Ever find yourself staring in awe at an overcrowded lobster tank in a grocery store with no idea how to choose the perfect one? Are you clueless about what to do with it upon your return home? We recently caught up with Luke Holden, President of Luke’s Lobster, home to New York’s best lobster roll. In honor of National Lobster Day today, June 15, we asked him for tips on buying supermarket lobsters, and how to best preserve them after purchase (and before the big finale). While we had already learned to not be tempted to remove the rubber bands on their claws, we soon found out about their cannibalistic tendencies, and discovered the simplest way to cook them. Happy lobster buying!
8 Lobster Buying Tips
- There are two types of lobsters
There’s hard-shell and soft-shell lobsters. It’s just a function of whether the lobsters have recently shed or not. When the lobster is a little bit softer, that corresponds to the soft shell. The meat in those shells is a little bit sweeter and more enjoyable to eat. At the same time, they’re not as hearty, so they don’t travel as well as hard-shell lobsters. But hard-shell lobster meat can be a bit tougher and a little bit fishier.
- Sneak a peak at the underbody
If you look at the underbody of the lobster – particularly the claws – they’re a vibrant red. On a new shell, the claws will be clean. On an old shell, they’ll have scrapes on them from when they’ve banged against rocks over the course of the year. So if they’ve recently shed, it’ll be a pretty clean shell without very many scrapes on it.
- You don’t need a good nose to find a good lobster
Smell is not an issue. They should not emit any odor when they are alive.
- Be sure to enjoy it before it enjoys itself!
The lobsters start to “eat themselves” [consume their own nutrients, which is essentially the flavor in the meat] as soon as they get out of the water.
- So, a lobster is like a fat cow. Well, sort of
It’s kind of like a fat cow. If you stop feeding it, it’ll start to eat its fat storage as a means of survival. Same thing with a lobster: it’ll start to use its excess protein when it’s in an environment where it can’t feed. So that’s why it’s best to eat it right when it comes out of the ocean.
- Size matters…antennae size that is
A secret to buying at a grocery store – they’ll eat each other’s antennae. If you look into a holding tank at a grocery store, a lot of times you can tell if a lobster has been there for a long time because their antennae have been nibbled down right down to the base. You want to find lobsters that have very long antennae.
- Location, location, location
If you‘re buying lobster from a grocery store that’s super close to the source, then typically the product will be a little bit fresher, but if you’re buying Canadian or Maine lobster down in Florida, it’s not going to matter where you’re buying it from. It’ll also depend on the time of year: it’ll be cheaper to get a Canadian lobster in the early and end part of the year and more affordable to get a Maine lobster in the middle part of the year, probably from June into September or October.
- Steaming equals sweetness
Steaming is better than boiling. If you put an inch of water in a pot and steam the lobster rather than boil it, I think the meat comes out a little bit sweeter, and you tend to retain a little bit more flavor.
Check out these lobster recipes on Food Republic: