Break off the tailor "apron" that is folded under the body at the rear.
Hold the crab with one hand with the back toward you, grab the top shell with your other hand, pull the shell away from the body, use firm pressure but be careful not to break the shell as you will probably wish to save the shell for Crab Diablo or some other dish.
Remove the gills (Note: those chefs using Dungeness crab save the "fat," which is the yellow-brownish substance below the digestive tract to add to mayonnaise or other sauces served with crab. It has a marvelous flavor and enhances either hot or cold crab entrees.).
After removing the gills, hold the crab under running water and remove the digestive tract.
Hold the body in both hands and bend back until it breaks in two, or split the crab along the middle crease with a quick chop of a knife.
Crabs may be either steamed or boiled. Boiling is the preferred method as the crabs may be observed while cooking, for the minute they turn red they are done.
To boil crabs the water must be boiling before putting the crabs into the pot. Use lightly salted water, sea water is preferred. Boil the crabs for 20 minutes, they should have turned red. Plunge them into cold water just long enough to keep them from cooking longer.
If you are planning to serve the crabs as a cold dish in the shell, ice it immediately and place in the refrigerator until very cold.
Hot crab in a shell is a delicious treat. If planning to serve the crab in this manner, clean the crab while still hot, crack it according to the directions for "cracked crab" below and serve immediately.