I’m a big seafood fan, and lobster is one of my favorites. Today I’d like to share a few tips on selecting and eating lobsters. I won’t say much about actually cooking them as I only do that rarely when guests are very interested. Otherwise, I get my lobsters cooked by my local seafood market, or I eat lobster at a good seafood restaurant.
As part of researching and fact checking, I came across a web site called Lobster Help and really liked it. Give it a look!
Types of Lobsters
There are two primary kinds of lobsters that make it to our tables – Maine and Spiny. Maine lobsters are cold water lobsters with big “boxing glove” claws, while Spiny lobsters live in warmer water and don’t have the very large claws. Spiny lobsters are sold primarily for their tails. For the rest of the way, I’ll be talking only about Maine lobster as that’s the type I’ve eaten more often.
Culls are lobsters who have lost one of their two large claws in a fight. The damage makes them worth less in the market and of less interest on the restaurant plate, so many restaurants will offer “twin culls.” For a discount price, they’ll cook and serve you two 1 lb or 1-1/4 lb cull lobsters and so you’ll get two tails plus two claws. This can be a really good way to go if you are a big fan of the lobster tail (and who isn’t?).
Some people swear by smaller “chicken” lobsters, in the 1lb to 1-1/4lb range since they claim that their meat is sweeter. I don’t agree. I’ve eaten lobsters up to 3 lbs and always found the meat to be great. In fact in the 2 and 3 lb range, the small walking legs and tail flippers have some meat, which is a great bonus. I think the perfect size for most adult appetites is 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 lb. But sharing a 3 lb lobster can be really fun.
If you are selecting a live lobster from a tank in a restaurant or seafood market, pick a lively one. It’s a sign that it hasn’t been in the tank as long and is likely healthier. Other considerations:
- Tail - A female lobster will have a slightly wider tail, which means more tail meat.
- Claws - Look at the size of the claws. Large claws will tend to hold larger amounts of claw meat.
- Shell - “Hard shell” lobsters have had their shells for longer and so the meat inside fills the shell a little more. Softer “new shell” lobsters have recently molted and are growing into their shells. Some people think new shell lobster meat is sweeter, but I’m a fan of the fuller hard shell.
Lobsters are generally boiled or steamed. They turn a bright red when fully cooked. A good restaurant will crack the shells in all the right places to make it easy to get at the meat, and to drain the water before plating it for you. Lobsters can also be steamed and then stuffed with crab and breadcrumbs and then baked.
The greenish “tomalley” found inside the main body cavity of the lobster is the liver. Eating it is your option. I am not a big fan of tomalley. The roe (eggs) of a female lobster is sometimes also found in the main body cavity. The row is a long and thin piece of meat and an orange or reddish color when cooked. Eating it is your option. I find it to be delicious.
Ready to eat!
When the bright red cooked lobster is on your plate, cracked and ready, and your lobster bib is tied on, you are ready to dig in. I suggest having a cold lager with your lobster, but I know others who prefer a glass of white wine. Add an ear of fresh crisp summer corn (boiled or roasted and not overdone) and a little clarified butter for dipping the lobster meat.
Enjoy one of life's great dining experiences, and please let us know in the comments if you have a favorite way to pick or eat a lobster that wasn't mentioned here.
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