How to Steam Snow Crab


Cooking + Recipes

Solid Tips for the Simplest Method

(Note: Our wild-caught Snow Crab comes pre-cooked and pre-scored for your ease and convenience.) 

When you’re looking to make the most of the pure, clean flavors of wild Alaskan snow crab meat, suitable for a diverse array of meals, you’re going to want to steam the crab legs until they’re piping hot, with little to no manipulation. In our opinion, the steaming method is ideal for heating any variety of ready-to-eat crab legs for multi-purpose use, since steam offers quick, intense heat that preserves the moist, tender texture of fresh, high-quality crab meat. 

While boiling wild Alaskan snow crab legs can also produce juicy results, steaming them allows the crab meat to retain more of its own juices and flavors, and the minimal addition of liquid makes the legs easier to handle when you’re chowing down. That’s because boiling tends to introduce more liquid into the leg cavities, which can leave you with more of a hot mess as you snap the legs open at their seams — not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially if you have something on hand to soak up some of the extra juices. 

To Thaw or Not to Thaw?

When steaming most wild Alaskan varieties of seafood, thawing out your proteins before introducing them to heat is the best way to ensure even doneness and ideal textures in the final product. However, crab legs are much less dense and won’t suffer much from being heated up straight from the freezer. So, should you thaw them, or heat them from frozen?

The main benefit of taking the time to thaw snow crab legs is that you will reduce the already fast cook time. Bringing the crab meat to the desired temperature after that requires less than 5 minutes. Thawed snow crab legs are also more pliable, so you’ll be able to arrange them into small pots with no issues.

The main benefit to heating snow crab legs from frozen is that you can prepare a meal of snow crab legs on the fly, with little advance notice. We suggest rinsing off the ice glaze under cold, running water so that there aren’t any super icy sections for more even cooking. When using frozen crab, bringing the crab meat to the desired temperature usually requires at least 5 minutes, depending on the amount you’re trying to steam up; it’ll never take more than 10 minutes for your pot of crab legs to get hot enough to produce steam. 

How to Steam Frozen or Thawed Snow Crab Legs

Set a steamer basket into a pot large enough to accommodate your snow crab legs, filling the bottom of the pot with an inch or so of liquid. You can use plain water as a steaming medium. If you want to add in a hint of aromatic notes, use a mixture of water and white wine, or add in several slices of fresh lemon. Even during a brief steam, these ingredients will add a subtle complexity to the crab meat. 

Bring everything to a boil, then add the crab legs to your steamer basket. Close the pot with a tight-fitting lid or aluminum foil, then allow the legs to steam for 4 minutes if thawed and about 6 minutes if frozen. You’ll know that they’re done when the legs themselves are hot enough to give off their own steam when lifted from the pot. 

As an alternative, you can use the steaming feature of an Instant Pot to bring your crab legs to temperature, following the manufacturer’s guidance on how much liquid to add to the appliance — typically, one cup of water for a 6-quart pot and two cups for an 8-quart pot. Your crab legs, whether thawed or frozen, will be steamy in 4 minutes. 

If you don’t have a steamer basket or pressure cooker, you can simply cover the bottom of a wide pot with water — less than ¼ inch in depth — and steam your legs directly in this layer of liquid. It should be shallow enough that your crab legs are steamed rather than boiled, but contain enough water so that the liquid doesn’t burn off before your legs are finished warming through. This improvised method works better with thawed legs, since there’s less of a chance that the liquid will burn off before the crab meat is heated to the desired temperature.

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