Snow crab clusters, also known as snow crab legs, are most often sold already cooked. However, in some cases, the legs are sold raw. Purchase only fresh, raw snow crab legs, not frozen ones, as uncooked crab deteriorates in texture when frozen. If the legs are precooked, they only need to be thawed and warmed to be ready to eat. Raw legs need to be cooked before they can be eaten.
Raw Snow Crab Legs
Raw snow crab legs will turn orange-red when cooked, changing from a blue-gray-green color. The meat will also turn white and opaque.
Boiling and Steaming
Drop raw snow crab legs in a large pot of boiling water, strongly seasoned with salt. Use around 1/4 cup of kosher salt for every 4 liters of water. Cook the crab legs for 12 minutes before transferring them to a bowl. Let the crab legs cool for five minutes before serving.
To steam crab legs, heat 2 to 3 inches of water in a large pot along with a 1/8 cup of water, and place a bowl filled with the crab legs on top of a steaming rack. Cover the pot and cook the crab legs for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the cooked crab legs and bowl, and let the crab legs cool for five minutes before serving them.
Seasoning the water for steaming or boiling will add flavor to the snow crab. Add dried and fresh spices, such as bay leaves, garlic cloves, ginger and whole peppercorns, to the cooking liquid before bringing the mixture to a boil.
Boiled crab legs will absorb more flavor from the spices than steamed crab legs.
Cook snow crab legs in the microwave by placing them in a shallow, microwave-safe bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, leaving one corner open to allow steam to escape. Microwave the crab legs on high for five to eight minutes. Flip the crab legs halfway through the process to ensure that they cook evenly.
Grilling or Baking
Heat a grill or oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the crab legs on a baking sheet or directly onto the grill rack, and cook them for five to 10 minutes. Let the crab cool for five minutes, tented with foil, before serving them.
Cooked Snow Crab Legs
Cooked snow crab legs are best thawed before reheating. If they are reheated from frozen, they can easily become overcooked.
Defrost snow crab legs:
- overnight in the fridge
- well-wrapped in plastic and submerged in cold water
- in the microwave on the defrost setting.
The last two defrosting methods require that the crab legs be eaten the same day they are thawed. Refrigerator-defrosted crab legs can be stored in the fridge safely for one to three days.
Boiling and Steaming
Boil thawed snow crab legs in water -- plain or seasoned -- for two to three minutes before draining and serving them. Steam thawed snow crab legs for three to five minutes before serving them.
Microwave thawed crab legs on high for two to three minutes before serving them. Unlike raw crab legs, these legs do not need to be covered with plastic wrap because of the shorter cooking time.
Grilling or Baking
Preheat a grill or oven to 450 F, and place the crab legs on a baking tray or on the grill rack. Cook them for three to four minutes, until the legs are just warmed through.
Seasoning the boiling or steaming liquid, as you would with raw crab legs, will add extra flavor to the meat. However, because the legs are already cooked, the extra seasonings in this case will affect the taste only slightly.
Grilling or baking cooked, thawed snow crab legs helps rid them of excess water. Frozen, cooked crab legs can sometimes be very watery, because they are boiled before being frozen.
Sauces and Condiments
Snow crab legs, whether cooked fresh or reheated, have sweet, succulent meat. Seasoning the cooking liquid gives crab extra flavor, but serving the legs alongside dipping sauces will give the meat a flavor boost.
Snow crab legs are traditionally served with clarified butter and lemon wedges. These are best when your crab is very fresh -- either cooked and frozen that day or cooked from raw -- as the gentle seasonings do not overwhelm the natural taste of the crab.
Seasoned mayonnaise adds richness and a tinge of sourness to crab meat. Season mayonnaise with freshly minced herbs, dried spice blends -- for example, Montreal steak spice or dried vegetable soup mixes, such as French Onion soup powder -- or with a mix of mustards, such as a blend of Dijon and whole-grain, country-style mustard.
Thin the mayonnaise with 1 to 2 teaspoons of water per 1/4 cup of mayonnaise for a sauce better suited for dipping delicate crab meat.
If a mayonnaise-based sauce is too rich, substitute half of the mayonnaise with regular yogurt, sour cream or Greek yogurt.
Herb-based sauces give crab legs a stronger, headier flavor. Choices for seasoning crab legs include pesto and chimichurri sauce, where the slight sourness and aromatic blend of herbs complements the natural sweetness and lightness of crab meat.