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Snow Crab Legs on the Home Barbecue Grill
Crab Legs are Super Easy to Grill and Very Tasty

grilled king crab legs
Grilled King Crab Legs

Lots of people hesitate about grilling seafood, but seafood is about as easy as it gets on the grill. Prep is easy, and it only takes minutes to have a glorious feast ready.

Snow crab legs are especially good on the barbecue grill. They can be bought fresh, but more often people are buying them frozen in a bag at the grocery store or meat market. This usually means that the crab legs are cooked already and basically just need to be heated. If you happen to have fresh crab legs, you can follow these directions. Just watch close and add a little cooking time as indicated. Not much. Seafood cooks quick.

Basic Grilled Crab Legs

If you have a bag of frozen king crab legs, let them thaw. If you forget, then fill the sink full of cold water and put the bag in the sink. Don’t use hot water as that will start re-cooking the crab and also can be a breading ground for food poisoning. If the crab legs are still a little frozen or cold, it’s no huge deal.

Let the grill preheat. This is for charcoal or gas. You want the grill and grates hot before you cook. Otherwise, food sticks. And, it takes longer to cook, and foods can get tough – especially seafood.

Spray the grates with Pam spray. Or you can pour some Italian dressing in the bag with the crab legs. This adds a bit of flavor but not overpowering, since the crab legs are encased in shells for the most part.

Place crab legs on the grill. Yes. They do take up quite a bit of space.

Grill with the lid open for about 5 minutes on each side at a medium heat – around 350 degrees.

Grill temperatures vary as do sizes on the crab legs. So look at the ends. The color should be a nice solid white and firm but not rubbery to the touch. You’ll also smell the cooked/heated crab. It has a sweet smell which is noticeable as they get close to done.

Boiled King Crab Legs

If you have a great side burner on your grill, and that is a big “if,” then you can boil crab legs. In addition to needing a lot of heat, you also need a really big pot. You can look at king crab legs and see that you are not going to boil them in a little sauce pan.

Bring the water to a boil. Add the crab legs, reduce the heat a bit (to medium) and cook until done which is around 5 minutes. Again, this can vary. That’s a ballpark and will be pretty close.

You can add seasoning to the boiling water. We like to add Old Bay seasoning. Really, any type of crab boil mixture will work, or you can mix up your own. It’s fine to use plain water too and then get more flavor with your butter or optional seasonings on the table.

Steamed Crab Legs

To steam crab legs, you need quite a bit of heat – enough to boil. You don’t need as much heat as a flat out crab boil, but it can still be a stretch on many grills to get to the boil point.

You also need a steamer pot to steam crab legs. The water is on the bottom, and there’s a lift out piece or basket that keeps the crab legs above the level of the water.

Cover the bottom of the pot with water at about an inch or so but not above the insert or basket. Add a tsp of salt which helps the water come to a boil.

Put the crab legs in the insert or basket and close the lid.

Let the crabs steam for around 5 to 6 minutes. That should do it, but check the ends to be sure. You do want them hot and cooked, but overcooked crab is rubbery.

Thoughts on Cooking Crab Legs Outdoors

If I’m going to cook crab legs outdoors, I’d go with the grill on the grates. That’s the easiest, and you get a nice smoked flavor.

It’s possible to boil or steam crab legs, but many side burners on grills don’t have enough heat to do it right. A base for a turkey fryer can work. Heat that up and put on the pot. That’s easier as far as getting good direct heat.

Tips on Grilled Crab Legs

The most common problem with crab legs or other grilled seafood is that people cook them too long. If they taste rubbery or tough, then they were on too long. Drop back on the time.

Crab legs are big and messy (but oh so good). Have a pot or something where guests can drop the empty crab shells.

Crab crackers are nice. You can break and get into king crab legs without crab crackers, but if you do them often, you may want to invest in a set.


See the Site Map link at the top to find other seafood and recipes as well as help guides and reviews - and happy grilling.

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