Wednesday, 2 February 2011 | Tags: ,

A seafood treat often saved for large gatherings, lobster can be prepared in many ways. Here's what you need to know about buying and enjoying lobster.

We visited The Lobster Man on Vancouver’s Granville Island for tips on choosing lobsters.

The Basics

  • Most lobster in Canada and the USA comes from the Atlantic Ocean.

  • When buying live lobster, pick a feisty one. Avoid any limp or droopy ones as this is a sign of weakness and could result in mushier meat.

  • There are two types of lobsters for purchase – soft shell and hard shell. Soft shell lobsters have recently molted and their meat is sweeter and more tender. But there won’t be as much meat as a hard shell lobster. 

  • Your hard shell lobster should have a firm, hard shell, which yields firmer and tastier meat. Live lobster shells are dark green-brown in colour and turn bright red once cooked.

  • Most lobsters are sold with their claws banded together with elastics as this prevents them from hurting each other in transport or in the tank.

  • The majority of meat can be found in the tail and two front claws, so look for a lobster that is 1½-2 pounds for an adult-sized portion.

  • Though female lobsters appear to have larger tails, this is to accommodate her eggs. They, in fact, have about the same amount of meat as males.

  • The cheapest time to buy lobster is when they are in season. There are two lobster seasons – late November/early December and May. Purchasing a lobster in season guarantees it is the best quality and that it has been freshly caught.

  • If you like the delicacy of roe, purchase a female lobster. Ask your fish monger to inspect the underside to spot the roe, which should be red-orange in colour.

  • When lobsters are not in season, they are pounded, which means they are put in holding tanks of sea water. The best time of year to buy lobsters is during the winter because demand is less and prices tend to be lower.

  • You can often buy frozen lobster tails. If they are not marked warm water or cold water, and no place of origin given, assume they are warm water tails. If you see lobster tails at some unbelievabl cheap price, they most likely are warm water tails, as cold water lobster is known for its better taste and texture.

  • If you see black spots on a frozen lobster, it was most likely mishandled. If the tail has a grayish color, it is a sign the lobster wasn’t alive during processing. Avoid both. 

  • Look out for “glazing”. This is when water is injected between the meat and the shell of the lobster tail before freezing. It adds up to 20% additional weight to the tail so you pay more for less.

Storing & Cooking Your Lobster

  • Lobsters can live out of sea water for a day, so store them in the refrigerator, keeping them wet with newspaper that has been soaked in sea or salted water.

  • Do not immerse lobsters in fresh, unsalted water, and don’t freeze them. Both methods will cause them to die immediately.

  • Always cook your lobster alive as the crustacean begins to decompose immediately after it dies.

  • Contrary to popular belief the lobster does not scream when it is boiled, instead the whistling sound is made by steam escaping through its shell.

  • Don’t be alarmed to find a grayish green substance inside your cooked lobster. That’s the tomalley. This is essentially the crustacean’s liver and pancreas, and is considered a delicacy by some lobster lovers.

  • The leftover body and head can be used to make soup stock.

Lobster Tools

  • When purchasing seafood tools for lobster and crab, you need one utensil to crack the shell, and another one to help you access the meat.

  • Purchase lobster crackers and forks with stainless steel heads. These are the most durable and rust-proof, and are easier to clean than other materials.

  • Eating lobster from the shell can be quite messy, so look for utensils with rubber or silicone-wrapped handles for extra grip.

  • Nutcrackers, and even small hammers, can also take the place of lobster crackers and do the trick if you have more people than tools.

  • True Maritimers tell you to pack up the good tablecloth when preparing for a lobster feast. Instead, use a plastic table covering or even newspaper to protect your table. And have lots of napkins on hand!


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