Smoked Crab Legs

Smoked Crab Legs Recipe

Savor the indulgence of our smoked crab legs, expertly prepared to perfection. Delight in the exquisite blend of smoky flavors that elevate the natural sweetness of the succulent crab meat. Accompanied by a tantalizing spicy garlic butter sauce, this dish is a true culinary masterpiece that will leave your taste buds craving for more.

Why This Recipe Works:

  • Flavor Infusion: Smoking the crab legs infuses them with a distinct smoky flavor, adding depth and complexity to the dish more than standard steam or boiling methods. Adding wood-fired flavor is my favorite way to prepare this type of shellfish. 
  • The Garlic Butter Sauce: The spicy garlic butter sauce serves as a flavorful accompaniment to the smoked crab legs during grilling and smoking but it also is the perfect add-on for dipping in as well. 
  • Showstopper: This is an incredibly simple and straightforward way to prepare snow crab legs. While seafood can sometimes be intimidating to prepare, this easy recipe is foolproof for even the most beginner grillers all while looking amazing on your table (perfect for a special occasion). I promise you and your guests will love this delicious seafood dinner!
Smoked Crab Legs Recipe

What Type of Crab Legs Are Best For Smoking?

When it comes to smoking crab legs, certain varieties are more suitable due to their size and meatiness. The following types of fresh crab legs are often considered best for smoking:

  • Alaskan King Crab Legs: This style of crab legs are known for their large size and sweet, succulent meat. Their robust texture holds up well to the smoking process, resulting in flavorful and meaty crab legs.
  • Snow Crab Legs: Snow crab legs are another popular choice for smoking. They have a delicate and slightly sweet flavor that pairs well with smoky undertones. Snow crab legs are typically smaller in size compared to Alaskan King Crab legs but still provide ample meat to enjoy. I find these are the most common in grocery stores or online retailers. 
  • Dungeness Crab Legs: Dungeness crab legs offer a rich and slightly nutty flavor. While they may be smaller than Alaskan King Crab legs, they can still be successfully smoked, infusing them with smoky goodness while maintaining their delectable taste.

Each of these styles of hardshell crabs are great options because they all have a similar delicate flavor but it pairs well with this method of preparation. 

Fresh snow crab legs on a silver tray

What Type Of Grill Can Be Used To Smoke Crab Legs?

When it comes to smoking crab legs, various types of grills can be used depending on your preferences and equipment availability. Here are a few options commonly used for smoking:

  1. Charcoal Grill: A traditional charcoal grill can be an excellent choice for smoking crab legs. Using charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal, you can create indirect heat by placing the coals on one side and the crab legs on the other. Adding wood chips or chunks, such as mesquite, hickory, or fruitwood, to the coals can generate the desired smoky flavor.
  2. Gas Grill with Smoker Box: Many gas grills come with a smoker box or have the option to purchase one separately. A smoker box allows you to add wood chips or pellets that generate smoke while the grill provides consistent heat. The 
  3. Electric Smoker (Pellet Grill ): An electric smoker provides a convenient option for smoking crab legs. These smokers offer precise temperature control and can be set up to maintain a consistent temperature throughout the smoking process. Simply place the crab legs on the smoker racks, add wood chips or pellets to the designated chamber, and let the electric smoker work its magic.

Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific grill or smoker to ensure proper usage and safety. Experimentation and adjustments may be necessary to achieve the desired smoky flavor and cooking results.

Supplies Needed:

  • Baking Pan or Large Cast Iron
  • Small Saucepan  
  • Liquid Measuring Cup
  • Whisk
  • Basting Brush
  • Tongs
  • Crab Cracker and cocktail fork (if desired) 


  • Crab Legs: Use fresh crabs or frozen crab legs. If they are frozen, defrost them in the fridge or run them under cool water.
  • Butter: Melt the butter in a large pan to make clarified butter for this recipe. This is the process of skimming the milk solids that separate off the top of the melted butter. 
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Cajun Seasoning: Use a cajun dry rub of your choice or sub with Old Bay seasoning as an alternative. 
  • Fresh Garlic: Minced the garlic for this recipe for best results to get as much flavor into the butter. 
  • Fresh Lemon Juice: This is best with fresh lemons and extra lemon wedges can be added to the smoker for garnishing at the end of the cook. 
  • Fresh Parsley: Fresh herbs add a nice fresh flavor and pop of color. 
  • Tabasco Sauce: This adds some heat 
Smoked Crab Legs Recipe ingredients for garlic butter sauce

How To Smoke Crab Legs:

