Lobsters can be intimidating, whether you're cooking them or eating them -- even ordering pre-cooked lobster at a restaurant is a little scary if you don't know how to crack into it. Since lobsters don't come with an owners' manual, we're going to teach you how to prepare and eat a lobster the best way we know how -- by showing you! Take a look at our videos below to watch the pros do it firsthand.
How To Select A Lobster:
1. Make sure your lobster is lively and fairly active -- it will taste sweeter than one that is sluggish or already perished.
2. The average size lobster you'll find at a restaurant is about 1 1/2 pounds. Look for something between 1 1/2 and 3 pounds.
3. There are two main species of lobster: rock lobster, which some like for its consistency and resiliency, and Maine lobster, which some appreciate for its sweetness.
How To Boil Lobster
1. Once you get your lobster home, the best way to kill it is to drop it head-first in a pot of boiling water. The alternative is placing it in your freezer, where it'll "take a little nap and get real comfortable," according to chef Ray Hayes, before perishing in the freezer.
2. The "screaming" noise that lobsters make when they're dropped in boiling water is not, in fact, screaming. It's simply the noise made by the pressure of an air sac inside the lobster when it gets super hot.
3. Drop lobsters head-first into the water. This prevents them from trying to climb out out of the pot. To prevent being splashed by boiling water when the lobster's tail starts flapping, hold the tail for a few moments until the lobster has quieted down.
4. You can tell when lobster is done by picking up the lobster and feeling the tail. If the tail is firm and inflexible, it's ready. If it's squishy or still moves, the lobster meat is not yet cooked. In general, depending on size, lobsters take approximately 5-15 minutes to cook.
How To Grill Lobster:
Take a pre-cooked (boiled) lobster, and coat it with butter. Place it on the grill and just be sure you don't burn the shell.
How To De-Shell And Eat A Lobster:
We love the following instructions from the book Maine Classics by Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier, who really know their stuff when it comes to lobster.
Cracking a lobster seems daunting to some, but it's really quite simple. We often look at the cartoonlike drawings on the paper place mats at typical lobster pounds in New England, but we think they're just designed to confuse you further. Just start with the tail. Hold the tail as if the lobster is swimming away from you. Twist to remove the tail. With two hands, push the tail together until the top of the tail cracks; then flip the tail over and place two thumbs in the ridge of the tail and push outward until the entire shell comes off.
Now, twist off the arms. Discard the body and reserve it for stock or keep as a garnish. Twist the claws off the arms. Place the arms on a cutting board and cut along the lines separating each knuckle with a heavy-duty chef's knife. Using your fingers or a chopstick, push the meat out of each knuckle. Use the heavy end of the knife to hit the claw gently until it's cracked all over like an egg. You may want to cover the claw with a towel before hitting it to keep the juice from flying. Remove the meat from the claw. Twist the small part of the claw with your hand until it comes away from the flesh and then gently twist the larger part and pull it out from the shell. Using your fingers, pull the cartilage from inside of the claw out as well.
As for the thin legs, just give it up, man! There are fanatics who like to suck the meat out of the legs and, if you feel so inclined, go ahead. We know they always show that on the place mats, but we think it's just too much trouble.