You've Been Reheating Crab Legs Wrong Your Whole Life

Crab legs are a delicious treat whether they are boiled, steamed, baked, broiled, or grilled. Actually, many people don't know that they can even be prepared in an Instant Pot, too. But crab legs are expensive, so you'll want to make sure you prepare them properly, especially when you've bought cooked legs that you need to reheat before eating. The last thing you want to do is dry out your shellfish and ruin it. Fortunately, there are a number of simple reheating techniques that won't compromise the natural juiciness and tenderness of crab meat.

The first step to successfully reheating crab legs that have been frozen, according to Southern Living, is to defrost them overnight in the refrigerator. If space or time is an issue, you can also put the frozen legs in a colander in a sink and then run cool water over them (via Better Homes & Gardens). Then, you can choose between baking, boiling, steaming, or even microwaving them to heat them up. That's right, you can microwave crab legs. Once you complete one of these easy methods, all that's left to do is serve them with melted butter and lemon, a remoulade-style sauce, or any other dipping sauce, and dig in!

Boiling with hot water

According to the Food Network, the easiest way to reheat pre-cooked crab legs is to boil them. And, because the water gets in to the shells, doing so will keep the meat moist. The site recommends adding the legs (already thawed out) to a large pot of boiling water and blanching them for about 2-3 minutes. Since a typical leg will be 10-12 inches long, make sure you tuck them into the water so that no part is sticking out. If you opt not to thaw before cooking, place the frozen shellfish in a large cooking vessel, cover with cool water, and then bring them to a boil. Betty Crocker says that just 3-5 minutes should do the trick. 

Once you've mastered how long to boil your crab legs, you can experiment by adding a variety of seasonings to your boiling water. Some popular brands include Old Bay or Zatarain's Crab Boil Seasoning for a cajun kick — it contains a mix of herbs and spices and can include allspice, bay leaf powder, cayenne pepper, celery salt, dill seed, dry mustard, ginger, nutmeg, paprika, and pepper.

Steaming with the liquid of your choice

On her website, cooking expert Martha Stewart recommends reheating your crab legs by steaming them in a small amount of liquid. This method distributes the heat evenly and the meat will be uniformly hot throughout, without becoming rubbery. 

The first step to steaming crab is to add an inch or two of water to a large pot. Then, place a steamer basket or a colander inside the pot. You can add anything from beer or lemon wedges to bay leaves or white wine to the water to enhance the flavor of the crab. Bring the water to a boil, place the legs in the steamer basket, cover tightly with a lid, and let the legs steam for about 4-5 minutes. If your lid doesn't fit securely, use aluminum foil underneath it to create a tight seal — just be careful when removing the foil and releasing the steam. You can tell when they are done when you can smell them or when the flesh looks reddish-pink. 

Baking in the oven

Don't want to try steaming? Reheat Food says you can reheat your crab legs by baking them, too, and this will still allow you to retain the flavor and moisture. Start the process by preheating your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, place the crab legs on a non-stick cookie sheet. Take a minute to brush with olive oil or melted butter and then sprinkle your favorite seasoning or spices over them before placing in the oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until all of the crab meat is thoroughly heated. 

Southern Living says you can also bake the crab legs in a way to achieve the same result as steaming. Place the crab in a baking dish, add one inch of water or beer to the bottom, cover with foil, and poke holes, so it steams. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-8 minutes, depending on the size of the crab legs.

Broiling pre-cut legs in pan

Broiling crab legs is a no-fuss way to prepare and reheat them, too. The first step is to preheat your broiler. Then, arrange the crab legs on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil. Brush with oil or melted butter and then slide the pan in so that it is approximately 4-6 inches from the broiler element. Broil for 3-4 minutes, then turn the legs and cook them for another 3-4 minutes (via The Spruce Eats). If you have purchased split crab legs, place them cut side up on a pan. Brush with melted butter on top (you can also add basil, lemon peel, and lemon juice to it for extra flavor), and then broil 4-6 inches from the heat for 3-4 minutes (via Better Homes & Gardens).

It's important to note that most methods of cooking crab legs don't require cutting or purchasing pre-cut crab legs, but when you broil them, the brushed-on melted butter seeps through and keeps them moist and flavorful. Pre-cutting also makes it easier to enjoy the crab legs without having to whack and open them with nutcrackers and mallets (via Leaf TV).

Grilling on indoor or outdoor grill

If weather permits or you have an indoor method, grilling crab legs is an easy way to reheat them. Plus, grilling them and eating outside makes clean-up super quick and easy, too. Char-Broil recommends using pre-cut crab legs for this method. Start by preheating your grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, place the crab legs on the hot grill grates and cook them until the flesh becomes firm and looks pearly or opaque, about 6-8 minutes per side. When the crab legs are fully cooked, remove from the grill and serve with melted garlic butter or any other flavored butter you prefer.

Another method of grilling crab legs to reheat them is to wrap each crab leg individually in a few layers of aluminum foil before placing them on your grill. After they have cooked for about 10 minutes, unwrap and place them back over the heat for an additional 3-5 minutes (via Insanely Good Recipes).

Microwaving with damp paper towels

Using your microwave to reheat crab legs may not seem to be the most intuitive method, but it definitely works! If you are short on time, this is one of the quickest options, too. The Nest recommends separating the legs into groups of three and then wrap each group, along with a sprig of dill or some tarragon, in some damp paper towels. The damp towels provide moisture to create a steaming effect. Then, cover with plastic wrap (clip the sharp ends of the crab legs to ensure they don't puncture the wrap), and microwave each bundle on high for two minutes. Remove the plastic and towels and serve.

It's important to note that you can use this method only with thawed crab legs. If you have frozen crab legs to reheat, make sure to leave them in the refrigerator overnight to give them time to thaw.

Reheating in an Instant Pot

The beauty of reheating crab legs in an Instant Pot is the ease and efficiency of the method. The less time they take to cook, the less time you will have to wait before eating them. To do so, place the crab legs into the Instant Pot, and add 1 cup of water. (You can use the steam rack if you have it, but it's not necessary.) Then, close the Instant Pot, set it to High Pressure for three minutes, and cook the crab meat. After the timer goes off, use the quick release valve to release the pressure from the Instant Pot very carefully.

And, don't throw your crab shells out when you are done! All The Nourishing Things recommends using them to make crab stock — which can also be done in your Instant Pot. You can use this for lobster bisque or any other seafood-based soups and stews. Simply place the empty shells back into the pot and add enough water to cover them. Then close and seal the vent. Press the manual button and set for 60 minutes. As soon as it beeps, you can immediately release the pressure.

The site recommends storing the stock in the refrigerator in glass containers for up to three days, or to freeze it.