To clean hard-shell crab, break off the belly flap on the underside of the shell. Pull shell off the back, starting from the rear. Remove gills from the body. Twist claws and legs off body. Crack the shell using a heavy nutcracker or small hammer. Cut body into halves. Pick out crabmeat using a metal pick, small fork, or the pointed tip at the end of the crab's leg. Use crabmeat in casseroles, crab cakes, soups, salads, and other dishes, or enjoy cooked crabmeat with cocktail sauce.
To clean soft-shell crab, first cut off the face, using scissors. Lift the top shell and pull off and discard the gills. Pull off belly flap.
To boil live crab
Fill a large pan with 5 quarts (about 5 liters) of water and bring to a rapid boil. One at a time, plunge the crab headfirst into the boiling water. Reduce heat and simmer 5 to 10 minutes for small crabs, 15 to 20 minutes for large crabs. Immerse crabs in cold water for a few seconds when done so they don't overcook.
Pan-frying soft-shell crab
Rinse prepared or thawed frozen crab in cold water. Dredge in flour or cornmeal and seasonings and shake off any excess. Heat oil or butter in frying pan until hot. Add crab and brown on each side for four to five minutes, turning once.
Broiling crab legs
Thaw frozen crab legs. Cut each leg shell down both sides with a sharp knife. Remove top of shell, leaving meat in the bottom. Place bottom shells in a shallow baking pan and brush with butter or oil, seasonings, and lemon juice. Place under broiler for four to five minutes, just until heated through.
Baking crab legs
Place whole cracked legs in a shallow baking pan. Brush with butter or oil, seasonings, and lemon juice. Bake at 350F (180C) for about eight minutes.
Microwaving crab legs
Wrap whole or split crab legs in a damp paper towel and cook on high for about two minutes.