Lobster Preparation

CopyRight @ 1998

So now you caught it, what do you do with it?

Bugs. They're great eating, but the sucker is crawling around in your goody bag at the moment. If you want a good meal, take good care of the thing.

Lobster can live for a long time out of water and it is best to keep them alive and healthy, until you are ready for final preparation for eating or storing. This starts on the boat. Most boats have live game wells. Keep them in this. I always bring an extra goody bag on a boat. One to carry under water and one to put in the live game well with what I have caught. If a live game well is not available, put a seawater soaked towel over the goody bag. Another way, is to put some kelp in the bag to keep the lobster moist. On the way home, after the boat, this is true too. Keep them moist under a towel or some kelp. If you put them in a bucket or ice chest full of seawater, they will die fairly quickly. Kept moist and cool, they may well live 24 hours or even more, out of water.

There are a number of ways to prepare the lobster at this point. It can be boiled live, tailed and steamed, tailed and frozen or just thrown in the freezer, live, to make these alien looking things.

The best known method of cooking is to throw a lobster, live, into a pot of boiling water. Plan on 5 minutes for the first pound and 3 minutes extra for each extra pound. This can get messy and be very difficult for a lobster that weighs more than about 5 pounds.

My preferred method is to tail and steam. The lobster's tail muscles attach to the shell in many places, extending a fair way into the body shell, called the carapace. If you just pull the tail out of the lobster, cooked or not, much of the meat may stay attached to the carapace. It is better to hold the lobster so that its tail is tucked under. Then slide a knife along the tail and in under the carapace. Slice the meat loose from the inside of the carapace all along the sides and back of the lobster. Then if you grab the tail and twist it from the body, the tail and all its meat, comes loose from the carapace.

This tail can be frozen and prepared later or it can be steamed right away for eating or freezing. In a pot on a vegetable steamer, it takes about 11 minutes for a tail from a 1 to 2 pound lobster to cook. Add about 4 minutes per pound past that.

Now that you have this tail, how to best get it opened? I've tried a lot of things, but now a days I always use an electricians wire cutters, called dikes. Any small tough clippers should do though.

If you want to broil the lobster tail, snip through the center of the small pieces of shell on the underside of the tail. Then a knife can easily be drawn down the middle of the tail to cut it in half. Towards the back of the shell, you can pull out the main vein.

If you want to remove the tail completely from the shell for further preparation, the dikes are again the tool to start with. Snip through both ends of the small pieces of shell on the underside of the tail. You may want to snip off the swimmerets or the spines on the bottom of the tail as well, for convenience. Then just pull off the skin and shell on the bottom of the tail. The meat can then be easily pulled out of the main part of the shell. Cut this along the back or in half and pull out the main vein.

I recommend freezing in the shell, cooked or raw, for best preservation of the meat and its flavor. A lobster tail in shell is not going to quickly get freezer burn. I think cooked ones last longer in the freezer than do raw ones.

Depending on what you are preparing, it may be that you want to trim off the skin that is on the outside of the tail meat. Use a sharp knife, caution, patience and practice. Pets love the trimmings.

The tastiest part of the lobster may well be the meat in the legs and antennas. In a 4 pound or larger lobster, this may amount to a fair amount of meat. It can be hard to get to, but what else better do you have to do? The dikes can help here too. There is a lot of meat in and under the base of the antennas.

You may catch a lobster with a soft shell, that has just molted. This will not effect the flavor. If you get a lobster that is just about to molt, it will have the outer shell and a tough inner skin/shell. This is a hassle, but can be dealt with and does not effect flavor. Forget getting the meat from the legs of one like this unless it is big and you really want the meat.

So which is better flavored, Maine, California or Australian lobster? I'm afraid I have to give that to the Maine lobster, though the California bug is close behind, with the Australian tails a bit behind that.

Properly prepared, especially when real fresh, lobster is a true delicacy. Now that you have it cleaned, try it in some of the recipes listed here.

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