How Long to Boil Crabs for Perfectly Cooked Meat

These sought-after West Coast crustaceans don’t yield their sweet meat easily. Cooking, cleaning, cracking, and shelling crab is a chore.

The people behind the seafood counter are friendly and willing to help. The crabs are almost always freshly cooked, and they’ll clean and crack them for free. They also offer shelled cooked crab, for a (sometimes hefty) price.

If you want to save money or just feel like you’ve beaten the beasts and filled your kitchen with the smell of salty fish as they cook in a big pot on the stove, buy them alive and do it yourself. Here’s how.

Cooking crab can be intimidating for many home cooks. After all you start with a live, pinchy crustacean and have to turn it into tender succulent meat. It’s easy to overcook crab and end up with tough, rubbery texture. On the other hand, undercooked crab can be dangerous to eat. So how long should you boil crabs to get them just right?

In this article, I’ll provide a simple guide to boiling crabs so you can achieve crab meat that is cooked through without becoming tough. With a few tips on prep seasoning and cooking time, you’ll learn how long to boil different types of crab. Follow these instructions and you’ll be rewarded with sweet, juicy crab meat with every bite!

The Basics: Prepping Live Crabs for Cooking

Before we get into specifics on cook times, let’s cover the basic process for prepping live crabs:

  • Place live crabs in an ice water bath for 5-10 minutes before cooking. This puts them in a dormant state so they’re less likely to pinch you when handling.

  • Use metal tongs to transfer crabs from the ice bath directly into boiling seasoned water. Never cook dead crab meat as it can spoil quickly.

  • Prepare a large pot with plenty of water for the amount of crabs you’re cooking. You don’t want to overcrowd them. Add seasonings like Old Bay or crab boil.

  • Keep the water at a rolling boil while cooking the crabs. This ensures even cooking.

  • After cooking, transfer the crabs to an ice bath to stop the cooking process before serving.

Now let’s look at specifics for different types of crab.

Boiling Blue Crabs

Blue crabs from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts are among the most popular for boils and crab feasts. For blue crabs, you’ll want to boil them for 15-20 minutes.

Here are some tips for perfectly cooked blue crabs:

  • Make sure you have a rolling boil going the entire time. After adding the crabs, put the lid on the pot and maintain high heat.

  • Don’t overcrowd the pot, as this can lower the water temperature. Cook crabs in batches if needed.

  • Check for doneness after 15 minutes. The shells will turn bright red and should feel firm, not mushy.

  • To check the meat, simply crack open a claw. It should be opaque through and flake easily.

  • If they need more time, continue boiling for 2-3 minutes and recheck.

So for most blue crabs, you’ll want 15-20 minutes at a full rolling boil. This ensures tender, fully cooked meat without turning rubbery.

Boiling Dungeness Crabs

From the Pacific Northwest, Dungeness crabs are another popular variety for crab boils. They are larger than blue crabs, so require a bit more cooking time.

For Dungeness crabs, boil for 16-20 minutes following the same tips above. Here are some specifics for Dungeness:

  • Use plenty of water as they are bulkier than blue crabs. Don’t crowd the pot.

  • Depending on size, they may take the full 20 minutes to turn red and become firm.

  • Crack open a leg to check the interior meat rather than a claw.

  • Flake the meat with a fork to make sure it’s opaque and cooked through.

  • For extra-large Dungeness, you may need to boil up to 23 minutes. Check often.

So for most Dungeness crabs, allow 16-20 minutes to fully boil them with rolling, aggressive bubbles. The slightly longer time allows for their larger size.

Boiling King Crab Legs

Giant king crab legs make for impressive and meaty crab feasts. Since only the legs are used, the boiling time is much shorter than whole crabs.

For pre-cooked king crab legs, you simply need to reheat them through. Here are some tips:

  • Pat legs dry before boiling to prevent splattering. Use tongs to submerge.

  • Keep the boiling water temp around 200°F – do not let it reach a full rolling boil.

  • Set a timer for 7-8 minutes once the water returns to a gentle simmer.

  • Check for doneness by touching thick part of leg. It should feel heated through.

  • Drain legs and serve immediately with melted butter.

The gentle simmer is key, as a hard boil can make king crab meat dry and rubbery. Treat pre-cooked legs delicately.

Boiling Snow Crab Legs and Claws

Like king crab, snow crab legs are pre-cooked so you just need to reheat them. Follow a similar process:

  • Use a large pot with enough water to cover the legs and claws fully.

  • Keep the water at a gentle 200°F simmer, being careful not to let it boil over.

  • Add legs and claws carefully with tongs. Legs take 4-5 minutes, while claws may need 5-6 minutes.

  • Check for heat through at thickest part. Don’t overcook.

  • Remove immediately with tongs and drain before serving.

