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Grilled King Crab Legs with Garlic Butter

Savor the luxurious taste of grilled king crab legs, perfectly paired with a rich garlic butter dipping sauce. This delectable dish features succulent crab meat with a smoky, charred exterior that enhances its natural sweetness. The homemade creamy garlic butter sauce is the perfect complement.

king crab legs on a grill brushed with butter
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What Are King Crab Legs?

King crab legs have a very prickly shell. They are large in size and are typically sold individually (by the leg) in pounds. The meat is a little more delicate and sweeter. They are a lot more expensive than snow crab.

King crab legs are often boiled or steamed, but can also be grilled, baked, or sautéed. They are typically served with butter or lemon for dipping and can be enjoyed as an appetizer or as a main course.

fresh king crab legs on a flat surface

Why Grill Them

I love to grill them because they are so large, a grill is the only place they will easily fit (outside of the oven of course). Grilling king crab legs can be a great way to add some smoky flavor and char to the crab legs while keeping the meat inside moist and tender.

Grilling is a quick and easy method that allows the crab legs to cook quickly, so the meat stays juicy and doesn’t dry out. This method also gives you a chance to infuse them with other flavors such as herbs, garlic, and butter. Some people also enjoy the slightly smoky flavor that grilling can add.

Overall, this is a great alternative cooking method and can add a unique and delicious flavor to them in comparison to steamed or baked.

king crab legs on a grill

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. Both can be cooked in a similar way, but king crab legs are usually larger, so they will require more time to cook.

king crab legs on a grill

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 Grill King Crab Legs

Detailed measurements and full instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  1. Preheat grill.
  2. Place the crab legs on the grill.
  3. Grill.
king crab legs on a grill

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.

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.

grilled crab legs on a wooden board with fresh lemon

Frozen Crab

The crab defrosts quickly in water. I don’t recommend grilling while frozen.

Do Not Overcook

When grilling crab legs, it’s important to keep them on the grill for a short period of time, usually for about 4 to 7 minutes each side (for king crab), and to be careful not to overcook them. Grilling at medium-high heat is recommended to prevent over-cooking.

grilled crab legs on a wooden board with fresh lemon

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.

How to Split and Crack Them

You will need a sharp pair of kitchen shears or a heavy duty knife. I use these shears from Amazon.

  1. Place the crab leg on a cutting board or other hard surface.
  2. Hold the leg with one hand and use the other hand to snip through the shell with the shears along the underside of the leg, cutting through the joint.
  3. Twist the top of the leg to separate it from the bottom section.
  4. You can then use a fork or crab cracker to remove the meat from the shell.

Be sure to be careful when cutting and twisting the legs to avoid injury.

cracked and split king crab legs on a wooden board

How to Reheat Them

I don’t reheat them. I love to serve these with warm butter and that provides the temperature adjustment I need. If you know you want to eat more of them later, crack them first. The longer they sit, the harder they are to crack and the meat gets trapped inside.

If you must reheat them, saute them in a pan with oil or butter until warm.

Pair With These Recipes

Grilled Asparagus in Foil
Steakhouse Creamed Spinach
Smoked Sweet Potatoes

Slow Cooker Crockpot Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic

For immense garlic flavor, you may love Air Fryer Roasted Garlic for use in the dipping sauce.

person holding cracked king crab leg in melted butter

Grilled King Crab Legs with Garlic Butter

Savor the luxurious taste of grilled king crab legs, perfectly paired with a rich garlic butter dipping sauce. This delectable dish features succulent crab meat with a smoky, charred exterior that enhances its natural sweetness. The homemade creamy garlic butter sauce is the perfect complement.
Save this recipe here.
Course dinner, lunch
Cuisine American
Keyword Alaskan king crab legs recipe, grilled crab legs, grilled king crab legs, how to grill king crab, king crab legs
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 17 minutes
Servings 2 servings
Calories 490kcal


  • 3 pounds king crab legs

Garlic Butter Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
  • 6 garlic cloves Minced
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning


  • Preheat grill to medium-high, 350 degrees.
  • Place the crab legs on the grill. Grill for 5-6 minutes on each side.
  • Cool before you split the crab legs. Cut the crab legs open using cooking shears.

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. Snow crab legs cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.
  • 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. 
Recipe Tools Used in this RecipeAs an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition (displayed with net carbs)

Serving: 1.5pounds | Calories: 490kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 65g | Fat: 23g
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Nutrition DataMacros are provided as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. This information is calculated using To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.
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