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Lobster Facts

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Find cooking and preparation techniques, types of lobster and crabs, specific lobster terms, scientific facts, and more!

Uncommon Lobster Terms

Berries – Lobster eggs, usually attached to a female’s swimmerets, also known as coral or lobster caviar.

Bug – A slang term for lobster.

Carapace – The shell covering the cephalothorax.

Cephalothorax – The portion of the lobster that is one piece and houses the head and thorax.

chick - A slang for a one pound lobster

Cull – A lobster missing one claw; a lobster missing both claws is known as a pistol. Lobsters spontaneously release a claw or any limb as a form of self–defense or under stress.

Hard–Shell – Reference to a lobster who has not molted in a while and is usually identified by dark mottling on the underside of the claws. Another identifier is when one would attempt to crack the lobster after cooking for it will be particularly difficult to remove.

Legal Lobster – Refers to a lobster falling within the parameters that make it legal for a licensed lobsterman to harvest the crustacean. In Maine, a legal lobster is sized between 3.25 and 5 inches long from the eye socket to the end of the carapace (or where the tail begins), isn’t ‘V–notched’ or a breeding female with berries. Also, there are weight restrictions with the minimum around 1 lb, while the maximum weight is between 3 and 4 lbs.

Lobster Trap – The specially designed trap with several ‘rooms’ that are baited and lure in and contain lobster for harvesting. Specialized escape vents are the right size to allow undersized lobster and other animals to escape. They are also known as lobster pots.

Molt or Molted – The process by which a lobster grows by shedding their old shell, and growing a new, larger one.

New–Shell – Reference to a lobster who has recently molted. These are also known as ‘rubber shells’ or ‘shedders’ and are considered a delicacy for the shell is easy to remove when eating and the meat is considered prime. Special handling is required for they are fragile in this state.

Short – A lobster that does not meet the size minimum requirement for harvesting.

Sustainable Lobster Fishing – This is a concept that laws are put in place to ensure lobsters are not over–fished, fished during prime breeding years, or when they are too small and have not bred yet. This includes measuring the carapace for the correct length (therefore age), using only traps to fish for them, imposing fishing limits, and check for, or adding a v–notch to breeding/with eggs females.

V–Notched – A female lobster that has been previously caught when she has berries attached to her swimmerets. The lobsterman will ‘notch’ a portion of her tail indicating she is a breeder to keep in the water and producing eggs, regardless if they are caught again. The notch eventually grows out after a few molts, so when the female is no longer a producer and might still be within legal size, she can then be harvested.

Lobster Cooking and Preparation

There are several ways to enjoy lobster, and getting it out of its shell is most of the work. Not only can how you plan on eating the lobster dictate the best way to cook it, but wanting a special plating presentation can influence this too. Before you cook it, you can butterfly the tail, place the meat on top of the cracked shell while leaving it attached at the flipper (this is great for grilling!), or even leave it whole to harvest all the meat for a special recipe or for a shell–cracking good time!

Lobster Cooking Factoids

  • Except the rare albino, or white lobster, all turn bright red once cooked. This includes the usual green–brown, red, yellow, and blue.
  • The Guinness Book of World Records was on–site for the 2009 Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival where a record for the Most Seafood Prepared at an Outdoor Event, coming in at 12,537 pounds and 4 ounces of lobster.
  • There are several ways to cook a lobster, but many folks argue about the most humane way to kill the lobster. While boiling is the most common, many chefs and new reports suggest inserting a sharp knife into the head and cutting down through the brain to kill it just prior to cooking it.
  • Never place a live lobster in fresh water, they are saltwater creatures and fresh water will kill them.
  • To keep a live lobster, it is important it is kept cool and moist. Keep covered with damp seaweed, newspaper or cloths, and in a cool place either on ice or in the refrigerator till ready to cook.
  • Live lobster, if kept cool and damp, can live out of water for up to 48 hours, this is why Fine Lobster always sends live lobster shipments overnight with a Freshness Guarantee. To ensure you have cooked a live lobster, the tail will curl after being cooked and the meat will appear firm and in once piece.
  • Lobsters are an incredible source of low–cholesterol protein, with less calories and saturated fat than the same portion of skinless chicken.

