cooked crabs

How to Reheat Crabs (Ultimate guide)

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As a seafood lover don’t you just hate it when you reheat some pre-cooked frozen or leftover crabs and they turn out rubbery and dry. To devour luscious and delectably soft leftover crab meat, following the proper reheating method is the key. So, let’s dive deep into how to reheat crabs without drying them out!

Steaming is one of the easiest options to reheat frozen Dungeness crabs that are larger in size than other varieties. However, microwaving or baking crab legs for a few minutes is also good to hold the juiciness of the flesh. To reheat leftover crab meats, grilling and sautéing are preferable. Air frying, simmering, and boiling also work fine to reheat crabs.

Different varieties of crab meats need to be reheated differently. Otherwise, crab is very easy to get ruined during reheating. To save yourself the trouble, this article provides some tips and tricks to different reheating methods as well.

What Are the Methods to Reheat Crabs?

There are several easy and convenient methods for reheating different varieties of crabs. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones. 

• Steaming

• Microwaving

• Baking

• Grilling

• Boiling 

• Air Frying

• Simmering

• Broiling

• Sautéing 

1. Steaming

Steamed Crabs

To steam some of the frozen whole crabs or leftover crab legs all you will need is a steamer pot, steamer insert or basket, tongs, and aluminum foil. Then follow these steps

Step 1: Preparation 

Add three cups of water to the steamer pot. Bring the water to boil on high heat.

Place some egg-sized aluminum foil balls in the steamer basket. And then balance the steamer insert on those balls. It will keep the basket from displacing. And it also helps to keep the crabs above the water level.

Step 2: Arranging the Crabs

Whether you are steaming a cluster of crab legs or the whole crab, you should loosely place them in the steamer insert. It is a must to leave some room in the steamer. It will help the steam to circulate properly so that the crabs get evenly reheated. If the frozen pre-cooked legs are too large to fit, break them near the joints. 

After arranging the crabs on the pot, reduce the heat to medium. If you want to reheat loads of crabs, you should steam them in batches. Avoid overloading the steamer with all crabs at once. Otherwise, the crabs will not get even heat. 

Step 3: Cover the Steamer and Count Time

Cover the steamer pot with a heavy glass lid. Glass lid is necessary so that you can see the billow of steam to start counting. And to see the crabs changing color. 

Covering with a heavy lid is necessary so that no steam can go outside. Once you see the steam billow, start timing. If the crabs are whole, steam them for 7 minutes. And if they are smaller or only legs, steam for 4 minutes. 

Step 4: Plate the Crabs

Once you start smelling the aroma, remove the steamer carefully from the stove. Remove the lid and use a pair of tongs to lift the hot crabs. 

Plate the crabs on a serving tray. If you want you can squeeze some lemon juice on them for a flavor boost. 

2. Microwaving

To enjoy some thawed warmed-up crabs with some dip, you can reheat them in the microwave as well. All you need is a microwave of course, a paper towel, microwave heat-safe container, or glass casserole dish with a lid. And kitchen scissors, plastic wrap, some tarragon. Then all you need to do is follow these easy steps

Step 1: Preparation 

It will be a bit tough to fit the frozen giant crabs in the microwave-safe container. And overloading the microwave will not warm up the crabs evenly. 

Break the pre-cooked and thawed crab legs into groups of three. Cut the crab claws with a kitchen scissor. It will help the crabs to fit perfectly in the container.

Step 2: Wrap the Crabs

Take some paper towels and dampen them. Sprinkle some chopped tarragon on the paper towels. The tarragon will keep the crab flesh from drying out while reheating. 

Wrap the group of crabs in paper towels to retain moisture. Now wrap the crabs in plastic wrap before microwaving them

Step 3: Arranging the Crabs

Add 15 ml of warm water to the container. And then place the wrapped crabs in them. If you have a large quantity to reheat, do them in batches instead of overstuffing the microwave. 

Also, you can organize the small crab legs in multiple even layers in a glass casserole. But do remember that, if you arrange them in layers, you will have to toss them with a tong. Tossing the layers of crab legs in between the microwaving will ensure even heat. 

Step 4: Microwave the Crabs 

Cover the container and place it inside the microwave. Reheat or microwave each group of whole crabs on high power for 3 to 4 minutes. 

If the crabs are not whole or larger in size, microwave them on medium power for 2 minutes. Beyond that time, they will turn out to be hard and dry.

