steamer. If using a steamer, cover. Allow the crab legs to boil for about six or eight minutes for smaller legs like snow crab and as long as 12 to 14 minutes for very large legs like some king crab varieties. If using a steamer, steam for 12 to 14 minutes for small legs and 20 to 24 minutes for large legs. To oven-bake, put the raw legs in the baking pan, cover with foil and bake for 20 to 24 minutes for small legs and 30 to 36 minutes for large legs. Test to determine if the legs are done by cutting one of the largest open at its thickest point with heavy shears. If the meat is hot, has firmed up and lost its translucence, becoming opaque with a bright red surface color over white flesh, the legs are done.
Remove the legs from the pot or pan with tongs or a glove or oven mitt. (Silicone types work best.) Serve with melted butter and lemon. A nutcracker or heavy shears will serve to crack the legs to allow access to the meat.
Christian Petersen has been writing professionally since 2010, publishing for several online media outlets. He has been an amateur writer for many years writing short fiction and entertainment reviews. Petersen attended Grand Valley State University and has over 20 years of experience in the restaurant and consulting industries, serving as an executive chef and concept consultant.