Go low and slow when reheating any pre-cooked crab. You want it heated through without overcooking the delicate meat.

Boiling Smaller Crab Varieties

For smaller crab varieties like rock crab, Jonah crab, peekytoe crab, etc, you can follow a similar process as blue crabs:

  • Use an ice water bath before cooking. This keeps them calm for handling.

  • Use plenty of seasoned boiling water. Avoid overcrowding the pot.

  • Keep the water at a full rolling boil for best results.

  • Cook for 12-15 minutes until shells are reddened. Begin checking at 12 minutes.

  • Sample a piece of meat for doneness. It should be opaque and flake away easily.

  • Drain immediately and submerge in ice bath to stop cooking process.

The cook time may be slightly less than blue crabs due to their petite size. But follow the same methods of using a hard boil and ice bath before and after cooking.

Tips for Perfectly Boiled Crabs

Boiling crab takes some technique, but follow these tips and you can master cooking tender, juicy crab at home:

  • Only cook live crabs – never use dead meat. Use an ice bath to sedate before boiling.

  • Maintain a rolling boil for whole cooked crabs – don’t let it simmer down.

  • Check for doneness early and continue cooking in 2-3 minute increments as needed.

  • For pre-cooked legs and claws, use a gentle 200°F simmer to reheat – no rolling boil.

  • Immediately after cooking, plunge into ice bath to stop cooking process.

  • Season the boiling water generously. Old Bay, crab boil, lemon, and garlic make great additions.

Take your time and follow the guidelines for your specific type of crab. You’ll be rewarded with perfectly cooked crab for any backyard boil or feast!

Frequency of Entities: – 11 – 0

how long do you boil a crab

How to Clean, Crack, and Shell Crab

1. Pull off and discard triangular flap from belly side.

2. Turn crab belly side down; pulling from the rear end, lift off back shell. Drain and discard liquid from shell. Take soft, golden crab butter and white crab fat out of the shell and put them in a small bowl. You can eat them with crab or mix them into a sauce for dipping. If using back shell for garnish, break bony section (mouth) from front end of shell and discard. Rinse shell well and drain.

3. If the reddish membrane covering the middle hasn’t come off with the back, pull it off and throw away along with any loose pieces on the body section. Scoop out any remaining golden butter and add to bowl. Pull off and discard long, spongy gills from sides of body. Rinse body well with cool water.

4. Twist legs and claws from body. Using a nutcracker or wood mallet, crack the shell of each leg and claw section. With a knife, cut the body into quarters.

5. Break the legs and claws apart. Take out the meat with your fingers, a small fork, a pick, or the tip of a crab leg. Pull body sections apart and dig out pockets of meat. Discard shells. There is 7 1/2 to 8 ounces (1/3 to 1 1/2 cups) of meat in a cooked, cleaned 1 3/4- to 2-pound crab (with back shell). Bigger crabs don’t always have more meat.

How to Cook Crab

1. Keep live crabs loosely covered in the refrigerator up to 12 hours. Place crabs carefully in a pan, leaving 3 to 4 inches of space below the edge of the pan. Hold them by the back, between the legs. Remove crabs and fill pan with enough water to cover crabs by 2 to 3 inches. Cover pan and bring water to a boil over high heat.

2. Holding each crab as described above, drop it headfirst into the boiling water one at a time. If you have too much water, pour it out and throw it away. Cover pan and start timing. When water resumes boiling, reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-pound crabs 15 minutes, 3-pound crabs about 20 minutes.

3. Drain crabs; to be able to handle quickly, rinse briefly with cool water.

How Long Do I Boil Crab? : Seafood & Outdoor Cooking

How long do you boil crabs in a crock pot?

Boil in batches if necessary. The water will drop below a boil when you put in the crabs, so cover the pot and let the water come back to a full boil. Once it does, cook for 10 to 15 minutes. When you see crabs floating on the surface, cook for another 2 to 3 minutes before turning off the heat.

How long do you boil crab?

The boil time depends on the size and variety of the crab (more on this, below), but the consensus is to boil it for 10-15 minutes to bring out its flavor and get the perfect texture. If you’re unsure, an easy tip to remember is to remove the crab once it starts to float in the water. New to the art of cooking crustaceans?

How long to boil Dungeness crab?

They need to be boiled a little longer than blue crabs; add to a pot with boiling water and allow them to cook covered for 14 minutes. However, if you’ve got the crab cleaned and are wondering how long to boil cleaned Dungeness crab, you’ll need to reduce the boil time to 11 minutes. 3. King Crabs

How do you boil crab legs?

Step 1: Find a large pot and fill with water. The pot has to be large enough to hold crab legs that can be submerged in water, while leaving an inch at the top. You have to be careful of water boiling over the top by not filling it completely with crab legs! Boil multiple pots as needed. Step 2: Bring water to a boil.

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