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How to Tell If Crab Legs Are Cooked

Updated February 21, 2017

While whole crabs can be purchased live, most crab legs are sold already cooked. Snow crabs and King crabs have large meaty legs that are removed from the crab on the boat, cooked, and flash frozen to enable them to be transported and stored without degrading in quality. So, if you see crab legs in the fish market, they are probably already cooked. Since crabs, like lobster, change colour from greenish-brown to orange or red when cooked, you can be absolutely sure that the crab legs are cooked by checking the colour.

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  1. Check the colour of the crab. If it is already orange or red, it is cooked and just needs to be reheated. If it is greenish or brown, you'll want to make sure that you steam or boil it until it turns orange or red.

  2. Reheat the crab for the appropriate length of time. Crab legs will take from 5 to 7 minutes to steam or boil, 7 to 10 minutes to bake (if you include 1/8 inch of water in the baking pan) or 2 to 4 minutes to microwave. Dry methods of preparation, such as baking without water or grilling, may take up to 16 minutes.

  3. The crab is done when it is heated through.

  4. Pay attention to the odours in your kitchen. The crab will begin to smell like crab as it heats through.

  5. Tip

    Thaw the crab before cooking by leaving it overnight in the refrigerator or placing it under cool running water until it has thawed. The crab is thawed when you can bend the leg at the joint.


    Do not overcook the crab, as overcooking will make the meat tough and rubbery.

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About the Author

Susan MacDowell is a freelance writer from New England. She is a CPA by training, but has many additional interests, including history, baseball, cooking, and travel. She's a native of New York, who now lives in Massachusetts and Maine.

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