These Smoked Crab Legs are cooked to perfection with tender juicy meat and shells that crack open easily every time. You can use king or snow crab, be sure to dip them in our smoky lemon garlic butter!
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What Are Snow Crab Legs
Snow crab legs are the edible part of the snow crab. They are found in cold ocean waters, primarily in the northern Pacific and Atlantic. They are often served with butter or lemon and are known for their sweet and delicate flavor.
Why Smoke Them
Smoking will add a unique and delicious smoky flavor to the already flavorful meat of the crab. The smoking process also helps make them tender and juicy.
The Difference Between Snow Crab and King Crab Legs
Snow crab legs are sold in clusters and typically by the pound. They are much easier to handle and crack because they have a smooth shell. There are usually at least 4 legs in each cluster. King crab is usually sold in bundles of 1 or more legs.
King has a sweeter and more delicate flavor than snow crab. It is also considered to be more succulent and tender.
King crabs can grow up to 6 feet across and can weigh up to 18 pounds, while snow crabs are typically smaller and weigh around 1-2 pounds. Snow crab meat is white to light pink in color, while king crab meat is a deeper red.
Snow crab is harvested year-round, but king crab is typically harvested in the fall and winter.
How to Buy and Shop
Most crab will come precooked and often frozen. Sometimes, if it’s sold thawed, then it has been thawed from frozen. After the crabs are caught they are cooked on the boat and then flash-frozen right on the spot. If the crab legs are orange or red in color when you bought them, then they have already been cooked. This process is reheating them.
How to Thaw
You can thaw them in the refrigerator overnight (at least 8 hours). You can also put them in a bowl and run cool water over them to thaw quickly.
How to Smoke Crab Legs
- Place the crab legs on the smoker. Smoke.
- Combine melted butter, fresh lemon juice, Old Bay Seasoning, smoked paprika, garlic, and parsley in a bowl and stir. Serve for dipping sauce or brush the butter over the crab.
What Flavor of Wood/Pellets to Use
Fruit woods and the Traeger Signature Blend will work well. Here are more options:
- Apple or Cherry: Mild in flavor and produce a slightly sweet, fruity smoke that complements the delicate flavor of crab meat.
- Hickory or Oak: Stronger and more robust woods that produce a rich, smoky flavor that can stand up to the sweetness of the crab meat.
How to Know When They are Done
Crab should be cooked until the flesh is pearly or white, and opaque. You won’t be able to tell much by the outside color, because when you bought them they were already pre-cooked and orange. Examine the shoulder (this is the large white part of the cluster). It should be pearly white.
Check out our post on How to Cook Crab Legs.
Smoky Garlic Butter
To give the crab legs a more intense smoked flavor I like to add smoked paprika to my standard garlic butter sauce. You will need the following ingredients:
- Minced Garlic
- Smoked Paprika
- Fresh Lemon Juice
- Old Bay Seasoning
The crab defrosts quickly in water. I don’t recommend smoking them while frozen.
Do Not Overcook
When smoking crab legs, it’s important to keep them on the smoker for a short period of time, usually for about 30 minutes (about double the time for king crab legs), and to be careful not to overcook them.
How to Plan How Much You Need Per Person
You should typically plan for 1 1/2 pounds of crab per person. 2 pounds a person is great to be sure you have enough.
Pair With These Recipes
More Crab Recipes
I love to pair these with my Homemade Seafood Stock recipe.
Smoked Crab Legs
- 3 pounds snow crab legs See notes
- Preheat smoker to 225 degrees.
- Place the crab legs on the smoker. Smoke for 30-40 minutes. Mine were ready at 30 minutes.
Garlic Butter Sauce
- Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir. Serve for dipping sauce or brush the butter over the crab.
- You can use snow crab legs or king crab legs. King crabs will typically require double the cook time.
- Adjust the spices and seasoning to suit your taste.
- Some people feel like brushing the garlic butter sauce and seasoning onto the crab legs makes it more of a messy experience. It does. Feel free to skip this step and use the ingredients as a dipping sauce.