How Long Should I Boil Crab Legs?

Double, double, boil, and trouble.

Are you craving boiled Dungeness crab legs? It would be nice if we could simply snap our fingers and magically find a fully-cooked seafood dish laid out in front of us. But alas––we are not in a Disney movie. Even though boiling Dungeness crab legs is simple, other factors should be considered when preparing a meal with crab. Therefore, a bit of thought and work need to go into your next crabby meal.

If you came here for an easy answer, this isn’t the place. But if you came here to learn more about Dungeness crab and how to properly pick, prepare, cook, and eat...then hello there!

We’ll guide you through the process of picking out the best Dungeness crab, preparing anything you may need, boiling the crab legs to perfection, and how to snazz up your meal.

Give your guests and yourself––the chef––the most scrumptious Dungeness crab legs they’ve ever had. 

Choosing The Best of The Best

First, you must understand that if you are going to boil seafood, especially crab legs, that you need to choose the high-quality, live version. Live Dungeness crab absolutely tastes better and fresher than eating processed and once frozen crab. 

If you are purchasing your live Dungeness crab at a market, follow these expert tips:

“You want to maintain a dark, cool and moist environment to keep the crabs alive. Just keep in mind that the crabs need air too. Do not put them in a sealed container or a cooler with the lid shut. You can keep the crabs in a cooler, just remember to keep the lid cracked open so they can get air. Also, a sealed bag of ice on top or on the bottom of the crabs will help keep them cool. If you do this, be sure to keep the cooler tilted and the drain open so the water can run out.” 

However, you can save yourself a trip to the store and the hassle of trying to determine which is the best crab in the bunch and leave that to the experts at Fathom Seafood. Why not order your live Dungeness crab straight from their website and get your order super fresh, in your kitchen, within 24 hours? 

Once you have your Dungeness crab, it’s time to boil. 

How Long and How To Boil Crab Legs

If you would like to put your crab “out of its misery” before boiling, there are ways to go about this. However, you can also give it a swift goodbye to this world by directly plunging it headfirst into the boiling water. It is your prerogative. 

There are two ways to prepare your delicious crab leg meal: 

  1. Boil the entire crab then get to the legs
  2. Boil the legs only––but then what about the rest of the crab?

We will cover both. 

  • Your first option...

Take a large pot and bring it to a boil, making sure there is enough water to cover the entire Dungeness crab once it is placed in. You want the coverage to be about 2 to 3 inches over the crab. 

During this time, you can salt to the water or whatever spices you would like; a lot of people choose the brand Old Bay. 

Add your live Dungeness crab to the pot and let simmer.

Dungeness crabs that weigh 1 ½ to 2 ½ pounds should boil for about 15 minutes, while crabs weighing around 3 pounds can boil for 20 minutes.

Drain the pot and rinse crabs with cool water for a few seconds to be able to immediately handle them. 

Crack those legs, then you’re done! 

  • Your second option…

You will bring your pot to a boil, season, and do everything the same, except you will already have either bought crab legs separate from the entire body, or you have removed the crabs’ legs before boiling. If you’re going this route, plan on serving about one pound of legs per person. 

Toss those suckers in and let them boil for a mere 3 to 5 minutes.

That’s it! 

The Best Way to Serve Crab Legs

Now that your Dungeness crab legs are ready to be served, what are you going to serve them with?

Try Dungeness crab legs with homemade garlic butter.

Or go for something a bit fancier for entertaining a large group. 

The culinary experts at Saveur share easy yet inspiring recipes to six perfect sauces for crab.

  1. Brandy mayonnaise
  2. Chive emulsion
  3. Clarified butter with garlic and chiles
  4. Diablo sauce
  5. Tartar sauce 
  6. Ponzu sauce 

No matter what you choose, your guests will be talking about your delectable dish for days to come. 

Don’t forget about that first important step––head to Fathom Seafood’s website and order a box of live, fresh Dungeness crab today and get the ball rolling on your crab leg meal. 

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