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?