My lovely Wife was craving crab legs on Saturday and knew that I had never done them for the site so she suggested I kill two birds with one stone. Bird one being her craving for crab legs. Bird two being more content for this site. I wasn’t exactly sure how to grill crab legs so I did some digging on the web before purchasing the crab. I found that there isn’t much to grilling crab legs. In fact grilling crab legs are easier than grilling lobster tails in terms of preparation…
First, here are the main ingredients for the meal. A couple pounds if King Crab Legs, a dozen little neck clams, six U8-12 shrimp, and six good size sea scallops. What’s the difference between bay and sea scallops? Size. These are the big boys:
First the prep for the crab legs. Brush them with olive oil:
That’s it. They are prepped. I’m not kidding. Just brush them with olive oil. You could use butter too. All you are doing is creating a buffer between the shell and the heat to keep the shell from burning.
Now on to the seafood butter boil. This dish can be made just as easily inside but it’s a very social appetizer and seems to lend itself well to the social nature of the back yard BBQ pit. Take an oven safe pot. In this case a calphalon pot with a metal handle. The recipe is not something I can quantify exactly because the amounts are based on the size of the pot and amount of seafood that will be boiled.
Butter Boil Ingredients:
3 sticks of butter
3 fresh garlic cloves smashed and diced
1/2 cup of white wine
The wine is optional as you can go all butter if you like. Also if you really like herbs feel free to throw some in of your liking.
And I realize 3 sticks of butter seems like a lot but there needs to be enough liquid to submerge all the seafood. You will by no means eat all the butter. It may take a couple of times doing this to figure out how much is indeed enough. Also, the butter will make a dipping sauce for the crab later during the main course.
The reason for the metal handled pot is that it is going directly on the grill:
The shrimp were butterflied and de-shelled, the clams rinsed and the scallops had the tough little muscle off the side. What muscle you ask? Many don’t know it exists. Check this other post I did on scallops to see a video of exactly where it is and how to remove it. Once the butter came up to a boil I threw everything in at the same time. If you use smaller shrimp or scallops then throw the clams in for maybe 30 seconds before the rest of the seafood:
Do you see the clam below at the top of the pic? See how it has opened up? That’s how you know it’s done. Notice too the grayish shrimp in the pic above and how the shrimp is nice and pink below? They are perfect:
One cautionary note about clams. If they are open do not put them in the butter. Tap them. If they close on their own they are OK. If they don’t close, then pitch them. Also if they don’t open in the boiling butter when the rest do don’t eat them.
How do you serve the clams/scallops/shrimps? Put the pot in the middle of the table and hand everyone a fork. Very communal. Maybe set some guidelines that everyone gets X amount of scallops or shrimps but otherwise just have at it. You could also give each persona small plate or a bowl and have them scoop out their seafood in order to move away from the table and allow others to get in there. My wife and I simply shared a romantic pot of seafood on the back patio next to a hot grill.
I did the butter boiled seafood as an app because with seafood if anything is over cooked it gets rubbery. Trying to time the butter boil and the crab to come out at the same time could cause one or the other to overcook. Having never done crab legs on the grill, I had no idea how long they would take.
Speaking of the crab legs, back to them. First off I placed the thicker pieces of crab on the grill first leaving the skinnier pieces on the platter. They went on for maybe 5 minutes over a medium fire:
A close up of the fatter pieces on the grill:
The skinnier pieces waiting for the grill:
I used my offset smoker as a two zone cooker for this meal. Normally I would use the kettle but the kettle doesn’t have enough surface area for all the crab and still do two zone cooking (coals on one side no coals on the other).
After about 5 minutes I put everything on:
I used strictly lump charcoal for this and it faded pretty quickly as the wife and I were just enjoying the evening together between the appetizer and the crab legs. Total grilling time was about 20 minutes but if the fire was hotter I can see these being done in 12-14 minutes.
Below are the crab legs that are done, lumped together, to stay warm in the upper right. The crab legs that still needed some cooking on the upper left and the butter warming up over the heat on the middle left. Bottom right are some left over hot dog buns that I split in half and turned into crostinis. More on that in another post:
You can see there was some browning of the shells but not much:
So how do you know when they are done? Well, fresh crab legs are a bit pliable. Once they are cooked on the grill the shells get hard and a little brittle. That’s about all I can tell you on that front. I wish I could be more descriptive. Basically 12-14 minutes total (flipping a few times) over medium high heat, or 20 minutes over a dying fire of medium heat.
Here is the final product with one of those hot dog bun crostinis….
My wife, who is not the biggest grill fan in the world (sorta ironic, huh?), said she much preferred the grilled crab legs to crab legs boiled on the stove with a bag of crab boil and a couple quartered lemons. I completely agree. But then again I am Grillin Fool!!!
If you have any questions about the above dish please feel free to comment below or shoot me an email.
Click here to see other seafood dishes on the site.
Here is a link to a discussion of this recipe over the airwaves in Houston.