When it comes to indulging in the finest seafood delicacies, few seafood recipes can match the simplicity and taste of steamed Dungeness crab legs.
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Dungeness crab is to the West Coast what Blue crab is to the East Coast. A meaty, succulent crab that begs to be enjoyed in the messiest of ways. By simply steaming and serving Dungeness crab legs, you’re highlighting the best flavors in an uncomplicated yet, luxurious dish.
What are Dungeness Crabs
These delectable crustaceans are native to the icy waters of the Pacific Ocean of North America, from Alaska down to California. They are prized for their sweet and tender meat. Just like with rich Stone crab claws from Florida, these crab legs are best when in season. Harvested from late November through June, whole Dungeness crabs are smaller than King crab or snow crabs but are a great option for seafood lovers.
You can find whole Dungeness crab or crab leg clusters when in season at your local Costco or fishmonger. If you’re native to the Pacific Northwest, you may even find them at your local grocery store. Alternatively, if you’re not on the West Coast, you can order them online, but be sure someone will be home to immediately get your package on ice or in the fridge, as seafood should never be left out.
Look for red shells and white meat in the body of the cluster. There should be a sweet, mild oceanic smell. Don’t buy any legs with black or darkened color on the meat or off-putting smells.
Dungeness crabs are meatier crabs, with a sweet, rich flavor perfect for all sorts of dishes, from cioppino and crab bisque to crab cakes or indulgent crab imperial atop a juicy steak. But to truly celebrate their flavor, we love these Dungeness crab leg clusters in the simplest of recipes, steamed and served with a little butter. It’s the best way to really taste the delicate flavor.
- Dungeness crab leg clusters
- Old Bay – or you’re favorite seafood spice blend. But let’s be real; Old Bay is pretty good.
- Butter – most of the time, we are freaks for unsalted butter when cooking, but this is one of those rare occasions where we love dipping the sweet crab meat into melted salted butter. Toss in some garlic confit for garlic butter sauce.
- Fresh herbs, like minced parsley and chives, and fresh lemon wedges for garnish
How to steam Dungeness crab legs
Steaming crabs is the easiest way to prepare any type of crab.
- Start by rinsing your crab legs under cold water and patting them dry.
- Then in a large pot, put just enough water to barely touch the bottom of a steamer basket. Set the pot over the range and bring the boil to a gentle simmer.
- Meanwhile, sprinkle the Dungeness crab clusters with a liberal coating of Old Bay, being sure to flip the crabs to coat all sides.
- Nestle the crab legs into the steamer basket and cover, leaving a small gap to let out steam, with a lid.
- Steam the crab legs for 7 to 10 minutes. Remember, these crab claws from Costco are already cooked, so you are only reheating them. Leaving them to steam too long can cause the meat to become soft.
- While the legs are steaming, melt your butter over low heat.
- Carefully remove the steamer basket from the pot and set it over a baking sheet to catch any dripping water.
- Then transfer the crab legs to a serving dish and brush the exposed meat with melted butter. Serve the legs with melted butter for dipping, garnished with minced parsley and lemon wedges.
- Gently pull the legs from the body, and you may get lucky enough to pull the fresh crab meat out with it. You can use crab crackers to break open the shells and get to the sweet meat.
Girl carnivore Expert Recipe tips
- Looking for quality products but not on the West coast? Purchase Dungeness crab legs online if you can’t order them locally. Check out our ‘Where To Buy Meat Online’ guide!
- Make sure the legs are completely thawed before cooking.
- Unless they are fresh off the boat, crab legs will arrive fully cooked, so you are just reheating them to enjoy. In this case, we are steaming the claws with additional aromatics, with the same old bay in my traditional steamed blue crabs, and serving it with a melted butter.
What to serve with
These meaty crab legs are great with something as simple as duck fat fries, but they are also amazing with (or in) creamy smoke mad and cheese, alongside a helping of smoked potato salad, or even some grilled corn in husks so you don’t have to worry about utensils.
Stick with a buttery white wine like Chardonnay or a light fruity Pinot Grigio or Gris. And occasionally live on the wild side and pair crab with a crisp Rosé.
Reheating & Leftovers
Refrigerator: Double-wrap in plastic wrap tightly so it remains fresh and stored in the refrigerator. If you really want to keep it extra fresh, place ice in a Ziploc bag and place it on top of the dish covered in plastic wrap. If stored properly, leftovers will last up to four days. You can eat the leftovers cold or in a variety of dishes.
Leftovers: Use up leftovers in a crab omelet or eggs benedict. Make a deviled crab and spoon it over grilled steaks. Stuff leftover Dungeness crab meat in ravioli or seafood pasta. Simply put, most dishes can be elevated with a little leftover crab.
If you celebrate crab season like we do, this recipe is a must-try. It’s simple and shows off the flavor of the crab without any distractions. If you give it a go, be sure to rate the recipe card and leave a comment to help out the next person.
Steamed Dungeness Crab Legs
For the steamed crab legs
- 2 lbs Dungeness crab leg clusters
- 2 tbsp Old Bay or any seafood blend.
- 4 tbsp Butter
- Lemon Wedges
- Parsley minced
- Rinse the crab legs under cold water and pat dry.
- Prep a large pot by adding just enough water to touch the bottom of a steamer basket.
- Place the pot of cold water over low heat, just to bring the water to a gentle simmer.
- Meanwhile, place the crab legs in the steamer basket and sprinkle liberally with the Old Bay spice blend.
- Set the basket with the crab legs over the simmering water and cover, leaving a small gap for steam to escape.
- Steam the Dungeness crab for 7 to 10 minutes, just to reheat.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small sauce pan over low heat.
- Carefully transfer the crab legs to a serving platter and brush the meat of the body with melted butter.
- Serve immediately with lemon wedges and a sprinkle of fresh parsley.
- Use a crab cracker to gently crack open the shells and get to the meat.
- Dip in the melted butter and enjoy.
Yes, you can enhance the sweet flavor of your crab legs by adding various seasonings to the steaming water. Common choices include bay leaves, garlic, lemon slices, and Old Bay seasoning as we used in the recipe card.
Dungeness crab legs are delicious on their own, but you can elevate the dining experience with dipping sauces like melted butter, cocktail sauce, garlic butter, or a tangy mustard sauce like the one we use with our Stone Crab claws.
To crack open Dungeness crab legs, you can often press on the shell of the leg with your thumbs and snap it open. But that can be hard or even cause scratches. For ease, use a crab cracker or nutcracker to gently break the shells along the segments. You can also use a small seafood fork or pick to remove the delicate meat from the shell.
Yes, you can grill, bake, or broil Dungeness crab legs for a different flavor profile. Grilling adds a smoky touch, while baking or broiling provides a roasted taste.