The Correct Way to Prepare and Eat Crab Legs
Have you shied away from buying or cooking crab legs because you don't know how to prepare or eat them properly? Don't worry, we're here to help! Learn below.
Did you know that the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar's Palace serves up an astonishing 1,738 lbs of crab legs each day?
Seafood lovers know that casino buffets are a mecca for delectable all-you-can-eat crab, shrimp, sushi and more, but it's not always convenient to jet to Las Vegas!
While some folks might be intimidated by the idea of preparing and eating these succulent seafood treats at home, it's actually not that hard to serve up a delicious crab-leg feast. Read on for some expert tips and tricks!
What Type of Crab Legs Are Best?
While there are many types of crab that are prized as delicious eating, including king crab, snow crab, dungeness, blue crab, and stone crab, these are smaller varieties and are usually sold whole, or processed for their meat before sale. If you just want the large, easier-to-eat legs, you will want to look for king crab or snow crab.
Depending on where you live, fresh crab legs may be difficult to acquire. Most legs sold in the United States today are pre-cooked and then flash-frozen before being shipping to seafood markets and grocery stores.
Of course, you can always order your crab legs delivered from Maryland right to your door. Not only is this more convenient, but the quality of the crab will be superior.
King Crab vs. Snow Crab
As the name implies, the legs of king crabs are generally large.
Their meat is tinged red and has a delicate, sweet taste. The shells of king crab are harder and spiny, but cracking into them will yield tender chunks of meat. Snow crab offers white or pinkish meat, with a flavor that is also sweet, but with a salty hint of their ocean origin. Their shells are smooth and somewhat easier to penetrate.
Which variety is better? It's largely a matter of personal preference. Experiment with a crab leg tasting, try both, and see which one you enjoy more!
How Much Crab to Buy?
Both varieties of crab legs will give you about 50% meat. Plan on serving about six ounces of meat per person, depending on what else is on the menu. That means roughly one pound's worth of crab for each diner.
For true crab lovers or for a truly decadent feast, double that amount. It's always better to have too much than too little -- in the unlikely event that there are leftovers, you can put them to great use the next day as an eggs Benedict brunch dish, as a savory dip, or in a seafood chowder or bisque.
Preparing Your Crab Feast
Whether you are entertaining friends and family, cooking a romantic seafood dinner for a special occasion, or simply indulging all by yourself, there are a few things to know when you plan to serve crab.
First, it's messy business! You will want to provide kitchen shears (for splitting the shells, if they are not already pre-split),crab crackers, and small forks and picks for removing hard-to-reach tidbits of meat.
Plenty of napkins and paper towels are also a must. Pro tip: for a dinner party featuring crab legs, a stash of moist washcloths warm in a slow cooker!
It's also a good idea to provide a large bowl for the empty shells, so that guests don't have to crowd their plates with them. Small dipping dishes for the melted butter will be necessary, too.
Speaking of Condiments...
Lemon and melted butter are the classic accompaniments for crab. If possible, choose clarified butter for a truly elegant experience. Cocktail sauce is another option.
Feeling fancy? Whip up a batch of garlic butter by adding sliced garlic cloves to the butter as it's melting. Let it steep for a while to achieve a more garlicky flavor, but be sure to strain the cloves out before serving the butter.
Whatever dipping sauce you choose, serve lemon wedges on the side. They will help cut the richness of a butter sauce, and complement the sweet crab flavor.
Time to Cook Your Crab Legs!
There are several methods for cooking up your crab leg dinner, no matter which variety you've chosen.
For a super-simple preparation, fill a large stockpot about half full of water. Add a tablespoon salt and bring to a boil. When the water is boiling, add your crab legs, bending and tucking them to make sure they are submerged. Boil gently for about 8-10 minutes.
Place a steamer rack inside your pot, and add water until it reaches the level of the steamer. Bring to a boil, add the legs, and proceed as above.
It might not be worth firing up your grill just for crab legs, but if you're grilling up steaks, why not go all out and do surf-and-turf?
The legs should be oiled lightly, then grilled over direct heat for six to eight minutes. Position the cluster portion of the crab closest to the hottest part of the fire, with the legs radiating outward. Flip halfway through.
Roasting crab legs is not as popular as the stove top methods, but it is a delicious departure. For a no-fuss, easy-to-clean crab bake, place clusters in a single layer on a large sheet of heavy-duty foil. Drizzle with butter or garlic butter, season with Old Bay if desired, and fold the foil into a packet.
Put packets on a cookie sheet (in case of leaks), and bake for 10 minutes at 450?. Serve each guest an individual packet of one or two clusters, but watch out for the steam!
What to Serve with Crab Legs
Since this is already such a decadent meal, keep your side dishes light and simple.
A green salad dressed with vinaigrette, or simple steamed vegetables like asparagus or green beans, will fulfill guests' appetites without competing for attention. Or evoke a seaside clambake atmosphere by serving up boiled new potatoes and corn on the cob.
For beverages, dry white wine or beer are always good choices. You could also consider popping a bottle of bubbly!
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