What is the best lobster to eat?
Lobster is one of the few meal choices that invites you to choose your own victim. While there are some restaurants in the Midwest 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.
What is the best way to cook a lobster?
How to cook a lobster in the most humane manner has been a concern of guilt-ridden chefs for generations. In order to put the matter to a rest scientifically, one researcher instructed his graduate students to boil lobsters after having subjected them to various relaxation techniques. The students determined which method of dispatching them was the kindest by counting the number of tails flicks heard in the kettle before each lobster succumbed to the boiling water. They tried hyponotizing the subjects (rubbing their backs until they stood on their heads), soaking them in fresh water, heating them slowly from room temperature to boiling, and other accepted strategies. They found that putting them in the fridge before cooking to numb them up, (as happens naturally in winter), resulted in the lowest number of tail twitches. So, according to modern science, a few minutes in the freezer means less agony in the kettle.
The most common way to cook lobster is to steam it in sea water (or salted water) for 10-15 minutes.
How to eat lobster?
What better place to discuss lobster anatomy than at the dinner table?
The first thing to do when your cooked lobster arrives is turn it over and announce whether it is a male or a female. How can you tell? Most people start by breaking off the legs. Holding the lobster by the back, gently pull off the legs with a twisting motion. Don't throw these away: there are plenty of delicious morsels inside!
Next, take off the claws, which are also called chelipeds. Tear them off at the first joint, again with a gentle twisting motion, and note that the crusher claw usually is bigger than the tearing claw.
Gently remove the loose part of the claw. Again, check for especially tasty morsels in small parts!
Using a nutcracker, break off the tip of the large section of claw, revealing the meat.
With your forefinger, push the meat from the tip of the claw out the larger open end. Notice the mouth parts, antennae, antennules, and rostrum or beak, all of which are inedible.
Grasp the tail portion with one hand, and the back with the other hand. Twist to separate the two sections.
After that, turn to end of the tail which has small flippers, or telsons, at the base. These provide tasty if miniscule chunks of meat to those who don't mind a little extra work.
Arguably, the best part of the lobster (the debate rages between tail lovers and claw lovers) is the tail meat. Then insert your fingers into the telson end to push the tail meat out intact through the larger opening.
Peel off the top of the tail to reveal the digestive tract, which should be removed before eating the rest of the tail meat.
Intrepid diners who explore further find small chunks of meat inside the carapace, the hard shell or body of the lobster.
They may also encounter the gills, the circulation system, and green "tomalley"(the digestive gland) and in a female lobster, red "coral" or "roe" (the unfertilized eggs). Hard-core lobster lovers eat the latter two.
What's the green stuff?
It's the lobster's liver or more accurately, its digestive system. Although many people like to eat the "tomalley" it probably isn't a good idea because this is where pollution in the lobster's own meal choices would become concentrated in the lobster's body.
What's the red stuff?
It's the roe, the unfertilized eggs of the female. Lobster eggs were once considered a delicacy, like caviar. The roe is also called "coral" because of its bright red color.
What is the nutritional value of lobster?
Nutrition studies show that 3 1/2 ounces of lobster meat (without the butter) contains only 90 calories, compared to 163 calories for the same amount of chicken and 280 calories for sirloin steak. Lobster also contains omega-3 fatty acids, the "good " cholesterol that seems to reduce hardening of the arteries and decrease the risk of heart attacks.
Can you eat lobster when there is a shellfish ban?
Yes. Lobsters, unlike mussels, oysters, and clams, are not "filter feeders." Filter feeders pump sea water, and any plankton or pollution it carries, through their bodies. Any toxins in the water will be concentrated in their flesh.
Meat eaters like lobsters, crabs, and fish do not filter plankton from sea water, so they are safe to eat during an outbreak of red tide.