Step 5: Unwrap and Serve

Carefully remove the reheated crabs from the microwave. And then gently unwrap them from plastic and paper towels. 

Let them cool down for a bit. Then plate them with some melted butter if you wish to. And they are ready to eat. 

3. Baking 

If you have an oven you can reheat or bake some crabs in it too. But you need to be a bit careful with this method.  Because retaining the crabs’ moist texture while baking is a bit tricky. However, to bake you need aluminum foil, a baking pan, herb dill, and hot water. The steps to follow include

Step 1: Preparation

You need to preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, brush some oil and sprinkle herb dill over the crabs. It will help to maintain the juicy texture of crabs even after reheating.

Step 2: Partially Submerge the Crabs

In a baking pan loosely place the crabs. You must not overlap or stack them in the pan with one another. It will dry out the crab meat. 

Now to partially submerge the crabs, add ½ inch of hot water in the pan. 

Step 3: Bake the Crabs and Serve

Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil before placing it in the oven. Also, poke a few holes in the foil so that steam can escape. 

Bake the thawed crabs for 4 minutes. After that, flip the crabs and cover them with aluminum foil. Then again bake them for 8 more minutes. The flipping ensures even reheating. Once done, serve the baked crabs with some dips or as it is. 

4. Grilling

Grilled Crabs

If you are in the mood to have a barbeque meal, you can grill some crabs. Especially to reheat leftover crabs, grilling is the best option out there. Besides the grill rack, all you will need is olive oil, tongs, grill thermometer, aluminum foil, grill brush, and coal. To grill follow these directions 

Step 1: Prepare the Grill

To get the taste of properly grilled crabs, preparing the grill correctly is important. Light the coals and once you can see smoke appearing, place the coals below the grill rack. 

Step 2: Arrange the Crabs and Grill

Brush some olive oil over the crabs so that the crabs do not stick to the grill rack. Now place them loosely on the rack. 

Grill each side of the crabs at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Use the tongs to flip the sides after 5 minutes. And use your grill thermometer to check whether the temperature is correct or not. 

Step 3: Coal Smoke and Serve

Coal smoking refers to adding Smokey flavor to the grilled crabs. Once you grill leftover crabs, they can lose their rich flavor. To retain some flavor, cover the crabs with aluminum foil with coal beside. Make sure to drop some olive oil into the coal so that smoke billows up and adds flavor. Now plate the crabs and serve. 

5. Boiling 

Boiling is one of the easy reheating methods. To boil the crabs you will only need a large pot, tongs, water, seasoning, and strainer. The steps you need to follow are

Step 1: Bring the Water to Boil

Fill half of the large pot with cold water. Then add two tablespoons of seasonings of your likings.

Now on a high flame let the water boil for about 5 minutes. If you want a rich flavor of the seasonings, cover the pot with a lid. Otherwise, covering the pot is not necessary. 

Step 2: Add crabs and Drain

When the water begins to boil, add the crabs. Now reduce the heat to medium flame. Boil the crabs for 6 minutes. 

After 6 minutes, remove the crabs with tongs. And place them on a strainer to drain the water. After it cools down, serve the reheated crabs. 

6. Air Frying

Reheating crabs, especially crab legs or smaller crabs in an air fryer is super easy. All you need is an air fryer, aluminum foil, and olive oil. Whether you want to air fry canned crabs or leftovers, follow the steps below 

Step 1: Prepare the Crabs

Reheating on an air fryer can really make crab meat dry if you do not apply some olive oil to the crabs. Apply some olive oil to them and tightly wrap them in aluminum foil. 

Step 2: Air Fry 

Place the wrapped crabs in the air fryer basket. The air fryer basket is already narrow in space. So, avoid overloading it to ensure even cooking. 

Air fry the crabs for about 5 minutes. After that remove them from the fryer. And sprinkle some seasoning on them before serving. 

7. Simmering

Simmering is the best option to reheat canned crabs in a large quantity. You need a slow cooker, water, tongs, butter, and herb dill. Then you need to follow these steps

Step 1: Prepare the Crabs

Before you place the crabs in the slow cooker for a simmer, you need to add some melted butter to them.

Adding melted butter will keep the crab flesh going too soggy because of simmering. 

Step 2: Arrange the Crabs and Simmer

Arrange the crabs in multiple even layers in the slow cooker. Add some water to barely cover the layers. 

Cover the slow cookers and set it on high heat. Simmer the crabs for 7 minutes. After that remove the crabs with a tong and serve them. If you like broth, then add the simmering water all over the plate. 

8. Broiling

A lot of people confuse baking with broiling. But both the methods are different. Broiling crabs is much faster than baking. To broil crabs you will need an oven, tongs, baking sheet, and butter or olive oil. And follow these steps 

Step 1: Prepare Crabs

Place the crabs loosely on a baking sheet. Leave some space on the baking sheet. Do not overlap the crab or crab legs with one another. 

Brush some melted butter or olive oil on the crabs. As broiling does not require any water, adding butter prevents the crabs from dying out. 

Step 2: Place Baking Sheet

After preheating your oven on the broiler setting, you need to place the baking sheet beneath the broiler. Make sure the sheet sits 6 to 8 inches below the broiler.

Broil the crabs for 3 minutes. After that flip the crabs with tongs and broil for 3 more minutes. After that serve them hot as it is or with your preferred dips. 

9. Sautéing 

Sautéing leftover crabs is a wise move to enrich the flavor. To sauté you need to have some wine, white pepper, oil, and garlic. And you are all set to follow the simple steps 

Step 1: Season the Crabs

Add some crushed white pepper and olive oil to the crabs to season them. Set them aside for a while.

You should not skip seasoning the crabs. Because seasoning the crabs before sautéing keeps the crabs from sticking to the pan. 

Step 2: Sauté 

Add some olive oil to the pan and add sliced garlic. Sauté them for a while and add a few drops of wine to enrich the flavor.

Add the seasoned crabs. And sauté each side for 2 minutes on high heat. Once you start to smell a strong aroma of the garlic, transfer the crabs to a plate. 

Reheating Various Types of Crabs 

You need to follow some specific methods for reheating some specific types of crabs. Otherwise, the pre-cooked and leftover crab meat does not remain juicy and delicate.

If you are in North America, you probably buy yourself some frozen Dungeness crabs often. Because it is available in abundance there. To savor its sweet and nutty taste you need to either steam or broil it. Other methods might not bring out its proper nutty taste. 

A Dungeness Crab
A Dungeness Crab

You can eat frozen Maryland blue crabs without reheating them. But if you wish to reheat them with some seasoning, you should microwave them. If you steam or boil them, the flesh becomes too dry or rubbery to enjoy. 

If you think following different reheating methods for various varieties is too much of a hassle, king and snow crabs are at your rescue. You can microwave, boil, broil, simmer, air fry, steam, bake, sauté or grill them to reheat. They come in small frozen clusters of legs or claws only, so it is easier to try any reheating method with these delicacies. 

Some Tips On Reheating Crabs

As a crab crazed individual myself, I eat a lot of crabs. And in my years of crab fanaticism, I’ve learned a few things that I think can greatly help people new to crab cooking. Here are some of those tips.  

  • You Can Use A Pot As A Steamer 

It might trouble you if you do not have any steamer pot to steam some specific crab meats, especially frozen Dungeness. But you can use a big stainless steel or metal pot as the steamer. 

Just put a plate or small bowl inside the pot upside down. Then put the crab on top of it. Then add water just enough so that it doesn’t reach the crab and then boil the water. Put the lid on the pot and your crab will be nicely steamed. 

  • Never Reheat More Than Twice 

The tip to keep the crab meat juicy and fresh is to avoid reheating it more than twice. Remember that the frozen crabs are already pre-cooked. If you reheat them more than twice, the meat will taste sour and smell bad because of overcooking.

  • Thaw Frozen Crab Before Reheating 

If you do not want to get an icy crunch, please do not forget to thaw frozen crabs before reheating them. It will help the meat to heat up evenly and stay moist. 

According to USDA, if you reheat crabs after thawing them at room temperature, the meat will taste rancid. Because thawing at room temperature develops bacteria can develop on the crab. So, while thawing makes sure your crab doesn’t reach room temperature. You can do this by thawing your crab in the refrigerator. 

  • Use Butter And Lemon 

Reheating can overcook your crabs and make them dry. For this, you can add some butter to them to moisten them up. This will also add a bit of creaminess to them and actually enhance the flavor. Add a little lemon as well to take the taste to the next level. 


Reheating leftover crab is no easy business. They spoil fast and reheat pretty badly if not done right. Oftentimes, reheated crabs just taste bland, rubbery, and dry. But, after reading this article I’m sure you now know the proper methods of how to reheat crabs

Thanks for reading and thanks for stopping by.

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