Lobster Lessons

It's a hot, end-of-summer night, and you are looking for something to cook for your friends and family that's not only healthy and bursting with flavor, but also simple to make. Have you considered lobster? Turn your next meal into a celebration with these deep-sea delicacies.

Jasper White, author of Lobster at Home, shares his rules for selecting the perfect lobster and handling it properly once you have it at home. 

How to Choose

  1. Buy the lobsters the day you want to cook them and refrigerate them immediately.

  2. Pick from the best seafood market near you or, if possible, from a lobsterman or lobster company.

  3. Decide on the size of lobsters that you want, but buy healthy lobsters instead of ones that are a specific size. Do not buy lobsters under one pound or over five pounds.

  4. Only buy lively, freshly caught lobsters. Look for sprightly lobsters with long antennae.

  5. Find one with a hard shell.

  6. This one may be obvious, but do not stick your hand into the bag of lobsters -- it can be very painful!

How to Prepare

If you are going to grill, bake or panfry a lobster, and aren't too squeamish, you're going to need to kill it first.

Techniques for cutting a live lobster:

  • Place the lobster so that it is facing you and put the tip of a knife or cleaver (Chinese cutting knife) in the center of the lobster, about where the tail begins. Make sure that the claws are not in the way of the knife and forcefully split the lobster. Then turn the lobster around and do the same to the tail.

  • Pull out the head sac from both sides with your hands. Then remove the intestine which will most likely only be in one of the halves. Use surgical tweezers to do this.

  • Use the back of a knife or a cleaver to tap the claws so that their shells break.

  • If you need to quarter the lobster, follow the first two steps, but then remove the claws and knuckles by cutting where the claws meet the carcass. Then tap the claws until they crack. Then with the top of the knife, cut the lobster where the tail and carcass meet.

How to Cook

Grilling lobster is a good option if you're having a barbeque. The flavor is smoky and it's not as messy as boiling a lobster. First split the lobster and remove the head sac and intestine. Crack the claws and brush butter and oil all over the lobster. Put the lobster with its shell side down on a grill of medium-hot coals. So that you don't lose any of the juices, do not turn the lobster over during grilling.

Boiling is the most popular way to cook a lobster. First make sure that you cook the lobster in salt water. You can make the salt water yourself if you don't have access to ocean water. The pot should be large so that you can stir the lobsters while they are cooking. There should be 3 quarts of water for every 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of lobster. Use ocean water, or add 1/4 cup of salt to every gallon of fresh water. Bring the water to a boil and then add the lobsters. A two-pound lobster should take about 15 minutes to cook.

Steaming a lobster is sometimes better than boiling one. Steaming makes the meat very juicy and tender and gives it a better flavor. A lobster can be steamed in a pot on the stove, on a grill, in an oven or in a microwave. Make sure that you add salt if you are using fresh water.

Pan roasting a lobster is tasty and provides your guests with an easy way to eat it. You will need to quarter the lobsters and then saute them over very high heat. Then put the pan in the oven and cook for about 2 minutes.

How to Eat

So that you are not embarrassed the next time you decide to indulge, read on to learn how to remove the meat from the lobster.

  • Tools to use: You will need a nutcracker or shears, lobster fork or a small fork, a small rolling pin, bibs and plenty of wet naps.

  • Hold the carcass and the tail in separate hands and twist to break the two pieces apart. Remove the tail fins by pulling towards the top of the tail -- they will come off easily. Some meat will be attached to the tail and some can be removed by squeezing.

  • Separate the knuckles from the carcass and the knuckles from the claws. Remove the meat from the knuckles by cracking the shells or by cutting the shells open with shears. Take the meat out by taking hold of the small lower section and shaking it until it snaps. Then tap the center of the claw until the shell cracks. The meat will most likely come right out when you open the claw.

  • Snap off the legs with your hands. Break each leg in half at the joint and push a small rolling pin, if you have one handy, over them at the tip to make the meat pop out.

  • To remove the meat from the carcass, lift the carapace off from the back. Crack the remaining carcass off to break it open. Then crack the pieces again. You can remove small chunks of meat between the gills and the cartilage. Note: Be sure not to eat the gills and the cartilage as they are inedible!

Lobster Etiquette

To assure your membership in the club of lobster mavens, be sure to follow these few simple rules of etiquette:

  • Don't handle your lobsters like puppets. Remember, they are not toys -- just dinner.

  • Unless you are going to shell your lobster before serving, there is no real way to eat this delicacy in a delicate way. Do not be ashamed to wear a lobster bib. While you won't win any fashion awards, it is certainly a lot more attractive than lobster particles stuck to your blouse all evening.

  • When choosing a live lobster, try to not to name it. This is will make it less traumatic for you to eat your dinner once it is cooked.

Are you brave enough to try lobster at home? Chime in below!
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