Crab on the Grill: Keep Your Kitchen Cool

When it comes to grilling, some things are obvious.  Burgers, hot dogs, steaks, chicken.  But others are less obvious.  Pizza, pineapple, asparagus, crab.  Crab?  Yes, crab.  Why not crab?  That’s what I thought to myself a few years ago when we found ourselves with two pounds of crab legs and the desire to cook them somewhere other than in a big pot of boiling water in the middle of the summer.

You see, around the O6 residence, we shy away from air conditioning unless it is unbearable for days on end.  That means that when it gets hot in Minnesota (and it does), we do as much cooking as possible outside.  It keeps the kitchen cool, and as a bonus, it reduces the amount of dishes later on.

So, as I was saying, hot day, crab legs, grill…As it turns out, cooking crab on the grill wasn’t as straightforward as I thought it should be.  I turned on the grill, put the legs on the rack and waited for them to get hot.

The result was crispy shells with dried out shrunken meat inside. It still tasted like crab, but the experience was less than perfect.  The challenge was on.  It is a rare day that I let a oversized sea bug get the best of me, so over the years I have developed a surefire (sure fire?) – surefire – method for cooking up the perfect crab leg without heating up the kitchen.

Last week, Shaina came home from a rare solo trip to the grocery store with two neat white packages.  After a brief interrogation, she revealed that the local store was having a sale on snow crab at a price too good to pass up – $4.99 per pound.  So, naturally, she bought four pounds.  The funny thing about items such as crab is that they are kind of difficult to estimate how much you actually need because included in the weight (and price) is a lot of inedible shell.  As it turned out, four pounds was more than enough for the meal, but who am I to complain about crab salad for lunch the next day?

So, how did we prepare the crab?  I’m glad you asked.  As with some of my other dishes, this one needs very few extras, and you can even work in a recyclable.  I use foil pans for lots of stuff around here, and usually they get destroyed in the process, but the ones that can be washed are thrown in the dish washer and stuck back on the shelf for next time, this method for crab is a perfect utilization of such a pan.  To get started you’ll want:

Crab leg sections

Old Bay seasoning

Foil pan (an old one is good, as long as it doesn’t leak)


Yep, that’s it.  I set up my grill similar to the grilled chicken I talked about last month.  Remove the upper rack and place the pan directly on the lava rocks.  What?  You have those new style “flavor bars”?  That’s ok too, just leave the racks in and put the pan on top, you’ll just have to turn up the heat a bit more – I would say medium if your gill is like mine, or med/high if you’re putting the pan on the regular grilling surface.

Water Pan

Fill the pan about halfway full with water and get it nice and hot, boiling is preferred.  To that add your crab and a healthy dose of Old Bay.  I can’t really tell you how much, because this is really a matter of preference.

Seasoned Crab

No Old Bay around?  That’s fine too; just go with things you like.  Maybe paprika, salt, pepper, dry mustard and whatever else you like.

So things are hot, yes?  Good, while things cook a bit let’s talk about the starting point for our crab.  Thawed is good, but frozen is fine too, it will just take a little longer.  Now, most stores around here actually cook the crab before it gets to you, so this is merely a “heat and eat” operation.  I usually let them go for five minutes, then flip them, wait another five minutes and then turn off the grill.


They can soak for a while in the hot water until the rest of the meal is ready.  Remove them to a serving platter of some kind, set them out and dig in.

In my opinion this is the fun part, getting a little messy, and breaking shells in search of the sweet tender surprise inside.  It can be a bit frustrating when your meat reward is stubbornly hiding inside a tiny shell, but with a little practice, you’ll be a pro.  The trick is to break it in the middle and carefully slide the two halves apart, the result should be a nice meaty tube hanging out one half.  Carefully pluck it out and savor.


If you do everything right, the end result should be a nice pile of empty shells.  So get out of the kitchen and beat the heat without compromising the quality of your evening meal.

Empty Shells


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