Lobsters are the quintessential luxury food these days; once upon a time, they were used as fertilizer and considered a poor man’s meal. While they are pretty expensive in restaurants, preparing a lobster at home is not too far out of reach for an average American family. You’re most likely looking at a $30 price tag for a whole lobster in a supermarket, while those same lobsters in restaurants cost $60+.
This means you can have a family feast for about a $100 instead of going out and racking up a hefty restaurant bill. Let’s get down to business and make a delicious lobster dish.
How much does a lobster meal cost?
A 1.25 lbs lobster , which is enough for one person, costs about $30. A full lobster meal in a restaurant costs about $60, and getting one from a food truck might be a tad cheaper, at about $50. Most food trucks offer lobster rolls and lobster tails which are a fantastic deal, as you don’t have to shell out (pun intended) lots of money, and they’re cleaned up and ready to eat.
Always buy a live, fresh lobster
Dead lobsters digest themselves and quickly spoil the meat. They have a hard, sharp and heavy putrid smell if they’ve gone rancid, and you’re well advised to not eat them. Living lobsters start moving their legs around, or their claws or antennae when they’re out of the refrigerator.
Do lobsters scream and feel pain?
Lobsters have no lungs or vocal chords, they can not scream. The liquid inside their hard shells starts to boil and the steam makes its way out of the small cracks in their shell, similar to a whistling tea pot. Do they feel pain? Lobsters are big crustaceans, and they seem intelligent and capable of feeling pain.
We have a hard time thinking that a big organism doesn’t feel pain and is more significant than an insect like a household fly or a mosquito. The lobsters are actually not sentient, and they do not feel pain. Their nervous system is rather primitive and they can “feel damage”, in a similar way to your car turning the engine light on when something is wrong; but they’re not in pain.
Many people consider the lobsters “giant bugs”, and they’re pretty much correct. Despite proof that lobsters aren’t sentient, Switzerland, Italy and some other countries ban boiling lobsters alive and require the chef to kill them before putting them in a pot of boiling water.
The entire situation is rather absurd, as they pretty much die instantly and painlessly the moment they’re submerged in boiling water. Would you like to know more?
How to humanely kill a lobster
Despite them being bugs, there are ways to humanely, quickly and painlessly kill a lobster. The first, and the best way to kill them, is to leave them in the freezer for 10-20 minutes. They’ll first go into a deep sleep, then a coma, then die of the extreme cold, completely painlessly.
Due to their thick shell, the meat inside likely won’t freeze. The second way is to cut their head off, or stab them in the “brain” behind their head and thorax joint. Then quickly split them in half. This will let you easily clean up their digestive tract (a single black line inside the tail).
It is edible but has a rather weird taste. The third way is to stun it with electricity with a specialized stun gun that no household has; don’t try to DIY your own stun gun as you might electrocute yourself.
What size lobster to buy?
Lobsters come in several sizes. Lobsters that are too small or too large get tossed back into the ocean, so the quantity and size of what’s currently in stock is limited. Most people buy the smallest lobsters, the 1.25 lbs ones. Two of these are more than enough to feed one adult.
There are 1.5 lbs, 2 lbs, 3 lbs and big 5-6 lbs lobsters. You’ll get more lobster meat from buying several small lobsters rather than buying the biggest one, but the bigger ones look more magnificent. The biggest lobsters are about $170, and they can feed an entire family for dinner. There are even bigger lobsters out there, but they’re priced in the thousands and it’s generally illegal to eat them.
Some people have the misconception that smaller lobsters are tastier, or that bigger lobsters have more seasoned meat. Neither are correct, any size lobster has the same taste if carefully prepared; the bigger the lobster, the easier it is to overcook or under-cook it, making its meat taste sub-par. Beginners should get the smallest lobsters.
Keep the claw bands on, and carefully handle them
The lobsters will come to your front door (or from the supermarket) with claw bands. These are used to, naturally, prevent the lobster from snipping you or harming other lobsters in the tank.
It is rather painful, and large lobsters can break your fingers if they catch them in their claw. Many people say to take the rubber bands off before you put the lobster in the pot as they claim that the claws will taste rubber-y. The bands don’t really affect the taste, and that is a myth that angry customers often quote at us.
Steam the lobster by using a big pot
The best way to prepare a lobster is to steam it in a big pot, using a steaming rack, with a simmering, controlled and constant flame. Add 1 table spoon of salt to every liter (quart) of water; this will give the lobster a certain ocean-taste. Steam for 5-7 minutes per pound.
After it’s done, place the hot lobster into a bowl of cool water, or else the lobster will keep cooking itself with the heat it retained (and overcooks). Despite people believing it’s hard to do, expensive or “magical”, preparing lobsters is very similar to making soft-boiled eggs.
If you can consistently cook an boiled egg with slightly runny yolk, you can boil a lobster perfectly.
How to tell if the lobster is done?
Be careful, the lobster is extremely hot and moist, and it keeps the searing hot water inside its shell after being cooked. Use tongs! Most chefs use the antenna-test; the fully cooked lobster’s antenna will practically pop out if you lightly pull it. Regular lobster boil time is about 5-7 minutes per pound.
Other experienced chefs say that the perfectly cooked lobsters start floating in the boiling water. Well prepared lobster meat is creamy white and not transparent at all; if the meat is transparent, it’s undercooked. You can’t really test if the meat is overcooked, you can only taste it.
Overcooked meat is rubbery and hard to chew. It’s not completely bad, but perfectly prepared lobster tastes a thousand times better.
Their color changes from their natural brownish color to a bright red or orange, but this doesn’t really tell you how well it’s cooked.
How to prepare lobster tail
The process is a basically exactly the same, but the cooking time is shorter because the tails weigh less and are more open to being cooked. 1 minute per ounce is enough. Lobster tails can pop out of the exoskeleton, but this isn’t a bad thing and it doesn’t ruin the meat. It just looks a bit silly and you won’t be earning any chef’s rewards for aesthetics, but the lobster’s still edible (and tasty).
Lobster tails are cheaper to purchase than live lobsters, and are a great alternative to more budget-conscious households.
Crack the lobster yourself
You can crack the lobster’s shell with a small mallet, your trusty kitchen meat tenderizer, or the back of your kitchen knife. Do not pulverize the lobster’s shell, or else you’ll be eating bits of it in your meat. A few cracks should let you easily pry the meat from the shell.
The closest analogy I can offer is removing the shell of a black walnut; you don’t want to pulverize it all into dust, but carefully extract the nut.
What parts of the lobster are edible
Anything except the shell. The green stuff is the lobster’s liver; it is an acquired taste, it’s usually spread on bread like some sort of jam or you can leave it in the lobster.
The black stuff near the liver are the lobster’s roe/eggs (if it’s a female lobster). Also often spread on bread. Roe turns red when properly prepared, if it’s black that means it’s raw, do not eat it!
The digestive tract is the small black tube in the lobster’s tail, you can split the tail in half and remove it. It’s edible, but has a rather peculiar taste. Everything else is fair game.
How to tell if your lobster is male or female
Generally, males have bigger claws and females have bigger tails; but you’d need to compare a dozen lobsters to figure it out. Realistically, it’s not important, because they both taste the same. The only benefit the female lobster brings to the table is the tasty roe.
How long can you keep the lobster in the refrigerator
A live lobster can survive for 24 hours in the refrigerator; it should be wrapped in wet newspaper or in its original paper bag. Though it is advised to prepare the lobster ASAP, as you don’t know if it might die in the meantime. Lobster leftovers can last a few days, and can be reheated.
Here’s a good video that gives you the step-by-step guide to cooking your lobster: