How to Steam Crab Legs in 3 Different Ways

There are plenty of ways on how you can cook crab legs, but there is no denying the fact that this delicious seafood is best served steamed. Steaming slowly releases the flavor of the crab, allowing you to savor its taste in all its glory.

However, most people shy away from steaming crabs simply because they don’t have a steamer at home. If that is your case, did you know that there are three different ways on how to steam crab legs (and 2 of them don’t require a steamer!).

Wondering what these ways are? Well, read on to learn more!

What You Will Need

Get these things ready before we get started on our mini tutorial:

  • 3 to 4 pounds of frozen or fresh crab legs
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Melted butter
  • Lemon Wedges

For Technique #1: Steamer

This is the traditional way of cooking crab legs. If you have a steamer at home, this is the best option for you.

For Technique #2: Skillet

In the event that you have no steamer at home, you can stream the crab legs using a skillet. This would be the most convenient alternative but a part of the crab claw will be submerged under water so the way the texture of the cooked crab will not be consistent. 

For Technique #3: Microwave

This method also allows you to steam crab claws even without the use of a steamer. However, it may require a bit of work but the texture that you will get is consistent. 

Step-by-Step instructions on How to Steam Crab Legs

If you already have all the items mentioned above, let’s proceed on steaming your crab legs. Here are the steps to take:

Step 1. If you are using frozen crab legs, thaw it first.

The night before you plan on preparing the crab legs, transfer the frozen crab legs from your freezer to the refrigerator and allow it to thaw overnight.

Pro Tips:

  • Make sure to place the frozen crab legs in a shallow container before putting it on the refrigerator. If you do not do this, the melting ice in the crab legs will leave a puddle of water in your fridge the next morning.
  • If you are running short on time, you can simply run the frozen crab legs under cold water for a few minutes. 

Step 2. Steam.

As mentioned above, there are three ways on how to steam crab legs. These are as follows:

Technique #1: Traditional Way (Using a Steamer)

Step 1. Pour about 4 cups of water into a large stockpot and bring it to a boil.  

Step 2. Insert the steam basket into the pot, making sure that the bottom part of the basket will not come in contact with the boiling water.

Pro Tip: If you do not have a steam basket, you can use a metal colander instead.

Step 3. Place crab legs in the steam basket. Make sure that they are in a single layer to ensure even cooking.

Step 4. Steam the crab legs for 5 to 7 minutes.

Technique #2: Steam on a Stovetop Using a Skillet

Step 1. Pour enough amount of water to cover the 1-inch bottom part of the skillet and place it over medium-high heat. 

Step 2. Add lemon wedges, water, and salt into the water.

Step 3. Bring the water into a simmer for 3 minutes.

Step 4. Add the crab legs in a single layer.

Step 5. Cover the skillet with a tight lid.

Step 6. Steam for 5 to 7 minutes.

Technique #3: Using a Microwave

Step 1. Using a heavy knife or a pair of sharp kitchen shears, cut the crab claws and legs at their joints. This is done so the crab claws can fit your microwave.

Step 2. Wrap three claw pieces with a damp paper towel.

Pro Tip: Make sure to wring out excess water. You only need a damp towel, not soaking wet, to create steam.

Step 3. To seal in moisture, wrap each paper towel with plastic wrap afterwards.

Step 4. Microwave one package at a time for 2 minutes at high heat.

Pro Tip: Check to see if the crab claws are already cooked (you can discover how to this below). If you think that crab needs more cooking, you can microwave them for 30 seconds more.

Step 3. Serve hot.

You can serve the steamed crab claws with melted butter and lemon wedges at the side. You may also want to pair it with a few side dishes. I love using crab claws as toppings for my paella.

The sky is the limit when it comes to serving your crab claws so be creative with it.

To know how to split crab legs properly, check out this video:

Other Steaming Tips You Need to Know

To make sure that your crabs will be perfectly steamed, here are a few other tips that you should know:

  • To ensure a tighter seal, you can cover the corners of the lid with aluminum foil. In this way, you are sure that the steam is trapped inside the skillet or the steam basket.
  • To determine if the crab legs are already thoroughly cooked, take note of its smell. If the crab legs are already fragrant, it means that they are already adequately cooked.
  • To double check if the crab legs are already cooked, use thongs to get the thickest crab leg in the batch. Use the tip of your pinky finger to touch the meaty part lightly. If it is already warm, it means it is done already.
  • Be cautious when removing the crab legs from the skillet or steam basket. Lift lid away from you to prevent burning.  You should also not place your face directly above the steamer as the hot steam can be dangerous for you.
  • Use tongs to remove the crab legs from the skillet or steam basket.
  • You can serve the crab claws presplit. Avoid using a crab cracker as this can leave a few shell pieces in the meat. Sharp kitchen shears can do a more excellent job than a crab cracker.
  • If you do not want to serve the crab legs presplit, serve the claws with sharp kitchen shears for easy splitting.
  • Serve the crab claws with a small seafood fork that will allow the guests to collect the meat without any troubles. 


Crab claws are best cooked steamed, and there are plenty of ways on how to steam crab claws at home—use a steamer, skillet or microwave.

Follow the steps mentioned above so you can perfectly steam your crab legs. Share this tutorial with your fellow crab lovers so they can steam theirs too in the most hassle-free way possible!

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