Lobster Cooking Techniques and Tips

Boil – The easiest, most common way to cook a live lobster is by boiling as takes the least amount of time. Start with a big pot and fill it with seawater (easy for those close to the ocean) or with water heavily salted, roughly about two gallons of water per three pounds of lobster. The best process is to place the live lobster head first into boiling water. An easy rule of thumb is to boil the lobster for about eight minutes per 1 ½ to 1 ½ pounds, and 1 minute more for each additional ½ pound per lobster. Boiling a lobster is considered one of the best ways to enjoy the full flavor. We recommend boiling if you want to use the meat in another recipe or to eat right after cooking for the meat is easier to remove from the shell.

Steam – Steaming has virtually the same affects on the taste of the lobster as boiling, however it is less leaching and leaves the meat very tender. Select a pot large enough to hold all of the lobster without crowding it, place a steaming rack and about two inches of seawater (or heavily salted water) in the bottom. Over high heat, bring it to a rolling boil, and add the live lobsters one at a time and cover. Steaming takes about ten minutes per pound, but halfway through ensure they are cooking evenly by shifting them around being careful of the hot steam.

Parboil – By partially cooking the lobster meat, parboiling is a great technique when one wants refrigerate or freeze a whole lobster to finish cooking it later. This works well to later include the meat in a dish or finish it on a grill––it avoids drying it out. Parboiling follows the same rules as boiling, however only cook the lobster for about two minutes per pound instead of eight. Be sure when done to immediately rinse it in cold water to stop the cooking process. Unless leaving the meat in the whole shell to freeze or refrigerate and finish boiling later, it is advised you remove the meat as this is when it will be easiest.

Grill – Something to be aware of if planning on grilling your lobster is that it is easy to dry out the meat. Fine Lobster recommends parboiling the lobster and brushing it with olive oil or butter before placing it on the grill. We recommend you butterfly, slice in half length–ways, or lay the meat on the tail shell then brush it with olive oil. Cook it meat–down on medium heat on the grill till golden brown, or approximately 5 to 7 minutes. A Fine Lobster recommendation is to cut the whole lobster tail in half lengthwise, and keeping lobster halves meat–side up pour some clarified butter and garlic over it and place them on a medium heat grill till opaque or about 8 to 10 minutes.

Bake – Chefs will unanimously agree that baking a lobster tail is the easiest way to prepare it and leave it juicy! Pre–heat the oven to 450°F. Taking the tail, top–side down in your hand, cut away the under–shell following the sides and nearest the tail flipper as closely as possible to peel away the bottom layer; repeat with the under–membrane for presentation. Separate the meat from the shell all around by running a knife between them. We suggest pouring clarified butter, garlic, salt and pepper over the meat before wrapping it in foil and baking for approximately 12 minutes per 2 ounces.

Broil – Broiling a lobster tail is tricky, but the end result is delicious and beautiful. We recommend prepping it top–side up and cut away the top of shell to expose most of the meat as possible while leaving the sides intact (to hold in the juices). Wash with cool water and pat dry with paper towel; then drizzle in clarified butter, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Simply place the tail on a pan and in the oven on broil, approximately 15 minutes per 5 ounces, but keep a close eye on your tail so you don’t overcook and therefore dry out or burn! Consider parboiling the tail first and finishing it under the broiler for about 5–7 minutes to get that sweet and gorgeous golden finish.

Fry – After removing the meat from the shell (or exposing it with a special cut, such as butterflying) one can fry the lobster, meat down, in a pan. We recommend using clarified butter with garlic and parsley for this, and cooking till it is opaque and golden brown on the surface.

Clarified Butter – Slowly melt butter over low heat in a pan till you can see the milk fat separating out in layers. Skim off the top, foamy milk layer and discard it; the next layer is the one you want and is a golden yellow butterfat, pour it off and save it. The remaining bits on the bottom are the milk solids you don’t want so discard these too. If you would rather not worry about this step, consider buying clarified butter to be shipped with your fresh lobster!

Lobster Species

Lobsters are ten–legged crustaceans that live on the bottom of the ocean floor (as well as in freshwater) and are related to both shrimp and crab. They have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell used to locate their food. Lobsters are generally omnivorous and are known to even eat other lobsters from time to time, and regularly feast on sea plants, algae, oysters, crabs, snails and fish. While there are hundreds of types, only two main ones are the most common and commercially harvested, the American and European. These species each have claws, are from cold water, and are caught in the Atlantic Ocean. There are warm water, tropical varieties that are clawless and more commonly known as spiny lobsters.

