In this part of the world we have a procedure known as "Pithing" the crab, a local term that essentially means to stick an ice pick into the crab's brain, which kills it instantly. A lot of commercial crab houses use this technique because it allows them to stack the crabs in the steamer much tighter, thereby saving time and money in the steaming process. The ice pick is inserted quickly, just prior to the crab being placed in the pot.
One of the things I discovered many years ago about crustaceans is they exude toxins into their muscle tissue very quickly as they die. Therefore it's imperative to cook them immediately. Cooling them, also known as "stilling" slows this process, but it does not stop the process from taking place. And, it some locales it's illegal to cook a dead crab, even if you just killed it for humane reasons.
Last edited by travlineasy; 04-19-2012 at 12:19 PM.