There’s nothing like the satisfying crack of crab legs and the reward of that sweet, juicy meat dipped in melted butter. And while we love digging into a bucket of the tasty crustaceans at seafood restaurants or all-you-can-eat buffets, they tend to come at a steep price. Sure, we could take advantage of the great deals on crab legs at the grocery store, but that requires reheating them…and they could never be as good as the freshly steamed, right? Well, we asked top-notch chefs well-versed in all things seafood how to reheat crab legs so they are just as hot and juicy the second time around. Whether you have restaurant leftovers or buy them frozen on discount from your local supermarket, you can use the oven, microwave or the stovetop to reheat cooked crab meat with positively mouthwatering results.
Get your plastic apron and tablecloth ready because we’re about to teach you 5 easy ways to reheat crab legs so they stay juicy and delicious. We also organized the techniques by the amount of time each takes to reheat the delicious crustaceans. Dive in!
The 3 common types of crab legs
Before reheating your crab legs, it’s helpful to pinpoint the variety you have, as some methods work better for certain kinds of the shellfish. “You’ll likely encounter Alaskan king crab, snow crab and Dungeness crab legs,” Jakob Miller, founder at Barbecue Pals, explains. “While their appearances vary, these delicious crustaceans share a common trait — they’re all rich in flavor and a true seafood delicacy.”
Here’s a breakdown from Miller on the three main types of crab legs.
- Alaskan king crab legs: These crab legs are known for their colossal size, sweet, succulent meat and bumpy exterior. They take the longest to cook.
- Snow crab legs: This shellfish has a medium size, delicate texture and a brinier taste in comparison to Alaskan king crab legs.
- Dungeness crab legs: These types of crab legs boast a tender, slightly nutty flavor and smaller, curved legs compared to the other kinds of crab. They are smaller, so adjust cooking time accordingly.
How to reheat crab legs in the microwave — 4 minutes
Can you microwave crab legs? Absolutely, and we’re going to show you how — this method also works great for reheating frozen or thawed crab legs. Claudia Sidoti, a chef at HelloFresh, shares 7 steps to reheat crab legs in the microwave.
- Place fresh dill sprigs in the bundle of crab legs.
- Cover each bundle of crab legs with damp paper towels.
- Before placing in the microwave, wrap the crab legs with plastic wrap.
- Microwave each bundle of crab legs on your lowest power setting for about 2 minutes (if thawed) to 4 minutes (if frozen).
- Carefully remove the crab legs from the microwave.
- Remove the wrap and paper towels.
- Place alongside lemon wedges and melted butter and serve immediately.
Reheat crab legs in an air fryer — 5 minutes
Reheating crab legs in an air fryer will add a bit of crispiness you might not otherwise get in the microwave, but it takes a few more minutes to prep given that you need to make sure the crab legs are thawed and that you season them before putting them in the air fryer. Here’s how Sidoti suggests going about it for a quick and tasty meal.
- Season your thawed crab legs to taste with salt, pepper and other seasonings of your choice.
- Wrap the seasoned crab legs in foil.
- Place the crab legs in your air fryer basket.
- Air fry at 380°F for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Remove the crab legs from the basket and remove the foil to serve.
Reheat crab legs by boiling them — 10 minutes
This is an excellent method to reheat snow crab legs. Start to finish, it takes about 10 minutes. Below, Sidoti shares her 8-step process.
- Grab a large pot to boil water in.
- Fill the pot about ⅔ of the way with water.
- Add a pinch of salt.
- Once the water is boiling (5 minutes), add the crab legs. Make sure most of the crabs are covered with the boiling water.
- Let the legs heat for about 3 minutes (if thawed) to 5 minutes (if frozen).
- Using tongs, adjust the crab legs as needed to ensure full coverage in the water.
- Remove the legs from the boiling water (using a long set of tongs).
- Serve and enjoy.
