Smoked Crab Legs

2 reviews

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These smoked crab legs are easy to make and are simply delicious. They’re smoked for an hour and served with a delicious BBQ butter dipping sauce for a main course that will shine on your holiday table.

Smoked crab legs on a large serving platter next to seasoned BBQ butter dipping sauce with text overlay - Smoked Crab Legs.

Can You Smoke Crab Legs?

The easiest answer to this question is yes. You can smoke crab legs.

Spoiler alert, though. Smoked crab legs are not very smoky. Since crab comes pre-cooked, in a hard, impermeable shell, and spends little time in the smoker, you’re just not going to see a heavy smoke flavor in the crab meat itself.

However, I do believe that reheating your crab legs in the smoker is one of the best ways to prep them for a family meal! We’ve had crab legs for years every Christmas eve, and they have historically been boiled or steamed to prepare them for the meal. This has almost always resulted in crab that is watery, mushy, bland, and overcooked by the time we get to eat them.

Utilizing a low-temperature smoker means that yummy crab meat stays tender and cooks low and slow until warmed through and ready to eat. Plus, you can keep the crab legs on the smoker at that low temp while people eat and go back for seconds so you’ve always got a warm batch of legs ready to go. Added bonus? It clears up space in your kitchen for the rest of the holiday meal prep.

Crab legs on a dark cutting board.

Smoked King Crab Legs

Bottom line, I prefer smoking king crab legs to boiling or steaming them. I feel like you get more meat for the work you put in to break through the shells. However, if you’ve got some smaller crab varieties (Dungeness is the most commonly available), this recipe still works great. You may need to cut your time on the smoker down to about 30 minutes to prevent those smaller crab legs from drying out.

What if my crab is frozen? Defrost those crab legs on the smoker! Add an additional 30 minutes to frozen king crab legs and 15 minutes to frozen Dungeness crab to ensure they are defrosted and heated through.


Crab legs on the grill grates of a smoker.

Ingredients for Smoked Crab Legs

This is a simple and straightforward recipe for smoked crab legs, so I’m keeping the ingredients very simple. Here’s what you’ll need to make this recipe.

  • 8 pounds king crab legs

Ha! Told you it would be easy. For the BBQ Butter Dipping Sauce you’ll need the following:

  • 1 cup melted salted butter
  • 4 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 8 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 juiced lemons
  • 2 Tablespoons Hey Grill Hey Sweet Rub

My Sweet Rub is an amazing brown sugar-based rub that is a pantry staple. I use it in many of my popular recipes on this site, and it also tastes incredible on mac and cheese, veggies, eggs, and more. You can snag a bottle from the Hey Grill Hey Store, or you can make it from scratch using my recipe for Best Sweet Rub.


Smoked crab legs on a large serving platter next to seasoned BBQ butter dipping sauce.

How to Smoke Crab Legs

Once you have your crab legs purchased and you’re ready to get the party started, it’s time to fire up the smoker. Here’s how to smoke crab legs.

  1. Preheat. Fire up your favorite smoker, and allow it to fully preheat to 225 degrees F.
  2. Smoke. Place the king crab legs directly on the grill grates. Close the lid, and smoke for 1 hour or until the meat is heated through.
  3. Make the butter. Place a small saucepan on the stove. Combine all ingredients for the BBQ butter in the pan and heat until everything is melted and the sugars have dissolved. Remove and spoon the butter into individual serving dishes for your guests.
  4. Serve. Remove the smoked crab legs from the heat to a serving platter. Serve immediately with the warm BBQ butter dipping sauce.

Smoked crab legs on a large serving platter next to seasoned BBQ butter dipping sauce.

How Long to Smoke Crab Legs

It takes approximately 1 hour to smoke crab legs.

A reminder that crab legs are pre-cooked, so the time spent in the smoker is primarily to reheat them. I found that 1 hour in the smoker when preheated to 225 degrees F was a pretty dead-on timeframe to get these crab legs heated through.

Adjust your time as needed until the crab legs are nice and hot (you may need to add or take away a few minutes depending on the size of your crab legs or the consistency of the temperature on your smoker).

Crab leg dipped into BBQ butter dipping sauce.

More Crab and Seafood Recipes

Crab legs are a traditional holiday food for us in December, and this smoked crab legs recipe is a great way to cook them up for a festive dinner. These other crab and seafood recipes are also delicious and will bring a fancy element to your holiday feasts. Check them out below!

Smoked Crab Legs Recipe

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Smoked Crab Legs

By: Susie Bulloch
4.5 from 2 votes
These smoked crab legs are easy to make and are simply delicious. They're smoked for an hour and served with a delicious BBQ butter dipping sauce for a main course that will shine on your holiday table.
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 15 minutes
Servings6 people


  • 8 pounds king crab legs

BBQ Butter Dipping Sauce

  • 1 cup salted butter melted
  • 4 Tablespoons parsley chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 lemons juiced
  • 2 Tablespoons Hey Grill Hey Sweet Rub recipe link in notes section


  • Preheat. Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees F with your favorite hardwood.
  • Smoke. Place the crab legs on the smoker (shells on) and close the lid. Smoke for 1 hour to heat the crab through.
  • Make the BBQ butter. Prepare the BBQ butter dipping sauce by combining all ingredients in a small saucepan. Melt everything together and transfer to individual serving dishes.
  • Serve. Remove the crab from the smoker. Serve the smoked crab legs with dipping butter and lots of napkins. Enjoy!


Sweet Rub


Calories: 151kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 64mg | Sodium: 1268mg | Potassium: 383mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 0.5g | Vitamin A: 392IU | Vitamin C: 20mg | Calcium: 130mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Susie is the BBQ Brain behind the Hey Grill Hey website. Her passion for smoked meats and developing fun, new recipes have landed her on the Food Network, cooking turkeys with Shaq, and on a couple of Guinness World Records. When she’s not grilling, she is hanging out with Todd and their three kids, preferably outdoors!

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Recipe Rating

Reader Reviews

4 Reviews

  1. Mike says:

    I am guessing everything is about the same if you do snow crab ?

  2. forrest wedmore says:

    I would highly recommend boiling raw crab before smoking it. The proteins that hold the meat to the shell won’t brake down outside of the boil. That’s been my experience.

  3. Mark says:

    Smoked the legs on a bed of lemon slices and they came out perfect. I felt this was a good way to make sure they did not overcook and dry out. Added great flavor as well.

  4. Michael Helt says:

    I split mine prior to smoking. That way I can get some smoke flavor in to the meat.