North American Lobster – Or Homrus americanus are clawed lobsters from cold water caught off the North East Coast of the United States, and Canada, with the largest caught ever on record off the coast of Nova Scotia weighing over 44 pounds that was estimated to be at least 100 years old (cold water lobsters take up to seven years to reach one pound). Also, North American lobsters are meatier than warm water lobsters.

Spiny LobsterSpiny lobsters are also known as rock lobsters, and langouste. Often they are called crayfish or crawfish, especially in Australia and New Zealand, as these terms usually refer to freshwater varieties, such as Louisiana crayfish. Spiny lobsters are from warm waters, therefore tropical places such as California, the Mediterranean and the Bahamas, where they are most common. They have no claws and a shell harder than a Maine’s, with much larger antenna and only the meat from the tail can be eaten. Their legs resemble that of a spider and in their habitat they thrive in calm and clear water. During storm season, spiny lobsters travel to deeper depths, moving in large migrations. They deter predators by making a loud screeching sound produced when they rub their antennae against the adjacent smooth exoskeleton; this is especially affective because they don’t lose their antennae after a molt and can still product the noise when they are soft–shelled and most vulnerable. Spiny lobsters are closely related to both the slipper lobster that has wide plate–like antennae, and the furry lobster (or coral) that are covered in tiny hairs. Neither of these two latter species are actually lobster but are related.

Crab Species

Crabs are relatives of lobster and have many similar traits being crustaceans too. They molt their exoskeletons, have five pairs of legs, with the foremost clawed. Also, they have a gastric mill, just like the lobster, that grinds up food passed to its mouth by its many appendages. They are known to eat clams, other crustaceans, small fish and anything they can scavenge. If threatened, they can completely bury themselves in sand to hide. Please see all the above–mentioned methods for cooking a lobster that can also be applied to crab. The rule for boiling is approximately 10 minutes per crab, or 15–18 minutes steaming. In the US, crabs are often prepared into cakes, a tradition out of Maryland. Fine Lobster features crab cakes made from blue crab meat and a recipe that has received critical acclaim.

Dungeness – Dungeness crab, or Cancer magister (master crab), inhabit the west coast of North America and can be found from Alaska to California. The Dungeness crab is also one of the largest commercially ported crabs in North America. They particularly dwell in eelgrass beds. The Dungeness crab is strictly regulated, taking on the “3–S” approach of Sex, Size, and Season. Female and molting (Soft Shell) crab cannot be taken.

King – Also called the Alaskan king crab, this crab can grow up to 25 pounds. Despite the king crab’s large size, not all of the crab is edible. The legs and claws are typically the only sections eaten, and only the male is harvested. Since 1959 almost 2 billion pounds of king crab have been commercially caught, a net worth of nearly 1.6 billion dollars pulled from Alaskan territory. They come in red, blue and golden colors, while the blue St. Matthew and Pribilof versions are now considered over–fished and no longer caught by commercial fisheries.

Peekytoe – Formally known as Cancer irroratus, or commonly as the bay or rock crab, became known as the Peekytoe in 1997 for its legs that curve inward. A former throw away, thanks to cuisine chefs in Manhattan, the demand for the Peekytoe crab started to increase. The Peekytoe is a small crab with that is found in deep waters on the east coast of North America from Labrador to Florida.

Snow Crab – The snow crab inhabits the northern Pacific and Atlantic oceans, but is fished as far north as the Arctic Ocean, as south as California, and all the way over to the north of Norway. Unfortunately they have seen a dramatic decline in their population due to over fishing for they are well known for being rich in flavor.

Florida Stone – Formally known as the Menippe mercenaria, the Florida stone crab is most recognizable for it has black tips on the end of its claws. This species is typically harvested for the meat in their claws, so fisherman usually tear off one and throw them back in the water to regenerate another. It is typical for a crab to regenerate a claw within 18 months. A regenerated claw is usually 2/3 of the original claw size. The claw re growth size also depends on the molting season of the crab, and whether or not they have done so prior to the claw being removed.


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