How to Prep & Crack Crab Legs for Cooking

Not many home cooks have a pot big enough to cook whole crab legs, but don’t worry — here’s how to handle them.

Conquering Crab Legs


Crab legs can be tricky to handle, but a little preparation and know-how will help you fit them in any pot for steaming, and remove the meat more easily once the legs are cooked.

Prep: Before Cooking Crab Legs, Do This

Step 1: Detach The Knuckle

Crabs have two knuckles which act a bit like the palm of the hand, each holding three legs and one claw together. Each crab leg will have a portion of the knuckle at its base, so you should remove it before breaking down the rest of the leg. To detach the knuckle, hold the leg with a towel (so the spines don’t poke you) and cut the leg through its joint.



Step 2: Segment The Leg

It’s much easier to both cook and eat the crab legs if you cut them into smaller pieces before using. To do this, use kitchen shears to cut the legs into 2- to 3-inch segments. Snip between the joints to make removing the meat easier.



Step 3: Split The Shell

To make removing the meat easy, slice through the lightly colored, more pliable part of the shell. You’ll be able to remove the cooked meat by just pushing it through the end.



Extract: After Cooking Crab Legs, Do This

Step 4: Pick Out The Knuckle Meat

To make full use of your crab legs, you can pick out and use the meat from the knuckles. It isn’t as sweet as leg meat but tastes great in something like a crab salad sandwich. To remove the meat, pick the knuckle sections apart and separate the meat from the shell. You should get 1–3 oz. meat from each section.



Step 5: Crack The Claw

The claws and arm sections are as hard as rocks, so to open them, you’ll need a meat mallet. Place the claw and arm pieces under a towel and crack the shell with the mallet, then peel the bits of shell from the meat.



Get The Recipe

Now that you're ready to tackle crab legs, grab our recipe for King Crab Legs with creamy orzotto and get cracking!

King Crab Legs & Creamy Orzotto


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