How to reheat crab legs by steaming — 15 minutes
You can also use your stovetop as a quick and relatively simple way to reheat and steam your crab legs. In fact, according to chef Dan Churchill, host of The Epic Table podcast, steaming your leftover crab legs is a great way to cook them without drying them out or letting any of the sumptuous flavor escape, especially if you plan on leaving them in the shell. “The key is to use a ‘tester leg’ that you’ll be able to open up and gauge the internal temperature without a thermometer,” he explains.
One tip before you get started: If you want to reheat frozen crab legs, let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator or place them under warm water for about 15 minutes before you cook them. Here, Churchill goes over the 4 steps to reheat boiling crab leftovers.
- Fill a large pot with about 2 inches of water and place your steamer insert on top. Note: Make sure your steamer insert isn’t submerged in water.
- Cover your pot and heat until it comes to a boil (5 minutes).
- Place your crab legs in the steamer, cover, and leave for about 6 to 8 minutes (if cooking Dungeness crab, opt for 5 to 7 minutes).
- Enjoy with some melted butter and your favorite seasoning.
Reheat crab legs on the grill — 15 minutes
Grilling isn’t just for summertime, and it isn’t just for burgers and hot dogs either. If you consider yourself a certifiable grill master, bust out those tongs and use Sidoti’s method for reheating king crab legs on the grill.
- Wrap up your crab legs in two thick layers of aluminum foil.
- Grill the crab legs at indirect medium to high heat for 10 minutes (if thawed) to 15 minutes (if frozen).
- Grill the crab legs directly over the heat source for three minutes per side. Flip more often as needed.
- Unwrap the foil from your crab legs and serve.
Reheat crab legs in the oven — 25 minutes
One of the best ways to reheat king crab legs, Churchill says, is in the oven. When you use this method, you’re essentially heating your crab in a makeshift sauna, which makes it tender and juicy all the way through. For delicious leftovers, try Churchill’s method for how to reheat crab legs in the oven in 6 easy steps.
- Start by heating your oven to 350°F.
- Place your frozen or thawed crab legs in a deep glass baking dish (this is a good method to reheat frozen crab).
- Pour about ½ inch of water into your baking dish. Make sure it’s just enough so your crab legs are partially submerged.
- Cover the dish with aluminum foil.
- Bake for 15 minutes (for thawed) to 25 minutes (for frozen). Churchill recommends poking a few holes in the foil to let some of the steam escape to keep your crab tender and delicious.
- Take your crab legs out of the dish, season with your favorite blend of spices, and enjoy!
How long crab legs can stay in the fridge
After initially serving your crab legs and packing them up to store, the best way to keep them fresh is in the refrigerator. Place them in a plastic container or dish with an airtight lid or plastic wrap. Be sure they’re in the fridge within 2 hours after cooking. Add ice packs to the top and bottom of your container or dish for enhanced freshness. Packed like this, the USDA notes that cooked shellfish like crab can be stored in the fridge for three to four days.
Alternatively, you can store your crab legs in the freezer. You can use the same container or dish or opt for freezer bags to save space. With proper care, expect up to three months of shelf life from your decadent delicacies, according to the USDA.
How to serve crab legs
If you’re in the mood to get messy and eat crab legs the way they’re served at some restaurants, once you’ve reheated them, all you need to do is grab a bib, a plastic tablecloth and a whole lot of melted butter for dipping. Like a little spice? Dip them in a bit of Old Bay Seasoning after dipping them in butter.
Now that you know a few ways to reheat crab legs for another scrumptious dish, it’s time to decide what to serve them with. If you’re looking for a family-friendly meal that the kids will enjoy, try pairing your crab legs with french fries and coleslaw. You can also swap out the fries for corn on the cob and a baked potato.
Whatever you choose to pair with your delicious dinner, the most important thing is that you relax and enjoy yourself — whether you’re solo or with family and friends. Bon appétit!
For more tips and tricks on how to reheat seafood:
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