Sunday, May 8, 2011

Alaskan King Crab Legs

Once you are past the prep, it's just 7 minutes
under the broiler and you are ready to eat.

 It's Mother's day so I'm going to forego the beef and opt for seafood. I'm going with Alaskan King Crab (which also happens to be my sons, Sean and Patrick, favorite seafood). But not all Alaskan King Crab is alike, so I'll give you a simple rule to follow: "Go Big or Go Home". You want to buy the biggest crab legs you can find. Big, thick and really heavy. The reason for it is simple economics.

Costco sells extraordinary Alaskan King Crab legs for $14.99 a pound. In fact, you'll be hard pressed to find better Alaskan King Crab than at Costco. Because they are so big and meaty, they have a ratio of approximately 75% meat/25% shell. You'll be throwing away the shell, so that will leave you with an effective cost of $18.74 a pound for Costco's crab meat.

Byerly's sells Alaskan King Crab for $19.99 a pound. But they are selling little pencil-thin legs that have a ratio of roughly 50% meat/50% shell. Again, you're throwing away the shell, so that will leave you with an effective cost of nearly $40.00 a pound for Byerly's crab meat. "Go big or go home."

Buy the biggest legs you can and make sure they have the knuckle on them. The knuckle is packed full of delicious meat, has very little shell and you don't need to cut anything to get at the knuckle meat. The rule of thumb for buying Alaskan King Crab legs is one large leg per person, as long as the leg includes the knuckle.

Alaskan King Crab is cooked and flash frozen before you buy it. Once thawed, all you have to do is warm it up. But if you've read my post on cooking lobster in the shell, the same philosophy applies here. You maximize flavor by reheating the crab leg in the shell. So let me explain how I like to prepare my Alaskan King Crab for cooking and ease of eating.

Put on a pair of oven mitts. Grab a leg. Place your hands on opposite sides of each joint and twist to separate the segments. When you get done with a leg, you will have separate segments that look like this (the knuckle is in the upper left-hand corner):

 Next we will be cutting half of the shell off of each segment. While any sturdy scissors will do, the job is made super-easy with a seafood shears:

 Grip the leg and cut length-wise down the shell. We are going to remove the white side of the shell, leaving the meat intact in the orange side of the shell (more color = more flavor):

So when we are done cutting, a finished segment looks like this, with orange shell on the bottom and the meat exposed on top for easy heating and eating:

And when we have cut all of the legs up and placed them on our foil-lined jelly pan, it looks like the photo below. Now you only need 7 minutes of broiler time and you are ready to eat. (This is what makes Alaskan King Crab such a good "company" dinner. You can prep it earlier in the day and then just heat it for 7 minutes before eating.)

Ingredients for 4 Servings
4 large Alaskan King Crab legs
3 sticks of butter
Lawry's Seasoned Salt (optional)

  1. Place oven rack on highest level in oven and turn on broiler. (Oven rack should be about 4.5" from broiler.)
  2. In a small saucepan, melt 3 sticks of butter.
  3. Line a large baking sheet with foil.
  4. Take each crab leg, twist and separate the pieces at each joint.
  5. Using seafood shears or scissors, cut each leg shell segment in half lengthwise. Leave the meat in the orange side of the shell while discarding the white side of the shell.
  6. Place all of the leg segments, meat-side up, on your foil-lined baking sheet.
  7. Pour off 4 tablespoons of melted butter and brush this butter over the top of the exposed crab meat. If desired, sprinkle a little Lawry's Seasoned Salt on each piece (recommended).
  8. Slide baking sheet under the broiler. Cook for 7 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately with individual bowls of melted butter.
Wine pairing: A nice oaky Chardonnay.

Since writing this recipe back in 2011, I have found an even better way to prepare Alaskan King Crab Legs. Check this out:

Alaskan King Crab lovers, also check out this recipe:

Special thanks to Patrick Gruggen for photographic contributions.


  1. I know this is an older post, but came up as I was searching for an easy advanced prep for Thanksgiving. I just wanted to say thanks for the details!

  2. Great post! Thanks so much! The pictures were especially helpful.

  3. Thanks for the info. I haven't ever made these but appreciated your step by step

  4. great post - will be making king crab for the final four - helpful advice :)

  5. great post - will be making king crab for the final four - helpful advice :)

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