Thursday, April 12, 2007

Choose Your Victim - Selecting Your Lobster

Know what you are eating! For lobster identification get the above "Lobster Identification" t-shirt from

Lobster is one of the few meal choices that invites you to choose your own victim. While there are some restaurants where you can pick out your own steak, it's not like seeing the whole cow. With lobsters, you do see the whole thing. This leaves the diner with several tough decisions:

* Should you have a soft-shell or a hard-shell lobster?
* Will a large lobster be as tender as a small lobster?
* Should you choose a male or a female?
* Should you choose a green lobster or a red one?

According to David Dow, former Director of the Lobster Institute in Orono, Maine, and a lobsterman himself, "Most people in the industry prefer the new shell: the 'shedders.' Their meat is sweet, and the shells are easy to break apart." However, others claim hard-shelled lobsters are better because the meat is firmer and there is more of it than in a newly-molted lobster.

Of course, you have to expect that the shell will not be crammed full of lobster meat in a 'shedder.' Lobster dealers sometimes refer to soft-shell lobsters as "low quality". It's not that they don't taste as good, but rather that in their weakened post-molt condition, these lobsters don't transport well. So if you plan to take a Maine lobster across state lines, a hard-shell lobster travels best.

Dow also claims that large lobsters taste as good as small ones "until you get to 5 to 7 pounds. Then the meat gets kind of stringy." Advocates of tail meat recommend getting a female whose tail is broader than a male's of equal size since she uses the space to carry her eggs. The best time to buy lobsters is in the fall, after Labor Day, when all the tourists have gone home and the lobster landings are at their highest.

Because lobster meat can go bad quickly, it's generally necessary to cook a lobster while it's still alive. That means you pick a green lobster, but don't eat it until its shell turns red! Never eat a cooked lobster with its tail uncurled, as it died before it was cooked.


Note: The Bar Harbor Insider agrees that the shedder meat is sweeter and you do pay less per pound because you end up buying more water but I don't like the tips of the claws on the shedders, they tend to be mushy. Tip: If you are dining with a friend get one of each and compare but keep in mind each lobster does have its own individuality - we are not talking about mass produced chicken nuggets here!

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