BY SCOTT JONES
PEOPLE CRAVE KING crabs, especially their
meaty legs. The proof? Let’s just say that when an
entire TV franchise, Deadliest Catch, is created
around catching these highly prized crustaceans, it’s
a solid bet king crabs are good eating. But the question remains: What makes them so darn special?
Crabs come in all shapes and sizes. At the top of
the heap, however, are king crabs; so named for their
enormous size. King crabs are found in red, blue
and golden varieties. When it comes to evaluating
the quality, Bill Mardon, who oversees Costco’s king
crab program, remarks that the red king crab is the
king of kings. “Their leg meat is the filet mignon
of crab meat. Plus, red king crabs have a better
meat-to-shell ratio than, say, golden crabs, so they’re
a better value.”
Buying king crab legs can feel overwhelming,
but it’s pretty straightforward when armed with a
couple of handy tips. When estimating the total
amount needed, figure 1½ to 2 pounds per person
for a main dish, ½ to 1 pound if the crab will be
served alongside another protein or as an appetizer.
Keep the legs frozen until you are ready to use them,
preferably within five days after purchase.
Crabs are cooked at sea or as soon as the
boats hit the dock and then flash-fro-zen to lock in the precious flavor.
As a result, preparing crab legs
at home begins with the simple task of thawing them
(preferably in the fridge for
24 hours). Then, they’re
perfectly fine rinsed and
eaten cold, or you can heat
them in a variety of ways.
Options run the gamut, from
steaming or baking to microwaving or grilling.
For heating, keep it simple by either
wrapping the legs in heavy-duty foil with
a splash of water or putting them directly
on a roasting pan to heat in a 350 F oven for five to
seven minutes (until warm), turning once. You can
add a touch of smokiness by tossing the legs on a grill
for four to six minutes, turning once. One tip for the
grill is to snip up both sides of the legs with kitchen
shears, then baste with melted but-
ter (and even hot sauce).
For a more modern approach,
wrap the legs in a wet paper towel,
put them in a zip-top plastic bag
and microwave them at high for
90 seconds to two minutes.
Regardless of how the heating
is done, Alaska-based chef Laura
Cole says the most common mistake home cooks make is heating
for too long. “Once thawed, legs
only take about four to eight minutes at the most to reheat. Any longer and you destroy the amazing
texture and taste,” warns the head
honcho of 229 Parks Restaurant in
Denali National Park.
There are a number of ways to
get to the sweet leg meat. Popular
tools include nutcrackers, knives,
kitchen shears and hammers.
Some prefer to use a long, thin
fork. Warm clarified butter
seems to be the most universally enjoyed
accompaniment for dipping, though spik-
ing it with garlic, herbs or hot sauce
(or a combo of all three) is sure to
liven up the delicious experience.
When you’re done, Cole rec-
ommends hanging on to the
shells. “Crab legs are expensive,
so you might as well use them
for all you can. One of our
favorite kitchen hacks is to make
crab butter for popcorn and pasta.
You won’t believe how good and
easy it is to make,” she raves.
After rinsing the shells, Cole cracks
them a bit before combining them with
equal parts butter. She gently cooks the
mixture over low heat until the butter is fragrant
and takes on a vibrant pink color. The butter is then
strained into jars, cooled and stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
As for morning-after leftovers, crab meat can be
gently stirred into a skillet of rustic potato hash or
made the crown jewel atop fancy Eggs Benedict.
“For me, nothing beats soft scrambled eggs with
leftover crab meat the morning after,” Cole says with
a smile. C
Scott Jones (JonesIs Thirsty.com) is a food and wine
writer living in Birmingham, Alabama.
FOR YOUR TABLE
THE COSTCO CONNECTION
Members can find king crab legs at Costco in
the special Seafood Road Shows and also in
some freezer cases, depending on location.
Costco’s packs do not contain broken pieces or
king of crab
Eggs Benedict with crab
is a delicious morning-
RED KING CRAB LEGS
8 king crab legs
½ stick unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 pinches cayenne pepper
Preheat broiler. Partially defrost
cooked king crab legs and use a small
kitchen knife to cut a strip along the
length of the legs about ¾ inch wide
and 4 inches long.
Prepare the sauce: Combine all
Place legs on a foil-lined cookie sheet.
Spoon a small amount of the sauce
on the openings cut in the shells. Broil
the crab legs 2 to 3 minutes, or until
just heated and slightly browned on
top. Serve with more sauce on the
side. Makes 4 servings. (Sauce is
enough for 12 legs.)
Recipe courtesy of Costco member Carol
Bigham-Perez of Tacoma, Washington.
Big legs mean
© CHEF PHOTOGRAPHY / SHUTTERSTOCK