King Crab

King Crab: Everything You Need To Know About Lithodes


The King crab, belonging to the genus Lithodes, stands as an emblematic entity within the marine ecosystem, renowned for both its remarkable physiology and substantial economic relevance. This marine decapod, prominently distributed across the cold waters of the Northern Hemisphere, unites a trio of salient species: the red king crab (Lithodes camtschaticus), blue king crab (Lithodes platypus), and golden king crab (Lithodes aequispinus). This exploration seeks to elucidate the critical aspects of its biology, lifecycle, and ecological interactions within its abiding ecosystems.

Morphological Characteristics

King crabs boast a distinctive morphology, characterized by a pronounced calcified exoskeleton, a pair of robust chelae (claws), and a distinctive abdomen, neatly tucked under the thorax. Their body is shielded by a spiny, heart-shaped carapace, the function of which transcends mere protection, also facilitating muscle attachment crucial for locomotion. The size disparity among the three species is palpable, with L. camtschaticus reaching leg spans upwards of 1.8 meters and weighing up to 10 kilograms.

Reproductive and Developmental Biology

King crabs exhibit sexual dimorphism, where females tend to be smaller and possess a broader abdominal flap, facilitating egg brooding. The reproductive cycle commences with a mating ritual, often initiated by males through an intricate series of tactile and visual signals. Upon external fertilization, females brood thousands to millions of eggs beneath their abdomen for approximately one year, safeguarding them from potential predators and the ambient aquatic environment.

Upon hatching, the larvae, termed zoeae, transition through several pelagic larval stages, each signifying a metamorphic shift towards their eventual benthic, juvenile form. The progression from zoeal stages to a juvenile crab involves a critical molt, known as the ‘pubertal molt’, which delineates a shift from a planktonic to a benthic lifestyle, further diversifying their ecological interactions.

Ecological Implications and Interactions

Within the benthic realm, king crabs play a multifaceted role, acting as both predators and prey within their trophic network. Their diet comprises a spectrum of organisms, including bivalves, echinoderms, gastropods, and smaller crustaceans, the predation upon which cascades through the ecosystem, influencing population dynamics and benthic community structure. Simultaneously, they serve as prey to larger marine species, such as sea otters and halibut, reinforcing their pivotal role in the energy transfer within the marine food web.

Economic and Fisheries Management

Harvesting king crabs, primarily L. camtschaticus, represents a lucrative industry, especially in the Bering Sea and adjacent Alaskan waters. Fisheries management involves a melange of regulations, including size limits, sex restrictions, and season constraints, to safeguard against overharvesting and promote sustainable practices. Scientific endeavors to assess population dynamics, reproductive success, and recruitment processes serve as pillars supporting these management strategies, ensuring the ecological and economic viability of the species.

Conservation and Environmental Challenges

Despite their ecological robustness, King crabs are not impervious to anthropogenic and environmental challenges. Ocean acidification, arising from elevated carbon dioxide levels, poses a substantive threat to the calcification of their exoskeleton, potentially compromising their defensive capabilities and physical stability. Furthermore, climatic shifts alter their habitats’ thermal and salinity profiles, impacting reproductive cycles and geographic distributions.

How to Cook King Crab

King crab, revered for its succulent, sweet, and tender flesh, is a celebrated delicacy within culinary circles. Ensuring that this premium seafood is cooked to perfection demands precision and a respect for its inherent flavors. Here are a few detailed methods to cook king crab:

How To Boil King Crab


  • King crab legs
  • Water
  • Sea salt
  • Optional: Lemons, garlic, and fresh herbs for added flavor


  • Begin by thoroughly rinsing the crab legs in cold water to remove any residual ice or debris.
  • In a large pot, bring water to a rolling boil. Add a generous amount of sea salt. Infuse the boiling water with aromatics like lemon slices, garlic cloves, and fresh herbs for additional flavor.
  • Carefully submerge the crab legs into the boiling water, ensuring they are fully covered.
  • Allow the crab legs to boil for approximately 4-6 minutes, ensuring they are thoroughly heated and adopting a vibrant red hue.
  • Once cooked, use tongs to remove the crab legs and allow them to drain.
  • Serve with melted butter, lemon wedges, and your choice of dipping sauces.

How To Steam King Crab


  • King crab legs
  • Water
  • Optional: Old Bay seasoning, fresh lemon, or garlic for enhanced flavors


  • Pre-clean the crab legs as aforementioned.
  • In a steaming pot, add water, ensuring it is below the level of the steaming basket. Incorporate any additional flavoring agents such as lemon or garlic.
  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • Place the crab legs in the steamer basket, ensuring not to overcrowd, and secure the lid on top.
  • Allow the crab legs to steam for approximately 5-7 minutes until they turn bright red and are fully heated through.
  • Serve with desired accompaniments such as melted butter or a garlic-infused aioli.

