I put crabs into the freezer an hour or so before cooking to calm them down. Also, I always try to cook my crabs in sea water, but you can use 30g salt to 1 litre tap water. If there is not enough salt in the water, flavour will leach out from the crab into the water. Bring your salty water to a fast boil.
Take the crab from the freezer and plunge an awl or other sharp pointed tool into one of the two points on its underside to kill it instantly, then plunge it into the boiling water. Once the water comes back to the boil, cook for 15 minutes if the crab is 1kg or less, adding 2 minutes for every extra 100g. As soon as the crab is cooked, lift it out onto a tray and leave until cool enough to handle.
Remove all the legs and claws from the cooked crab, by twisting them away from the body. Now, holding the crab in both hands, use your thumbs to push the body up and out of the hard top shell.
Remove the dead man’s fingers, stomach sac and hard membranes from the body shell. Using a spoon, remove the brown crab from the top shell and place in a bowl. Now cut the body in half with a sharp knife to reveal all the little channels of white crab meat. Use a crab pick or the back of a spoon to pick out all the crab meat from these crevices and put it into a bowl.
Now, with a heavy knife, break each claw with one hard tap if possible and pick out the crab meat, removing the cartilage in the middle of the claw. Do the same to extract the meat from the legs.
When you have taken out all the crab meat, go through it very carefully with your fingers a couple of times to check for any stray fragments of shell or membrane.
NATHAN OUTLAW’S FISH KITCHEN published by Quadrille (£20)
Photos © DAVID LOFTUS