Classic Crab Leg Feast Recipe

Suitable for: crab legs, shrimp in shell, giant prawns in shells 

Crab legs are customarily cooked before they are frozen. In this recipe, you will only reheat crab legs, prepare a clarified-butter sauce, and sit down to a feast.

Snow crab legs yield roughly 1 lb. of meat for every 1 lb. of shell (that’s 1 lb. or 2 cups of crab meat for each 2 lb. of uncracked legs. King crabs, with slightly heavier shells, yield a bit less.

Allow at least 1 lb. of uncracked legs for a main-course serving—more if you are serving serious crab-lovers. Leftover crab is like leftover mink—nonexistent!

Seafood served in its closed shell is not for elegant dinner-parties. Cracking, picking and dipping to extract every delicious morsel means tools, fingers, and drippy spots.

Plates are a nice touch for the other elements of your meal (such as vegetables and bread) but traditional historic seafood houses often cover tables with newspaper and just let the fun begin.

Serves 4


Large pan to thaw crab legs in refrigerator (12-24 hours ahead)
Plastic wrap (to cover thawing crab)
Large steamer pot or soup pot, with lid
Long-handled tongs
Two-armed seafood/nut crackers
1 quart saucepan
1 quart bowl
Lots of napkins 


3-4 lb. crab legs, in shell, thawed
2 quarts water for large pot
1 Tbsp. white or apple-cider vinegar
2 whole bay leaves
3 whole allspice berries, if available
3 whole peppercorns
1 stick butter
1 lemon, cut in quarters
Fresh tarragon, mint or flat-leaf parsley 

Rinse thawed crab legs under cool water.

Add vinegar and whole spices to water, bring to a boil.

Place crab legs in steamer basket or directly into water.

Cover pot and lower to medium heat.

Steam or low-boil crab legs for 10 minutes (you are heating, not cooking)

While crab heats, or before you begin heating:

Melt butter over low-medium heat.

Set pot aside for 5 minutes, so butter solids sink to bottom.

Slowly pour clear (“clarified”) butter into a bowl, leaving solids in bottom of pan.

Discard solids, wipe out pan and return clear butter liquid to pan to rewarm.

Add ¼ cup chopped fresh herb to warming butter.

Dismantle crab legs, dip chunks of meat in butter, squeeze on a little lemon juice.

Repeat. . . and repeat. . .and repeat.