Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Five Tips: Grilling Crab Legs

Crab legs are some of the easiest things to grill.  All you have to do is warm them up.

How to grill crab legs, Big Green Egg crab legs, kamado grill crab legs

I was foraging the wild rivers and forests of East Tennessee tonight (shopping at my Food City*) when I ran into a trapper (Justin who works the meat/seafood market) who offered to trade snow crab legs for a relatively few pelts (had them on sale for a good price).  

As he was packing up my order, another customer noticed the price and heard our conversation.  She was intrigued that I was going to GRILL crab legs.  Justin assured her that since they are already cooked, it was functionally no different than warming them up in an oven or steamer.  

Here are my five tips for grilling snow crab legs on the grill.
  1. Grill 'em last - Like fish, crab legs do NOT require a rest period after grilling like steaks do.  Have all of your other dishes ready to go before you warm the legs up on the grill.
  2. Intensify seasonings - Since all of the seasoning is on the OUTSIDE of the crab legs, you need to go heavy on the seasoning.  I like to cut a few lemons in half and grill them cut side down for 2-3 minutes.  Squeeze 1 half lemon per pound of crab legs over the legs and then quickly sprinkle heavily  with your seasonings.  My two favorites are Old Bay seasoning or Dizzy Pig Raging River.  The grilled lemons concentrate the flavor and helps the seasoning stick.  
  3. Gentle heat - Go at 300-350f direct heat on a grill.  That means you should be able to hold your hand over the grill area 7-9 seconds.  Done with the foil nest, it should take about 10-15 minutes to get them warmed up.  I don't have an internal temp goal, I just go by a warm touch.
  4. Nest egg - Loosely wrap the crab claw clusters in a double layer of aluminum foil.  This will help warm them evenly, add a little steaming effect from the lemon juice (you read #2 right?), and keep them from drying out.
  5. Better butter - Crab meat dipped in melted butter is awesome.  But if you REALLY want to take it to the next level, do two things.  First use clarified butter (butter heated and then the milk fats and solids removed).  Second, place a hot grilled lemon half in a small dish and pour the hot butter over it.  The guests can squeeze the lemon juice into the butter.  Great presentation and a WOW on the flavor impact.

grilled corn, kamado grilled corn, big green egg grilled corn
I grilled some fresh corn first. 

grilled corn, kamado grilled corn, big green egg grilled corn
Brushed with some cilantro, butter, and seasoning.

A loose foil packet like this lets you get the best out of steaming and grilling to reheat the crab legs.

The little detail of grilled lemon halves in the clarified butter.....big difference!

*Food City - I have no affiliation with Food City but I call their store on Morrell Road "my store" for a few reasons.  

Alexis and I both worked in the retail grocery industry for 16+ years each in our first careers so we are picky about our grocer.   When we first moved here in 2000, this particular store (it was a Bi-Lo then) was within walking distance of our apartment.  

In addition to the pricing, merchandising, etc that the corporate structure provides, the STAFF at this store make a difference for us.   It would be easier to walk into a bank and take their cash than it would be to walk through this store without SEVERAL staff either greeting you or asking if they can help you.  The staff at this store makes all the difference between shopping here and at what I call "stupidmarkets" where you can buy tires but have staff that can't tell you the difference between a flat tire and a flat iron steak. 

What is YOUR favorite local grocery store and what makes it your favorite?


  1. Your Food City must be completely different than the one I live close to. It has weird brands and very few known brands ... and it's really dirty. I mean really dirty and gross.... funny how different they are!
    Anyway.. I've not grilled crab legs before.. I don't know if I could get Chris to eat them.. but I'm going to try!!

  2. You have made my mouth water WAY too early this morning, Chris. This whole meal sounds incredible. I've never even thought about doing my own crab legs and you just made it look so simple!

    P.S. Grilled lemon halves? I had no idea!

  3. Wow, 20 years of living on a coast known for it's great seafood and I've never thought of putting the lemon IN the butter. You are fast approaching Saint status in my book!

  4. I've never tried crab on the grill so I like the tips for doing it and will try it next time we have crab. Your corn also looks very good.

  5. I like to forage at my Ingles. It is the only store in a 25 mile radius of Lake Lure and we are lucky to have it. I'm enjoying your blog and look forward to meeting you soon.

  6. Fabulous. Never even thought about grilling crab legs. And that corn looks scrumptious. LOL about foraging rivers and forests.

  7. I'm not positive, but I don't think I have ever had crab legs in my whole entire life. Thanks for posting this. Summer is coming and this would be the perfect meal to cook up on the balcony in my courtyard and make my neighbors jealous!

  8. My local favorite store is Trader Joe's... the people are awesome and so is the food.

    Grilling crab legs is a great idea. It all looks so good - you have me drooling!

  9. Best job ever - Safeway as checker/stock clerk/lackey. I. LOVE. GROCERY. STORES. Having said that, so many have fallen into hard times like any other retail biz. And the help at said stores is only a notch above the McWendyBurgerBell "employees".

    Favorite local grocer: Harris Teeter.

  10. Yum! I Love crab legs and actually didn't ever think about heating them any other way but on the grill unless it was for a seafood boil. Publix here in Florida was always my favorite but it's not like it once was - and all the other stores are worse ::sigh::

  11. The last time Joe and I had crab legs was a full year ago in Seattle and San Francisco. Yet again, I wish I lived next door to you............... My favourite grocery store is Loblaws, but it's Canadian so you wouldn't have heard of it. :o)

  12. @Jenn - Oh yeah, that is TOTALLY a different chain. I just googled them....ewwwwww. NOTHING like our Food City stores.

    @Pam - We are getting at Trader Joe's in Knoxville this year but the one thing everyone tells me about them (great cheap wine) is a non-factor here, grocery stores can't sell wine.

    @Brian - I remember when Harris Teeter came into the NE FL market when I worked with Winn-Dixie. I think Publix already had their target demo pretty wrapped up, but they did have nice stores.

    @Martha - I hate to hear that, I always respected Publix as a tough competitor and thought they did a great job. Even if they are still the best of the mediocre crowd, I don't like to think of them lowering their standards.

    @Brenda - LOL, yep, never heard of them.

  13. Thank you for this information, am going to try tonight

  14. Ukrops Grocery was the BEST ever! Gone, but look for that brand/ Dots pastries coming x america via Martins/ Ahol holdings...u will not be disappointed!
    Richmond, Va

  15. First of all, awesome legs, I did this tonight with pork steak (It's soooo much cheaper than beef, and I actually think a well prepared pork steak can be right up there with any of the top beef cuts) and some grilled yellow squash. I had used old bay on crab outside of a boil, but man! That made such a huge difference sucking out that yummy crab juice! Also... I Live in Knoxville now, but lived my whole life in Alaska until a year ago, so your first paragraph confused me. It's not uncommon where I'm from for trappers to trade fur for crab. It took me a while to figure out how a store employee could trade crab for pelts without getting in trouble :)

  16. I love me some crablegs and going to try this out tonight Thx..


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