Easy Baked King Crab Legs in the Oven

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The best way to cook king crab legs is steamed in the oven with wine and lemon, then cut them open to reveal the tender and sweet juicy crab meat. It's super easy to make, takes just 25 minutes to make, and goes perfectly with my rich and creamy garlic butter seafood sauce!

Other shellfish seafood recipes you might fall in love with -- my classic garlic butter seafood boil, a Juicy Crab restaurant-style seafood boil in a bag, my guide on perfectly cooking whole lobsters, and my mama's Maryland steamed blue crab feast.

overhead of king crab legs cooked in the oven in a baking dish with garlic butter sauce in a bowl

Fabulous Oven Baked Alaskan King Crab Legs - Perfect for any Special Occasion!

Sometimes date night or the holidays just need a little something different, you know? 

As I've said so many times before, seafood is for celebrations in my home. We break out the melted butter and crab legs the moment there's an A+ on a report card, a goal that has been met, Valentine's Day (because I'm not crazy enough to go to a restaurant then!) or any day that we just want to celebrate each other.

That's exactly why these sweet and tender wine-steamed king crab legs is my favorite food for a celebration, they're effortless to make and are perfect with any menu you add them to. Not to mention it's done in less than half an hour! 

So this post is going to show you exactly how easy it is to bake crab legs and make my delicious, creamy, garlic buttery faux-beurre blanc sauce that you will want to drink out of the pot (but please don't it's literally butter).

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Why You'll Love Cooking King Crab Legs at Home

  • So simple, so easy. No, seriously! - This is my favorite way to cook crab legs: no fussing with boiling water or a large pot, or risking dry
  • King Crab is a delicious addition - crab risotto or swapping lobster for king crab in a creamy pasta? Delish, y'all.
  • Everyone will be impressed - I don't know what it is about king crab legs (is it the name? The price of king crab legs? The fact that they're giant and super spiky?) but when you serve them, prepare for the oohs and ahhs!
a king crab claw sits in garlic butter seafood boil sauce

Equipment

Ingredients

Full ingredients, measurements, and printable instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  • Frozen Crab Legsking crab legs are always sold frozen (or thawed) but not alive unless you buy from a specialty shop or live outside of the continental U.S. where they sell live.
  • Dry White Wine - use your favorite wine, I like a pinot grigio. The steam will infuse the crabs with the flavor of the wine and lemon.
  • Lemon Slices

Thick and Creamy Garlic Butter Seafood Sauce

  • Unsalted Butter 
  • White Wine
  • Minced Garlic
  • Herbs - I use fresh thyme but dried thyme can also be used, just remember that dried has a more concentrated flavor so use about half the amount dried you would need for fresh herbs.
  • Lemon Juice and Zest
  • Chicken Broth
  • Heavy Cream - this adds both the richness and helps with the thickness of our creamy sauce.
  • Shallots - you can also use a small yellow onion
  • Salt and Pepper

How to Cook King Crab Legs in the Oven

This is so simple since crab legs are already cooked and then frozen, leaving them bright orange and ready to eat. We are essentially steaming the king crab meat, infusing it with the flavors in the baking dish.

I kept it simple with lemon and wine to indulge in the king crab's natural flavors, but add in herbs, old bay seasoning for a classic Mid-Atlantic flavor, and watch how easily those delicious crab legs' flavor transforms.

cold king crab legs in a baking dish with lemon slices and wine

Step 1  | Take the lemon slices and wine and place/pour right into the baking dish. And simply place the king crab legs right on top.

aluminum foil covering a baking dish with crab legs to bake in oven

Step 2 | Wrap the top in aluminum foil to cover the crab legs and put them in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, the crab legs should be hot to the touch.

a hand holding a large king crab claw, dipping the meat in seafood boil sauce

Step 3 | Crab legs are traditionally served with melted butter and lemon wedges but I serve them up with creamy garlic butter sauce. To open the crab shells and expose the crab meat, use kitchen shears to cut lengthwise up the under sides of the crab legs where the shell is thinner/weaker. Use claw crackers to break open the claws.

Make the Seafood Sauce

butter, herbs, and wine bubbling in saucepan

Step 1 | Melt down a tablespoon of butter in a medium saucepan with the white wine, grated shallots, garlic, lemon zest and thyme leaves.

butter, wine and herbs in a saucepan

Step 2 | Add a little chicken broth and lemon juice, then reduce it down half way. This intensifies the flavors, don't skip it.

creamy garlic butter sauce for seafood being whisked

Step 3 | Add the heavy cream, then whisk in the rest of the cold butter, one tablespoon at a time, until the sauce is slightly thickened and is super creamy. Then taste and season and you're done!

How to Buy and Thaw Crab Legs

King crabs tend to appear in your local grocery stores around October or November, depending on the cold weather patterns. I bought mine from a local mom and pop crab shack, but I have also bought king crab at Costco before!

Like other types of crab harvested for their legs, you'll find they're already cooked and bright orange, frozen as crab leg clusters in the store.

To thaw crab legs, place them on a rimmed baking sheet and into your refrigerator overnight.

To thaw quickly, put the crab legs in a large colander in your sink under cold running water for about 15 minutes until they are thawed out.

What's the Difference Between Snow Crab Legs and King Crab Legs?

Both snow crabs and king crabs are well known for sweet, tender leg meat but there are key distinctions that make a big difference in so many aspects.

Price

First, snow crabs are much more affordable than king crab. The price of snow crab legs is $7.50 per pound on average, while king crab legs are $30-$50 per pound on average! That price difference is crazy, right?

Harvest Season

That's because of the difference in the harvesting seasons. King crabs hide out in between Alaska and Russia in the Bering Sea, having a short harvest time of a couple. of months in the brutal winter weather, giving Deadliest Catch vibes.

Snow crabs are considered a sustainable seafood found in the Northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans and they can be harvest from early fall until the summer, so they have a much longer harvest time...though because of overfishing, harvest has been paused for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

Appearance

As for the crabs themselves, snow crabs have longer, smoother, skinnier legs with smaller bodies and a softer shell whereas the king crabs have thicker legs with bigger bodies all covered in a thick, strong shell with sharp spikes.

And those claws? Huge! King crabs can get up to and even surpass 20 pounds.

a hand next to a king crab claw, showing how large the claw is

Flavor and Texture

Snow crab legs have a sweet, delicate, slightly briny flavor and the meat shreds and flakes easily. They're also easy to crack open with your hands.

King crab leg meat is more akin to lobster in terms of flavor and texture, tender and sweet but not really flaky or fibrous. The shells are incredibly tough, so you'll need sharp shears and cracking tools to remove the meat.

Variations and Substitutions

Grill crab legs - place the crab legs in a hot grill, pour the wine and lemons into a grill-safe pan to keep the steam going.

Swap wine for other flavorings - use chicken broth, citrus juices, beer, whatever you want to infuse flavor into the crab legs. You can also just use some water so the crab's natural flavor isn't changed.

Pro Tips

Don't overcook the crab - dried out crab is not good, and overcooking makes the meat tough. We are simply rewarming the crab since they're already cooked.

Crackers and Shears - this is not the time to use your hands or teeth to open the shells. The shells on a king crab are much, much thicker than the others with sharp spikes. Have plenty of tools for everyone to use.

Break the legs apart to cook - if you need to. They're huge, they need a lot of room, so break them at the joints.

a king crab claw is dipped into garlic butter seafood sauce next to a dish full of steamed king crab legs

What to Serve with this Baked Crab Legs Recipe

I love eating king crab legs with other things, whether as a part of a side dish or a main. Here are a few of my favorite ways to enjoy them.

Storage and Reheating

Store the crab legs in the fridge in an airtight container or zip top bag for up to 3 days.

Reheat them, steam the crab legs again in the oven with water in a baking dish covered with foil for 10 minutes until the shells are hot.

FAQs

What is the best method for cooking king crab legs?

I find steaming king crab legs. tobe the best cooking method, boiling can waterlog them.

Do you need to thaw frozen crab legs before cooking?

For the best texture, I recommend thawing frozen crab legs.

How much crab per person?

You'll want about 1.5 lbs of king crab per person, or two king crab legs.

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📖 Recipe

a hand holding a large king crab claw, dipping the meat in seafood boil sauce

Oven Baked King Crab Legs

Eden Westbrook
Indulge in the deliciousness of easy baked king crab legs in the oven steamed in wine and dipped in creamy garlic butter. A date night masterpiece!
5 from 9 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Seafood
Cuisine American
Servings 2 main course servings
Calories 704 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 3 pounds king crab legs and claws thawed
  • cup dry white wine
  • 1 large lemon sliced thinly

Garlic Butter Seafood Sauce

  • 9 tablespoon unsalted butter cold and cut into nine equal pieces
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ½ shallot grated
  • 2-3 garlic cloves grated
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Kosher Salt and freshly cracked black Pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Place the crab legs, white wine, and lemons into your baking dish or a rimmed baking sheet. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place into your preheated oven on the middle rack.
  • Bake the crab legs for 15 minutes, or until the king crab shells are hot to the touch.
  • Remove from the oven and serve hot with the creamy butter sauce.
  • Make the Garlic Butter Sauce
  • In a medium sized saucepan, melt one tablespoon of butter over medium heat with the wine, grated shallots, grated garlic, fresh thyme, and lemon zest. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, it should be very fragrant.
  • Whisk in the chicken broth and lemon juice, let the mixture reduce down until there's about 3 tablespoons of liquid remaining.
  • Add the cream and turn the heat up to medium-high. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low.
  • Whisking constantly, add the rest of the cold butter ONE tablespoon at a time, whisking until each one is incorporated completely before adding the next one.
  • Continue adding in all the butter, by the time the last tablespoon is done the sauce should be creamy and coat the back of a spoon.
  • Let sit at low heat, stirring occasionally, until ready to serve with the crab legs.

Notes

Variations and Substitutions

Grill crab legs - place the crab legs in a hot grill, pour the wine and lemons into a grill-safe pan to keep the steam going.
Swap wine for other flavorings - use chicken broth, citrus juices, beer, whatever you want to infuse flavor into the crab legs. You can also just use some water so the crab's natural flavor isn't changed.

Pro Tips

Don't overcook the crab - dried out crab is not good, and overcooking makes the meat tough. We are simply rewarming the crab since they're already cooked.
Crackers and Shears - this is not the time to use your hands or teeth to open the shells. The shells on a king crab are much, much thicker than the others with sharp spikes. Have plenty of tools for everyone to use.
Break the legs apart to cook - if you need to. They're huge, they need a lot of room, so break them at the joints.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 704kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 132gFat: 11gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 361mgSodium: 7297mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1g
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