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Skip the Chinese buffet or expensive steak house and enjoy a vat of deliciously succulent, easy crab legs at home from your Instant Pot! You can buy crab frozen or from the butcher in individual clusters for simple portioning.
What kind of crab should I buy?
If you’re unfamiliar with purchasing crab in a grocery store, you’ll find there are usually two main varieties. Just make sure that you get crab legs or crab leg clusters, not the whole crab.
In supermarkets, you’ll usually find either snow or king crab, so here’s a quick comparison of the two:
- Less expensive
- Long, softer shell
- Can be eaten without a crab cracker
- Less meat per leg
- Best for “beginner” eaters
- More expensive
- Large, hard, and spiky shell
- Can’t eat it without a crab cracker
- More meat per leg
- Best for “experienced” eaters
I personally recommend snow crabs—they’re less expensive, just as yummy, and a bit easier to eat. King crabs have more meat per leg, but they also have a spiky exterior shell that can be difficult to crack without special tools at home (especially for kids).
Fresh or frozen?
You can use either fresh or frozen snow crab legs in the Instant Pot.
If you can find fresh crab legs (usually at the butcher/seafood counter), make sure to cook them the same day.
Frozen crab legs can be cooked anytime, so just make sure they are frozen and not thawed when you cook them.
Fun fact: most fresh crab meat is actually pre cooked and flash frozen right on the boat! This preserves the flavor of the crab so that it can get to you if you’re anywhere beyond 10 minutes from the shore.
So, if you can’t get your crab right off the boat (aka super fresh), I recommend buying it frozen.
How to cook fresh vs. frozen crab legs
Crab legs (fresh or frozen) cook for the SAME amount of time!
1 minute on high pressure with a quick release.
If you overcook your crab legs, the meat will be really brittle and dry. This is why it’s important to do the quick release as soon as the pressure cooking is done—you don’t want the crab legs cooking longer than is absolutely necessary!
Instant Pot seafood boil with crab legs
Crab legs are also SO GOOD in a seafood boil! They’re so good, in fact, that I had to put together my own recipe.
Just add your frozen crab legs into the pot at the same time as you add the shrimp, and you’re golden!
What is clarified butter? Is it the same as ghee?
Clarified butter is not the same as ghee. Clarified butter is a delicious yellow-clear fat that remains after you’ve removed the water and milk solids from butter.
Ghee is the product of clarified butter that has allowed the milk solids to caramelize. Check out my friend Archana’s recipe for Instant Pot Ghee if you’re interested in making that at home.
Clarified (or drawn) butter is the stuff that you want to dip your crab legs into! It has a delicious, rich flavor that pairs BEAUTIFULLY with those Instant Pot crab legs!
How to make Clarified butter
To make your own clarified butter, start with unsalted sweet cream butter. Let it simmer gently in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium low heat. When you see the milk solids collecting on the top, simply skim them off.
The remaining liquid is your clarified butter!
What is Old Bay Seasoning and should I use it?
This is definitely a taste thing. Personally, I love Old Bay! It’s a classic seasoning native to Maryland that is a little smoky, salty, and peppery. For many of us, seafood just isn’t right without it!
I love to just sprinkle in a pinch on top of the crab legs before I close my Instant Pot, but it’s not necessary at all.
Butter with a little fresh lemon juice is usually the most popular way to season your steamed crab legs.
Instant Pot Low country Boil
You can easily add Instant Pot crab legs to my Low Country Boil recipe! This is a super quick and easy one pot meal the entire family will devour! I also have a delicious Instant Pot Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo recipe that you’ll love.
Serving Instant Pot Crab
What to serve with Crab Legs
- Instant Pot Corn on the Cob
- Baked Potatoes
- Instant Pot Salt Potatoes from Syracuse/Upstate, New York
- Instant Pot Broccoli + FAQ
- Pressure Cooker Artichokes
- Instant Pot Salmon
Instant Pot Crab Legs
- 1 cup water
- 1 lb snow crab legs fresh or frozen
- ⅛ teaspoon old bay seasoning
- 2 tablespoons clarified butter
- 2 lemon wedges
- Pour water into Instant Pot®and add the trivet.
- Add the crab legs, then sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning.
- Close the lid, turn the knob to Sealing.
- Press Manual or Pressure Cook button and adjust time to 1 minute, then press the Pressure button and adjust to low pressure.
- When the timer beeps, turn the knob from sealing to venting, then remove the lid immediately. Overcooked crab is very flaky and not tender, so it must be removed from the heat source as soon as possible.
- Remove the crab to a plate and serve with clarified butter and lemon.