The Ultimate Guide to Snow Crab Legs: Delicacy, Nutrition, and Preparation

Snow Crab Legs


Snow crab legs, known for their sweet and delicate flavor, are a prized delicacy enjoyed by seafood lovers around the world. These crustaceans, with their long, slender legs and tender meat, are often seen gracing the tables of upscale restaurants and seafood boils alike. This comprehensive guide will delve into everything you need to know about snow crab legs—from their habitat and nutritional benefits to the best ways to prepare and enjoy them.

Understanding Snow Crab Legs

What Are Snow Crabs?

Snow crabs are marine crustaceans found in the cold waters of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. They belong to the genus Chionoecetes, with the most commonly harvested species being Chionoecetes opilio and Chionoecetes bairdi. Snow crabs are named for their snowy white meat, which is tender, flaky, and slightly sweet.

Habitat and Harvesting

Snow crabs thrive in the icy depths of the ocean, typically at depths ranging from 50 to 200 meters. They are harvested using baited traps known as pots, which are placed on the ocean floor. The crabs are lured into the pots, and once the pots are full, they are hauled to the surface. This method of harvesting is sustainable and helps maintain healthy crab populations.

Types of Snow Crab Legs

Snow crab legs are categorized based on size and quality. The larger the legs, the higher the grade and price. Common grades include:

  • Colossal: The largest and most premium quality.
  • Jumbo: Slightly smaller but still of high quality.
  • Large: Standard size, commonly found in seafood markets.
  • Medium: Smaller legs, often more affordable.

Nutritional Benefits of Snow Crab Legs

High-Quality Protein

Snow crab legs are an excellent source of high-quality protein, essential for muscle growth and repair. A 3-ounce serving of snow crab meat provides approximately 16 grams of protein, making it a great option for those looking to increase their protein intake.

Low in Fat and Calories

Snow crab meat is low in fat and calories, making it a healthy choice for those watching their weight. A typical serving contains about 80-100 calories and less than 2 grams of fat, most of which are heart-healthy unsaturated fats.

Rich in Vitamins and Minerals

Snow crab legs are packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Vitamin B12: Important for red blood cell formation and neurological function.
  • Zinc: Supports immune function and wound healing.
  • Copper: Necessary for iron metabolism and the formation of connective tissue.
  • Selenium: Acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from damage.

How to Buy and Store Snow Crab Legs

Buying Snow Crab Legs

When purchasing snow crab legs, consider the following tips to ensure you get the best quality:

  • Freshness: Look for legs that are firm and moist, with a mild ocean smell. Avoid legs that appear dry, discolored, or have a strong fishy odor.
  • Frozen vs. Fresh: Frozen snow crab legs are often more readily available and can be just as good as fresh ones. Ensure they are flash-frozen to preserve quality.
  • Grade and Size: Decide on the grade and size based on your preference and budget. Larger legs tend to have more meat and better flavor.

Storing Snow Crab Legs

Proper storage is crucial to maintain the quality of snow crab legs:

  • Refrigeration: If you plan to consume the crab legs within a day or two, store them in the coldest part of your refrigerator, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
  • Freezing: For longer storage, keep them in the freezer. Place the crab legs in airtight plastic bags or containers to prevent freezer burn. They can be stored for up to six months.

Preparing Snow Crab Legs

Thawing Frozen Crab Legs

Before cooking, frozen snow crab legs should be thawed properly:

  • Refrigerator Method: Place the frozen legs in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours.
  • Cold Water Method: Submerge the frozen legs in a bowl of cold water for 1-2 hours, changing the water every 30 minutes.

Cooking Methods

Snow crab legs can be prepared using various methods, each bringing out their unique flavors:

  • Boiling: The most common and straightforward method.
    1. Fill a large pot with water and add a generous amount of salt.
    2. Bring the water to a boil.
    3. Add the crab legs and cook for 4-6 minutes.
    4. Remove the legs from the water and let them cool slightly before serving.
  • Steaming: Retains the crab’s natural sweetness.
    1. Fill a large pot with about 2 inches of water and place a steamer basket inside.
    2. Bring the water to a boil.
    3. Place the crab legs in the steamer basket and cover the pot.
    4. Steam for 5-7 minutes until heated through.
  • Grilling: Adds a smoky flavor to the crab meat.
    1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.
    2. Brush the crab legs with melted butter or olive oil.
    3. Grill for 4-5 minutes on each side, until the shells are slightly charred and the meat is heated through.
  • Baking: Infuses the crab legs with flavors from herbs and spices.
    1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
    2. Place the crab legs on a baking sheet and brush with melted butter.
    3. Sprinkle with garlic, parsley, and lemon juice.
    4. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15-20 minutes.

Serving Suggestions and Recipes

Classic Serving Style

Serve snow crab legs with melted butter and lemon wedges for a classic and simple presentation. Provide seafood crackers and small forks to help extract the meat from the shells.

Crab Leg Feast

Create a seafood feast by pairing snow crab legs with other seafood favorites like shrimp, mussels, and clams. Add corn on the cob and boiled potatoes for a complete meal.

Snow Crab Leg Recipes

  1. Garlic Butter Snow Crab Legs
    • Ingredients:
      • 2 pounds snow crab legs
      • 1/2 cup melted butter
      • 4 cloves garlic, minced
      • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
      • Lemon wedges
    • Instructions:
      1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
      2. Place the crab legs on a baking sheet.
      3. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter, garlic, and parsley.
      4. Brush the mixture over the crab legs.
      5. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
      6. Serve with lemon wedges.
  2. Spicy Cajun Snow Crab Legs
    • Ingredients:
      • 2 pounds of snow crab legs
      • 1/4 cup olive oil
      • 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
      • 1 teaspoon paprika
      • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
      • Lemon wedges
    • Instructions:
      1. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.
      2. In a bowl, mix the olive oil, Cajun seasoning, paprika, and cayenne pepper.
      3. Brush the mixture over the crab legs.
      4. Grill for 4-5 minutes on each side.
      5. Serve with lemon wedges.

Health Considerations

While snow crab legs are nutritious, there are a few health considerations to keep in mind:

  • Allergies: Shellfish allergies are common. If you are allergic to shellfish, avoid consuming snow crab legs.
  • Sodium Content: Snow crab legs can be high in sodium, especially if pre-salted or served with salted butter. Those on a low-sodium diet should monitor their intake.
  • Mercury Levels: Like many seafood items, snow crab legs may contain trace amounts of mercury. However, they are generally considered safe for regular consumption in moderation.

Sustainability and Environmental Impact

Snow crab harvesting is subject to strict regulations to ensure sustainability. Fisheries use quotas and size limits to protect crab populations and minimize environmental impact. Consumers can support sustainable practices by purchasing snow crab legs certified by organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).


Snow crab legs are a delectable and nutritious seafood choice that can be enjoyed in various ways. Whether you prefer them boiled, steamed, grilled, or baked, their sweet and tender meat is sure to delight your taste buds. By understanding their nutritional benefits, proper buying and storage methods, and various preparation techniques, you can savor snow crab legs to their fullest. Remember to consider sustainability and health considerations to make the most informed choices for your seafood indulgence. Enjoy the luxurious taste of snow crab legs and elevate your culinary experiences with this versatile and flavorful delicacy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *