Preparing Golden King Crab

December 01, 2022

Preparing Golden King Crab

So, you got some of my Alaska golden king crab and you want to make sure you prepare it just right... This post is for you!

With red/brown king crab closed this year (and opilio/snow crab too), golden king crab is the primary wild sustainable Alaskan king crab available. If you see red/brown king crab in stores, it's one of two things: leftover (old) stock from Russia (before trade embargo) or it's this season's Russian crab brought into the US via China. No matter how it gets to the US, Russian king crab is a non-sustainable fishery. Wild Alaskan is always best!

Because of the unique properties of king crab, it must be cooked and frozen shortly after capture. When preparing, it's important to remember that it's already cooked. The key is to gently reheat your crab just to hot but not to cook it any further. Lucky it's very easy and there are myriad ways to do it. Although you can cook king crab right out of the freezer (still frozen), I prefer to let it thaw in a bowl in the fridge overnight. The ice glaze will melt off creating some water so be sure to put it in a bowl or pan to catch that water. 

Besides the crab itself, the next most important components in a king crab fest is the butter. While plain melted butter is always an option, take a look at these simple recipes to bring something extra to your meal. I typically don't measure during cooking (except in baking) so bear with me.

  • The butter I made for the cook in this video was pretty mind blowing. You can make it with or without the chili flakes. The ingredients were: butter, fresh thyme, lemon, garlic, chili flakes. For me the slight spice of the chili flakes was beautifully unexpected.
  • The classic recipe is typically some combination of butter, garlic and lemon juice. You can add lemon zest for a little more pep. You can take this a step further with a little white wine.
  • If you love Southeast Asian cooking like I do, try adding some lemon grass and ginger to your butter garlic. 

Live Fire King Crab
This is my favorite way to cook king crab (almost anything actually!). Crab is ideal for this type of cooking since it comes "packaged" by nature, so the heat is always indirect. Build a nice fire and get some good coals going. Set your thawed crab legs directly on the coals and let them cook for a few minutes, then flip them over and a few more minutes. They steam inside the shells! I've found that even a hot fire (too hot for most cooking) still works because of the protection the shell provides. I've had some pretty good char on the shell and it still turns out delicious (with a little smokiness). Here is a video of my recent live fire golden king crab cook. In this video I made a butter dip with thyme, lemon, garlic and chili flakes. Exact porportions not important. Mind blowing!

Steamed king crab
Steaming is a fantastic and nearly fool-proof way to cook your crab. Get a large pot, place a rack inside and add some salted water. For a little extra flavor you can add some spices to the water (like Spike) as well as a whole lemon cut in half and squeezed in (toss the squeezed lemons in too!). Put the lid on and bring the water to a boil. Pop those crab legs in and let them steam for about 7-8 minutes. Serve with your favorite butter concoction.

Baked King crab
If it's too cold to fire the grill outside, bake those crab legs! Preheat your oven to 375 F. Spread your crab out on a baking sheet and set aside. Although you can bake them as is then add your flavors later, it sure tastes (and looks) amazing when you do the following: make your preferred butter mix (see above) and brush or pour some onto the crab on the baking sheet. If you make enough butter sauce you can put it over willy nilly for loads of flavor and a great look. You can even use a food syringe/injector to pump some inside the shells! Pop them into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. If you want to make things very easy on your guests, you can cut the legs into shorter lengths, then cut the shells in half long way. This leaves the section of meat sitting in a half shell boat, ready for garnishing and munching.

Other ideas

This is a delicious Southeast Asian inspired recipe from New Orleans Menu ( For about 2 lbs. crab. Serves 3-4 people.

Cut your legs into manageable sections then cut or crack each section to expose some meat. Heat about 4 tablespoon of oil in a pan/skillet large enough to fit your crab. Add 3-5 crushed garlic cloves and the amount of chili flakes you think you can handle. Saute those on high heat for just a minute or two then add the crab. Cook (tossing a few times) for a few minutes (we're just flavoring and warming the crab here). Remove the crab and set aside, get rid of the oil. Lower the heat and add 1-2 tablespoons sesame oil and 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger. Saute a few minutes then add 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 1/4 cup pineapple or passionfruit juice and 4 tablespoons soy sauce. You can add a splash of Tabasco if you like that flavor. Boil the sauce and let it reduce some. Chuck the crab back in along with a small handful of finely chopped tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes (toss a few times to coat crab) then kill the heat. Add a handful of chopped cilantro leaves and squeeze two limes over the top. Toss and serve.

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