How To Season Crab Legs When Boiling (The 3 Best Ways)


Whether they live by the ocean or in the landlocked state of Nebraska, plenty of people love seafood. Unfortunately, loving seafood doesn’t necessarily translate to knowing how to cook it. If you’re looking for ways to season crab legs, though, you’ve come to the right place.

You can season crab legs with various ingredients, including Old Bay Seasoning, lemon juice and vinegar, butter and garlic, or a custom spice and ingredients mixture. The important thing is to use frozen, not thawed, crab legs and give the ingredients time to infuse the water before adding the crab. 

In this article, I’ll give you all the best tips for boiling crab legs. Whether you want to throw a Cajun crab boil or cook them in a more southern-like style, keep reading to find out how. 

1. How To Season Boiling Crab Legs With Old Bay Seasoning

This is my all-time favorite recipe for boiling crab legs with Old Bay Seasoning. The ingredients are perfect and give the crab legs an herby, “garlicky” flavor that’s hard to beat.

This method is so easy; even someone who’s never turned on a stove can do it.

Ingredients: 

  • 2 pounds (907.19 grams) frozen snow crab legs
  • 3 tablespoons (45 grams) Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) garlic powder
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 10-15 whole black peppercorns
  • Salt
  • Water

Directions:

  1. Add the seasoning, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and bay leaves to the water and let them simmer for about two or three minutes first. This small bit of time allows the water to pull the flavor from all the ingredients, making it flavorful, aromatic, and broth-like.
  2. Drop my crab legs into the water, ensuring they’re fully submerged, and let them simmer for about five minutes. (This is the only point where I diverge from the recipe. It says to boil the crab legs for eight minutes. I think that’s too long.)
  3. Pull them out, shake the water from them, and enjoy them.

2. How To Boil Snow Crab Legs Southern Style

A large percentage of my family grew up or currently lives in Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi, so I’ve spent a lot of time in the South over the years. As a result, I’m pretty familiar with boiling crab legs “Southern Style.”

For the longest time, while I’d watch my family cook, it seemed like “Southern Style” just meant throwing as much as possible into the pot. I saw everything go into that stockpot – garlic, onions, squash, zucchini, corn, and more. If my family could grow it in a garden, it would go into the crab boil pot. 

Over time, though, I tinkered with making my own southern-style snow crab legs and finally came up with the following recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds (907.19 grams) frozen snow crab legs
  • ¼ cup (236.59 ml) white vinegar
  • ¼ cup (236.59 ml) lemon juice
  • ¾ diced white onion
  • 1 ½ tablespoon (22.5 grams) garlic powder (or garlic salt if you enjoy saltier seafood)
  • 2 diced scallions
  • 1-2 diced fennel stalk
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Zatarain’s Extra Spicy Crawfish Shrimp & Crab Boil Seasoning I get it on Amazon)*

Directions:

  1. Fill a large stockpot with water and set to boil on medium-high heat.
  2. Add all the ingredients except the snow crab legs.
  3. Once the water starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium for a good simmer.
  4. Drop the crab legs into the pot and let them cook on medium heat for 4-5 minutes.

Once they’re done, I serve them with this delicious lemon butter sauce, to which I add a dash of chives for additional flavor. 

*Note: The Zatarain’s seasoning is pretty spicy, so if you don’t like a lot of heat in your food, you may want to leave it out. Additionally, you can use a milder option, such as the traditional Old Bay Seasoning or this Zatarain’s Concentrated Shrimp & Crab Boil sauce from Amazon.com.

3. How To Boil Snow Crab Legs Louisiana Style

The method for boiling crab legs Louisiana style is the same as cooking them with Old Bay Seasoning or using my “Southern-Style” recipe. The only things that change are the ingredients. I make some killer southern-style crab legs.

However, it’s hard to beat Cajun crab legs from New Orleans. No one knows how to cook seafood like New Orleans chefs. This recipe from Cookpad is the closest I’ve ever come to getting Louisiana-style crab legs precisely right.

As you’ll see from the recipe, the directions remain pretty much the same, except you’ll add specific ingredients at different times throughout the process.

  • Start with all your seasonings—Old Bay Seasoning, onion, celery, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, and salt. Once they start to boil, reduce the heat to medium and add the new potatoes. After five minutes, add the corn.
  • Cook that for another ten minutes, then add your crab legs. From that point on, everything else is the same.

Should You Use Fresh, Thawed, or Frozen Crab Legs?

Always use frozen crab legs for a crab boil. Fresh seafood has the best taste, but it’s not always the safest option. Thawed seafood loses too much of its flavor, meaning there isn’t much left by the time you finish boiling it. Frozen seafood is always your best bet. It retains its taste and is safer to eat.

How Do You Flavor Infuse Crab Legs? 

Boiling crab legs in a bold, flavorful broth will infuse them with a nice flavor. However, if you want to maximize the flavor, follow these two steps.

For maximum flavor, allow your seasonings to boil for a few minutes before adding the crab legs. Doing so infuses the water with the intense, robust flavor of all the ingredients. Boil the crab in the water/seasoning mix for several minutes. Then, toss the meat in garlic butter before serving it. 

Do You Cover Crab Legs When Boiling?

One of the things people often ask when boiling crab legs is whether or not they should cover the pot. 

If you’re boiling crab legs, you do not have to cover them with a lid on your stockpot. The legs cook quickly and absorb plenty of flavor without it. However, if you want to steam crab legs, you will have to cover the stockpot to lock in the steam so that they cook correctly.

How Long Do You Boil Crab Legs For? 

Not only is boiling crab legs easy, but it’s also a relatively quick process.

Because frozen crab legs are already cooked, you only need to warm them up and infuse them with the flavor from the seasonings. This process shouldn’t take more than five or six minutes. Betty Crocker recommends only three to five. If you’re cooking fresh crab legs, it may take longer.

How Do You Know When Crab Legs Are Done? 

Most frozen crab legs come pre-cooked, so all you have to do is reheat them. 

Since crab shells don’t change color while cooking, the best way to determine when they’re done is through smell and by testing them. After a few minutes in the pot, you should start to smell the traditionally cooked seafood scent. When you do, crack one open and see if the meat is hot.

Can You Overcook Crab?

When it comes to seafood, people sometimes think the longer they cook it, the better and safer it’ll be. That is not the case with crab legs.

It’s certainly possible to overcook crab legs. Since most frozen crab and crab legs are pre-cooked, you can’t boil them for too long without overcooking them. Overcooked crab meat smells unpleasantly like raw fish and often turns an unappetizing shade of yellow.

Can You Boil Frozen Crab Legs? 

So what exactly is the best way to cook frozen crab legs?

Boiling frozen crab legs is one of the quickest, easiest ways to cook them. It infuses them with tons of flavor, reheats them, and makes it easier for you to crack their shells. You can also steam them or cook them in the oven, but boiling will get it done quickly.

Final Thoughts

Crab Legs on a Plate With Butter

You don’t have to live near the ocean to make delicious, tender, flavorful crab legs. All it takes is a large, boiling pot of water and the right seasonings for the job. Just be sure you use ingredients with bold, robust flavors so that your crab has a richer taste. 

For more, check out What Is the Best Lobster? | “Tail to Tail” Comparison.

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page. I hope your visit here has been a sweet one.

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