How to Steam Crab Legs: Tips And Tricks For Steaming

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Seafood is always a crowd pleaser. When you dish up a delicious seafood meal, the unique tastes and flavors can be sensational.

One of our favorite things to do is go out to dinner and eat tons of seafood. When it comes to seafood, there are two beloved favorites that most people can agree on: shrimp and crab legs. You can eat lots of different crab meat, but the crab meat inside crab legs is particularly delicious.

Melt some butter and you’re ready for a feast! Who doesn’t love a delicious crab feast in the tradition of Chesapeake bay? You don’t have to travel to make your crab legs, though. You can ship them in or buy them at your local market and steam them at home.

One of our favorite seafood dishes is crab legs. These crab legs can be prepped and steamed, and served with a mouth watering helping of garlic butter for full bodied flavor! 

Snow crab and snow crab legs in butter sauce are my happy place. I get mine flown in from a place in Alaska. It’s not cheap, but crab meat and steamed snow crab legs are a special occasion around my house. My husband prefers crab cakes. To each his own.

As crab legs are often pre cooked slightly before they are frozen, the best way to cook them up is to steam them. The best thing about cooking crab legs this way is that it only takes a few minutes, and is actually really simple to do.

Crab legs are full of tender, flavorsome and succulent meat that is mouth wateringly good when consumed. Some of the most popular crab leg dishes are served across the world including in Europe, the US, and Canada, with Alaskan king crab legs being the favored option.

When crabs are caught on the fishing boats, they are cooked slightly, and then flash frozen immediately to preserve their freshness and flavor ready for consumption. This is why before you even think about starting the process of cooking or steaming your crab legs, you will need to defrost them first.

Most frozen crab legs will need to be defrosted within a refrigerator, and will take approximately 8 hours to defrost, so you may benefit from taking them out of the freezer and leaving them to defrost in the refrigerator overnight. 

You can also use salty, cold water to help thaw out the frozen crab legs before placing them inside your refrigerator. Once thawed completely, you can begin the process of cooking up your crab legs for a delicious meal!

How to Steam Crab Legs

There are actually a few to steam crab legs, and each one provides beautiful results.

However, our favorite way to steam crab legs at home is to use a steamer. 

Cooking Crabs Legs With a Steamer

For this recipe, you will need your crab legs,  2 cups of water, lemon wedges, 1 tablespoon of salt, and a little melted butter or olive oil. You will also need a steamer, and if you do not already have one, take our advice and get one! 

These things are a true lifesaver and make the most wonderful dishes. Here are some of our best picks:

Rosewill BPA-free, 9.5-Quart (9L), 3-Tier Stackable Baskets Electric Steamer

Rosewill BPA-free, 9.5-Quart (9L), 3-Tier Stackable Baskets Electric Steamer with Timer Food, 2.20'x9.25'x15.63'

Cuisinart Digital Glass Steamer

Cuisinart STM-1000 Cook Fresh Digital Glass Steamer, One Size, Stainless Steel

Cuisinart STM-1000 Cook Fresh Digital Glass Steamer, One Size, Stainless Steel
  • SUPERIOR FUNCTION: A powerful steam system delivers steam from top down in this 5-liter glass pot for 5 pre-programmed food settings – seafood, poultry, grains, vegetables and manua
  • EASY TO USE: LCD control panel with display, start/stop, pause & reheat buttons with audible alert
  • MUST-HAVE FEATURES: 60 minute countdown timer, stainless steel steaming tray, glass lid with stainless steel rim & glass lid, steaming tray flips to hold different types of foods – dishwasher safe glass pot with 1-liter removable water tank
  • CAPACITY: The 5-liter glass cooking pot is large enough for family-size portions of vegetables, fish, chicken, rice and more
  • LIMITED 3-YEAR WARRANTY: Refer to user manual for troubleshooting steps and questions surrounding warranty policies – this product is BPA free

The first step is to ensure that the crab legs are completely thawed before cooking. Once this is done, you will need to pour the two cups of water in the steamer and bring it to the boil.

Then, place the crab legs in the steamer basket, and leave them in there until the water is at boiling point.

Once the water has reached boiling point, you will want to place the steamer basket with your crab legs in, and set your steamer timer to 7 minutes. 

You will know that your crab legs are ready by the stunning aroma that will fill the air. However, you can also touch the crab legs to check if they are heated up properly.  If the crab legs are extra hot to the touch, then they will most likely be ready to serve.

Once the crab legs are ready, remove them from the steamer, and top them with a little melted butter or olive oil, and a squeeze of a lemon wedge. 

Whilst cooking crab legs with a steamer is the easiest trick to steam crab legs, you can cook them without a steamer, too. 

Cooking Crabs Legs Without a Steamer

To cook crab legs without a steamer, you can use a large pot with a colander. You will first have to fill the pot with water, filling it up until it is about ⅓ of the way full. Then, you can bring the water to the boil on a high heat.

Whilst your water is beginning to boil, you should place your crab legs inside the colander. When the water has reached boiling point, you must place the colander inside the pot, and cover the pot and colander with a lid to create steam. 

Leave your crab legs to steam for about 10 minutes this way, checking to see if they are cooked by touching the legs after a few minutes. 

Cooking Crabs Legs In the Oven

You may be surprised to find that you can cook crab legs in the oven, too! All you have to do is put water in a pan and place it on a rack in your oven. Then, simply preheat your oven and allow the water to boil.

Once this is done, you can place your crab legs in the pan, covered with a wet towel, and turn the oven on to bake mode for the best results. 

For this method, you will have to keep a close watch on the towel to ensure that it does not dry up at all, and allow the crab legs to steam for about 15 minutes. 

Our Top Tip

Our top tip is to serve up your crab legs with a little melted butter, and some garlic for a delicious garlic sauce to go on top!

Steamed Crab Legs

How to cook delicious crab legs with a steamer in under 15 minutes!
4.72 from 84 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 people
Calories 332 kcal


  • Frozen crab legs
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Melted butter or dash of virgin olive oil
  • Lemon wedges


  • First, pour two cups of water into the steamer and bring to the boil.
  • Then, place your crab legs inside the steamer basket and wait for water to boil.
  • Once the water is boiling, place the steamer basket with the crab legs inside the steamer and set the timer for about 7 minutes.
  • Check that the crab legs are cooked by touching them, and if they are hot to the touch and smelling delicious, then they are ready.
  • When ready, remove the crab legs from the steamer, and place them on a plate.
  • Add some melted butter or extra virgin olive oil with a squeeze of a lemon wedge to serve, or top with garlic butter.


Calories: 332kcal
Keyword Crab Legs, Steamed Crab, Steamed Crab Legs
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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