Lobster

Caught off the northern Atlantic coast, Maine lobsters are known for their heavy front claws, which are full of succulent, snow white meat.
See also shellfish.

This king of the crustacean family has a jointed body and limbs covered with a hard shell. The edible sweet flesh is found in the claws, knuckles and tail.

Like fowl, male lobsters are known as cocks and females as hens. Though whole lobsters are best simply boiled or broiled, the meat may also be steamed, baked or grilled into a number of classic recipes like Lobster Newburg or Lobster Thermidor.

History

Lobster was once so plentiful it was used for fish bait. It didn't make its popular (and pricey) presence at the dinner table until the end of the 19th century.

Varieties

Maine
Also called American lobster, this is the most popular variety in the United States. Maine lobsters have five pairs of legs, including a set of large, heavy front claws that contain a good amount of meat. They are found off the Atlantic coast in Canada and the northern U.S.

Spiny
Also called rock lobster, langouste and sea crayfish, this variety's shell is covered with sharp spines and long antennae. With 10 legs of about the same size and no claws, most of the meat comes from the tail. Firmer and less sweet than Maine lobsters, spiny lobsters are found in waters off Florida, Southern California, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Sizes

Lobsters are categorized into the following sizes:

Jumbo—over 2½ pounds
Large (Select)—1½ to 2½ pounds
Quarters—1¼ to 1½ pounds
Eighths—1 1/8 to 1¼ pounds
Chicken—about 1 pound

Buying Tips

Live lobsters: Choose lobsters that are active—when picked up the tail should curl under the body. Also be sure to ask your retailer when the lobsters were caught. Fresh-caught ones will be much more succulent than those that have been sitting at the market for a week or more.

Cooked lobsters: Whole lobsters should have curled tails (a sign that they were alive when cooked). The meat should be white and sweet-smelling.

Frozen tails:
Make sure the package is in tact, with no signs of frost. The meat should be free of dry spots.

Storage Tips

Live lobsters should be bought the same day they're to be cooked. Keep them wrapped in a wet cloth and stored on a bed of ice in the refrigerator for no more than a few hours.

Preparation Tips

Lobsters must be cooked alive or killed immediately before cooking (which is considered more humane). To do this, chill the lobster in the refrigerator for several hours, which makes the lobster less sensitive. Then kill it by either splitting in lengthwise across the back or by plunging a knife tip behind the head in the middle of the back.

Cooking Tips

• Lobster is done when the shell turns vivid red and the meat turns opaque.

• To keep lobster tails from curling, insert a skewer lengthwise through the mid
by BigOven editorial team
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