How To Grill King Crab


  • King crab legs
  • Olive oil or melted butter
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper


  • Preheat the grill to a medium-high heat.
  • Prepare a marinade or basting solution by combining melted butter or olive oil with lemon juice, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Adjust the proportions as per preference.
  • Utilizing a brush, generously apply the concoction onto the crab legs.
  • Place the crab legs on the heated grill, ensuring to position them shell-side down to safeguard the delicate meat from excessive heat.
  • Grill for approximately 5 minutes, basting intermittently with additional marinade to infuse more flavor.
  • Flip the crab legs and grill for an additional 3-5 minutes until thoroughly heated.
  • Serve immediately, ideally with additional fresh lemon and an array of dipping sauces.

How to Bake King Crab


  • King crab legs
  • Melted butter or olive oil
  • Minced garlic
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Chopped parsley


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • Arrange the crab legs in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  • In a small bowl, create a mixture of melted butter, minced garlic, fresh lemon juice, and chopped parsley.
  • Liberally brush the crab legs with the butter mixture.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 10-12 minutes, ensuring the crab legs are thoroughly heated and slightly crisped.
  • Serve hot with additional melted butter and freshly chopped herbs for garnish.

King crab embodies a luxurious indulgence within the seafood spectrum. Whichever method is employed, the quintessence lies in preserving and enhancing the crab’s intrinsic flavors, ensuring that the sweet, luscious meat is the star of the culinary show. Remember that since king crab is often sold pre-cooked, the goal is to heat it thoroughly without sacrificing its natural moisture and flavor. Pair with a crisp white wine or a refreshing beer for an elevated dining experience.


Encompassing a unique physiological structure, a complex lifecycle, and a substantive role within the marine ecosystem, king crabs emerge as keystone species and as significant entities within the global fisheries industry. 

The scientific investigations into their biology, ecology, and challenges pave the way for more informed conservation and management strategies, which are integral to perpetuating their existence and maintaining the ecological balance within their resident marine communities. 

Future research endeavors must continue to illuminate the multifaceted dynamics of king crabs, thereby facilitating a harmonious coexistence between human economic pursuits and the intrinsic value of these magnificent marine decapods.

King Crab FAQ

Q1: How much is king crab?

Answer: The price of king crab can vary widely depending on the species, size, and market demand, among other factors. As of the last few years, prices per pound can range from $20 to $50 or more, with some premium grades and larger sizes fetching even higher prices. It’s worth noting that prices may fluctuate due to seasonality, availability, and specific market dynamics. Always check with your local seafood market or online retailer for the most up-to-date prices.

Q2: When is king crab in season?

Answer: King crab season typically unfolds in the fall, commonly initiating in October. However, the precise timing can oscillate based on regulatory decisions and environmental conditions. For example, red king crab season usually opens in October in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, which are prime harvesting locations. It’s advisable to confirm specific dates annually as regulatory bodies may adjust them to reflect changes in crab populations and environmental stewardship goals.

Q3: Why is king crab so expensive?

Answer: Multiple factors contribute to the elevated price of king crab. Firstly, the harvesting process is perilous, with crab fishers braving tumultuous seas and frigid conditions, thereby warranting premium compensation. Secondly, the crabs often dwell in remote and inhospitable locations, necessitating specialized equipment and vessels to harvest and transport them. Moreover, regulatory measures impose quotas to safeguard sustainability, limiting the volume of crabs harvested each season. Lastly, king crab is esteemed for its rich, delectable flavor and tender texture, and high market demand further escalates its price.

Q4: Where do king crabs live?

Answer: King crabs predominantly inhabit the cold waters of the Northern Hemisphere. Notably, the Bering Sea, particularly around the Aleutian Islands and Bristol Bay in Alaska, is a prominent habitat for red and blue king crabs. They can also be found off the coasts of Russia, Japan, and Norway. Golden king crabs dwell deeper in the sea and are usually found in the Aleutian chain. In general, king crabs favor cold, saltwater environments and are often located in varying depths, depending on the species and life stage.

Q5: How to reheat king crab legs?

Answer: Reheating king crab legs can be achieved through several methods while maintaining their succulence and flavor:

  • Steaming: Add water to a large pot and bring to a boil. Place the crab legs in a steamer insert, ensuring they do not touch the water. Steam for approximately 5-7 minutes until thoroughly heated.
  • Oven-Baking: Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). Wrap the crab legs in aluminum foil with a small amount of water or lemon juice to preserve moisture. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes.
  • Boiling: Submerge the crab legs in boiling water for approximately 4-5 minutes until they are heated through.
  • Microwave: Wrap crab legs in a damp paper towel and microwave for 1-2 minutes, being cautious not to overcook and dry out the meat.

In each method, ensure the crab is thoroughly heated but be cautious to avoid overcooking, which can compromise texture and moisture.

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