Thursday, August 16, 2012

The RIGHT Way to Eat a Lobster

With the price of lobster plummeting per pound, bringing it below the price per pound of hot dogs and bologna, it is becoming more and more the food of the poor like it used to be and less a food of luxury. But can we talk about how much meat people waste by eating it incorrectly? This is for all you wasteful fucks that only eat the tail: a true Mainer's guide to eating a lobster.

Step 1: Have yourself a steamed lobster
This was lobster #2 of the feast

Steamed is always better, in my opinion. When you boil them, they get waterlogged and then you just get a flood of scalding water when you open up the bug. Anyway, the lobster will always be sitting pretty on the plate like that. Flip it on it's back. Burn your fingers in the process and swear a lot. Insult its parentage.  Rip off all the little legs, continuing to burn your fingers. Attempt to suck the meat out. Fail. Dig it out with a bamboo skewer. Because I'm a masochist meticulous, I go joint by joint.

By this time, the claws are ready to be pulled off. Poke the meat out of the joints and suffer many puncture wounds from the spines. Remove the rubber bands from the claws and watch them go flying across the room or smack your dining partner in the face. If it's a hardshell lobster, you'll need to employ nut crackers and every muscle in your body to break through the claw meat. If it's a softshell (my preference) you can easily rip the shell open and remove the meat.

2. Pretend you're a pro wrestler performing a back-breaker and break that sucker in half

DO THIS STEP OVER A PLATE OR BOWL FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. With a bend back and twist, separate the tail from the carapace. Water and tomalley will  come out. Tomalley is the green stuff that some people consider a delicacy and I consider gross. It's how you're raised. Due to the high mercury levels in the ocean... yeesh. I just wouldn't recommend it. Some lobsters will have orange roe. I discard those too. Set the carapace aside but do not throw it away so help you god I will stab you with a fork if I see that in the discard pile.

Take hold of the flippers on the end of the tail and bend them back-- they will snap off easily. Again, set them aside. And then, slipping your finger in the opening that the flippers made (this is almost obscene, if you have as dirty a mind as I do) push the tail meat out. Conveniently, there is a flap of meat that covers what is colloquially called the "vein" which is actually the intestine; pull this meat back and toss it in your butter, then pull the "vein" out to discard. Nom on the meat as you go or save it all for the end like me, I don't care. Moving on to those tail flippers: there is meat in there. As you can see in the above picture, there are two fins jointed together, a broad, individual fin, and then two more fins jointed together. If you gently pry apart the joints, there is a nice little lump of meat, and a paper-thin bit of meat from the flipper. Yum!

3. There is a TON of meat in the carapace

Whenever anyone throws away a carapace in my presence, I grab it. It's worth the work because there is a ton of beautiful lump meat in there.

Cthulhu shall avenge meeeeee
Peel the outer carapace off and you have the interior cartilage (see above image) which, if you can split it perfectly in half (most of the time I can't) is ridiculously easy to pick. Each hollow corresponds with a leg, pretty much, and it takes some work getting your finger in to push the meat out so you get chunks and not flakes. These are tasty bits. Just be careful not to go up to the mouth parts and brain area (lobsters don't have brains, they have... ganglia I think?) because those aren't good eats. Neither are the lungs. Those are gross.

Once I'm done with a lobster there's not a scrap of meat or a stick of butter left. I get very "in the zone" when picking bodies. Kind of like picking a chicken.

Oh yeah, and before you start your feast, make sure you have a roll of paper towels on the table, because even with steamed lobster, you're going to have juice everywhere. Places you don't even want to discuss. And as delicious as it tastes, it doesn't smell the greatest, so lemons and rubbing your hands on stainless steel will help prevent you from smelling like a fishwife for a week. Enjoy your lobster dinner!


  1. I have to say, you have turned me off lobster even more. :P I never ate shell fish as a kid and now that I'm an adult... I'm game enough to eat prawns and I've tried mussels, but lobsters scare me still. Great advice to real lobster eaters though. Very cool photos! :)

    1. Oh it's delicious, just time consuming. I prefer softshell lobsters because I hurt myself less on them, and they're much, much easier to pull apart. But I agree, they can be intimidating. A lot of people find it a lot of work for little payoff so they pay more for already shelled lobster (people charge A LOT for that).