Crab legs are a rare treat. Few types of seafood are as delicious as a big plate of crab legs, which is part of why they're not an everyday meal. The other part is that while they're well worth the effort, crab legs aren't without their challenges in preparation, especially if you don't want to simply try to crack them at the table. So how do you clean and prep crab legs? It's a multi-step process.
It's also important to note that there are different types of crab legs (Dungeness crab, Alaskan king crab, snow crab, stone crab, etc.). And while this same general process is how you deal with all of them, it's not completely universal. A Dungeness crab or a stone crab, for instance, is small enough that typically the legs will be cooked on the crab itself — thus, there are extra steps not covered here involving removing the legs from the rest of the shell. But as long as the legs are already off the shell, this is how to deal with them.
Thaw And Boil The Crab Legs
Unless you live near the ocean in some very specific areas, chances are your crab legs will not have been caught that day, so there's a good chance you're working with frozen crab legs at home. (That's perfectly acceptable; frozen seafood is typically just as good as the fresh stuff.)
As with any protein, there are a couple of different ways to thaw crab legs. Leaving them in the fridge overnight will typically do the trick, but if you're in a hurry, water immersion is the way to go. This is where you place the legs in an airtight container, such as a plastic bag, then submerge it in water; it'll typically thaw in about half an hour this way. One caveat: Use cold water and leave it in the fridge, because hotter water or general temperatures can cause the crab legs to essentially par-cook, and you don't want that.
From there, simply boil them in the shell as you normally would with any hard-shelled shellfish, such as crab or lobster (the same process doesn't quite apply to a softer-shelled creatures, which is why you can clean shrimp before you cook them). Afterwards, remove them with tongs, and be sure to let them completely cool before you crack them. You don't want to try to de-shell a crustacean that's still piping hot.
Crack, Clean, And Rinse The Crab Legs
Next comes cracking the crab. After cracking it at the knuckles with your hands, it may work to simply slide the legs out. If it doesn't, you can use a crab cracker, but there's an even better method, and one that's much, much easier to deal with. Use kitchen shears, slipping the tip into the end of the shell and simply cutting it from one end to the other. It makes the shell much easier to remove.
From there, there's one final step: rinsing the meat. While you never want to wash chicken because you're ultimately just spraying campylobacter and salmonella everywhere, crab legs (and seafood in general) are different. There's not going to be any bacteria on the outside of freshly-prepared crab legs like there is with a chicken breast — but there very well could be small bits of shell debris you're not seeing easily. Just be sure to use cold running water; much like immersion thawing, hot water can overcook the meat. But in this case, it's even more susceptible, as it's already been cooked.
As long as you follow these simple steps, you'll have restaurant-grade crab legs in no time. Just take the process seriously, and dinner will be a huge hit.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.