  1. Begin by preheating your smoker or charcoal grill to a low heat between 225 F.- 250 F. Set it for indirect heat and use a lighter fruitwood for a light smoke flavor. I like a combination of pecan and a chunk of cherry wood for the right amount of flavor. Avoid hickory and mesquite to prevent an overpowering or heavy smoke flavor that would negatively impact this crab leg recipe. 
  2. Remove the crab legs from the packaging, rinse them well, and pat it dry with paper towels. 
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Once the butter foams, skim it off the top and discard it so you can use the remaining clarified butter. Pour the butter into a larger cast iron pan.
  4. To the butter over medium-low heat add in the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, fresh garlic, dry rub spices, parsley, and tabasco sauce to taste. Whisk until well combined and turn off the heat. Set aside a 1/2 cup of butter for dipping the cooked crab meat in when serving. 
  5. In the remaining butter sauce mixture, toss each whole leg into the butter mixture and place it on a baking sheet. Repeat this process until all the legs are coated.
  6. Place the crab legs directly onto the grill grates or smoker rack and smoke for 15 minutes. Baste with the butter sauce mixture halfway through and then smoke for an additional 15-30 minutes until the crab legs reach an internal temperature of 145 F. 
  7. Remove them from the grill and place them onto a platter to serve family style. Serve with fresh lemon wedges, the garlic butter sauce that was set aside, and cocktail sauce if desired. 
How to smoke crab legs on the grill

Frequently Asked Questions:

How long should I smoke crab legs?

The smoking time for crab legs can vary depending on their size and your preferred level of smokiness. As a general guideline, smoking crab legs typically takes about 20-30 minutes at a temperature of 225-250°F (107-121°C). However, it’s important to monitor the internal temperature of the crab legs using a meat thermometer to ensure they reach an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) for safe consumption.

Can I use frozen crab legs for smoking?

It’s best to use thawed crab legs for smoking to ensure even cooking and proper flavor infusion. Thaw frozen crab legs in the refrigerator overnight or by placing them in a sealed plastic bag and submerging them in cold water until fully thawed. Ensure the crab legs are completely thawed before smoking them.

Can I reheat leftover smoked crab legs?

Yes, you can reheat leftover smoked crab legs. Place them in a covered baking dish, add a small amount of liquid (such as water or broth) to prevent drying out, and warm them in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 10-15 minutes or until heated through.

Smoked Crab Legs Recipe

More Recipes To Try:

Smoked Crab Legs Recipe

Smoked Crab Legs Recipe

The easiest smoked crab legs recipe with clarified butter you can make in under 30 minutes on a charcoal or pellet smoker.
4.95 from 56 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Seafood
Keyword: how to smoke crab on the grill, Smoked crab legs
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 People
Calories: 792kcal
Author: Bon Appeteach


  • 4 lbs. Crab Legs I prefer in season / wild caught
  • 2 sticks Butter melted and clarified
  • 3 cloves Garlic minced
  • 2 tsp. Spicy Cajun Dry Rub or seafood rub you prefer like Old Bay
  • 1/2 tsp. dashes of Tabasco
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • Lemon Halves & Extra Butter for Serving


  • Preheat the grill or smoker to 225 F. Set it for indirect cooking.
  • Remove the crab legs from the packaging. Defrost under running water if frozen. Pat them dry with paper towels and place them into a large foil pan.
  • Melt the 2 cups of butter in the microwave over low heat and allow the fat solids to rise to the top. Use a spoon to skim off the fat and discard. You can also clarify it over the stove if you prefer.
  • Combine the butter, garlic, Cajun Dry Rub, Tabasco, worcestershire sauce, and lemon juice together in a liwuid measuring cup.
  • Baste the crab legs to start in about a 1/2 cup of the butter mixture. Coat them evenly while the smoker is preheating.
  • When the grill has come up to temperature, place the crab legs onto the smoker grates and let them smoke for 10-15 minutes. Brush the butter mixture over the crab legs generously.
  • Continue smoking until the crab meat reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees F. Place in a pan and baste with the remaining butter mixture.
  • Serve with extra grilled lemon wedges, melted butter, and cocktail sauce if you prefer and enjoy!


Grill the lemons halves to take some of the acidic bite out of it before adding to your finished seafood!


Serving: 1g | Calories: 792kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 84g | Fat: 49g | Saturated Fat: 29g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 312mg | Sodium: 4204mg | Potassium: 977mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1524IU | Vitamin C: 33mg | Calcium: 230mg | Iron: 3mg

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