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Crab legs are mouthwatering. On a nice night out with friends, they are the kind of party food that puts smiles on faces. Besides tasting amazing, crab legs are pretty easy to prepare. The ones you buy in the supermarket are often already partially cooked, so you just need a few minutes to warm them through with your own special touch.

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Boiling crab legs

To boil crab legs, add them to salted, boiling water. With your tongs, make sure all of the legs are totally submerged. Cook for 4 or 5 minutes, and when they're done, take them out and let them cool for a bit. The legs are jagged and can be sharp, so use a towel to twist and pull the joints to release the meat. Alternatively, use kitchen shears to cut through the shell and gently pull out the meat.

boil crab legs mphillips007 / Getty Images
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Broiling crab legs

Start by creating your topping. Of course, melted butter is a must, and you can add your favorite herbs, like basil and thyme, as well as some lemon zest, to add some brightness. Grease the broiler pan and place the crab legs cut-side-up. Brush on the buttery topping, generously coating the cut pieces inside and out. Place the legs about 5 inches from the broiler and keep a close eye while they cook, about 4 minutes.

broil brush butter YULIYA KIRILLOVA / Getty Images
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Grilling crab legs

Grilling crab legs takes a bit of prep. Put them on an aluminum baking sheet and baste them with oil infused with your favorite seasonings, like garlic or chilis. Cover the oil-coated legs with some foil and let them marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours. Make sure your grill is set to medium-low. Leave the top up while you grill the legs for about 5 minutes on each side, brushing them with the flavored oil after you flip them.

grill flavored oil kyonntra / Getty Images
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Steaming crab legs

Line the roasting pan with crumpled pieces of foil to keep the crab legs from sitting directly on the pan. The steaming liquid — water, beer, or wine — should be about half-an-inch deep. Finally, toss in some lemon, a bay leaf or two, and other favorite seasonings. Cover the pan with foil and steam the crab legs for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

steam water wine beer PeteMuller / Getty Images

When are your crab legs done?

One of the quickest ways to know that crab legs are done is by color. Undercooked crab is brown or greenish and will take an extra few minutes to reach that recognizable reddish-orange color. When grilling, you'll notice that the edges of the knuckle joints are white, and you'll catch that unmistakable sweet aroma.

reddish-orange tender meat Yuliya / Getty Images

Adding flavor to crab legs

When seasoning crab, be careful not to overpower the meat. Simpler is always better. All you really need are the standards: salt, ground black pepper, and dried bay leaves. However, some prefer more complex, complementary seasonings like paprika, dry mustard, and cinnamon. One of the best ways to infuse crab legs with all that flavor is to add those seasonings to a heated liquid mixture while the legs are steaming or grilling.

paprika salt pepper krzysztofdedek / Getty Images

How to properly crack crab legs

Be gentle when cracking open your crab leg. Break the legs at the joints, gently bending the leg to one side, as if you were going to break it in two, until you hear it crack. You don't want to break it completely, or you’ll mangle the meat and make it harder to take out. Turn the leg to the other side and repeat the crack. Pull apart the leg pieces and shake out the whole meat.

crack break joints ARICAN / Getty Images

Picking crab claws and knuckles

When it comes to picking out the rest of the meat, just dive right in with a cocktail fork and a crab cracker. The knuckle is loaded with delicious white meat that’s easily accessible with the right tool. For the claws, pull off the smaller pincher first. Using the crab cracker, gently squeeze the thick claw, making sure the tool doesn't go all the way through. Pull apart the claw and remove the chunky meat with your fork.

Make a basic garlic butter

To make a nice, simple garlic butter for your crab legs, you need about a ¼ cup of butter, 1 or 2 cloves of minced garlic, a pinch of sea salt, fresh ground black pepper, and some dried thyme. In a skillet, combine garlic and butter over medium heat and cook until smooth and translucent. Stir in the other seasonings and cook until bubbling. You can either cool and serve for dipping or add the crab meat into the mixture and simmer for about 5 minutes.

melted garlic herbs krblokhin / Getty Images

What sides go with crab meat?

Potatoes are a classic crab side dish. Mashed, roasted, or baked potatoes topped with a bit of garlic butter make an excellent complement to the sweet seafood. Steamed and roasted vegetables or a crunchy salad are great lighter options if you're planning on filling up on crab legs. For those who crave a rich, savory side, macaroni and cheese is a great choice.

potatoes macaroni cheese vegetables Juanmonino / Getty Images

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