There are many lobster imitators that can sneak onto your plate if you aren’t careful. Cheap lobster is used to scam home chefs into buying defective products or imitation lobster dishes. It is vital for any seafood shopper to know the difference.
When purchasing any kind of lobster, there are many ways to identify if you’re getting a good deal. We’ll show you exactly what to look for… and what to avoid.
Here you will learn…
- 4 essential elements of a fresh, delicious lobster
- How to avoid buying fake lobster—including in beloved seafood restaurants
- How to tell if your lobster has gone bad (gross!)
Let’s get crackin’.
Know the Basics: How To Spot Quality Lobster
Good quality lobster is easy to spot when you know what to look for. When shopping for lobsters you generally want to look at the species, the liveliness of the lobster, the size, and if the lobster is hard or soft-shelled.
- Species: Generally there will be two kinds of lobsters on the market, the warm-watered spiny lobster and the cold-watered Maine lobster. Both have their own merits but we recommend Maine lobster since they make the best cuisine!
- Liveliness: Don’t buy dead lobster! Lobsters should be alive or iced to prevent overcooking when you buy them fresh. If they have been dead for more than an hour, it’s not worth it.
- Size: The size of the lobster can determine the price you pay and the amount of meat you are getting. Larger lobsters are harder to cook evenly but smaller lobsters have little payout. Usually, the goal is to aim between the 1½ lb- 4 lb mark.
- Shell type: The hard v.s. soft-shell debate is ongoing and won’t stop anytime soon. The type of shell doesn’t impact the flavor but does determine the amount of meat you get. Hard-shelled lobster is the most popular with chefs because soft-shelled lobsters are hard to transport without damage and have less meat than their firmer counterparts.
When it comes to pricing, lobsters can be a bit expensive—they are a precious delicacy, after all. Depending on the size of the lobster, the average price can be between $15-$40 each.
If you’re considering cheap lobster that feels too good to be true, you might be getting a bad deal. Look for a few key factors as to why this might happen. Warm-water lobsters are usually sold at a lower cost since the tail is the only edible part of the lobster.
Cheap lobster tails could also be the result of glazing, which happens when sellers inject water between the shell and the meat prior to freezing. If the lobster weighs a good amount but is cheaper than average it might be the effect of glazing. The last option is discounted lobster. This could be for a variety of things but often means the lobster is nearing its expiration date. Be sure you don’t fall for these tactics!
Don’t Fall for Langostino Lobster (aka, Fake Lobster)
Be careful the next time you go to your local seafood restaurant and order the lobster because you might get langostino instead. Langostino is Spanish for ‘little lobster’ and refers to various small species like shrimp, prawns, or even crawfish. It has a sweet, delicate flavor that is similar to lobster but the texture is more shrimp-like.
Many restaurants have gotten away with using langostino instead of lobster. Inside Edition did an investigative report that found many restaurants were advertising lobster dishes that used langostino instead. These restaurants ranged from high-class chains like Red Lobster and Nathan’s to local seafood joints.
These restaurants claim to use langostino because it is cheaper than lobster and more attainable in smaller portions. Though the taste is similar to lobster in dishes where a rich, buttery lobster flavor isn’t necessary, it is not the true lobster that customers expect.
The next time you want to order lobster make sure you’re getting the real thing by looking for these on the menu:
- Specific Lobster Species — If they specify what kind of lobster is being used in the dish, there is a good chance it’s real. You want to look for the words “Maine Lobster”.
- Simply Prepared Dishes — The simpler a lobster dish is prepared, the less chance you will get fake lobster. You cannot fake a big, juicy grilled lobster tail, but you can fake a lobster ravioli with only tiny bits of langostino.
- Pricing — The pricing is a dead giveaway for most lobster dishes. If it seems too cheap to be true then it probably is.
It can be hard to tell if your entree uses langostino versus real lobster, but with these tricks you can spot those phoney foods from a mile away. You deserve the best lobster so don’t waste time and money on fake lobster.
Imitation Lobster: Cheap Lobster That’s Actually Fish
You get a cheap lobster roll that tastes amazing, but it might be imitation lobster meat. Imitation lobster is real seafood, just not real lobster. Unlike langostino, imitation lobster uses a mixture of fish to recreate the taste of lobster.
This product is also used as a lobster alternative in restaurants and is sometimes mixed with langostino to buff up the mix. Mostly made up of Alaskan pollock, whiting, and haddock fish, this mix of seafood is commonly used in budget lobster rolls and seafood bakes.
The backstory for imitation lobster starts with a process called Surimi, which runs processed fish through a machine and adds various texturizing ingredients, flavorings, and colorants. This is also how imitation crab is made.
While it tastes similar to lobster, no one wants to be tricked into buying it when they believe they are getting actual lobster. Usually, the price of the dish is a good indicator if the product is real lobster. The cheaper the product, the less likely you’re getting what you pay for.
Lobster Gone Bad: How To Tell and What You Can Do To Avoid It
Nobody likes being served spoiled food and eating a bad lobster can make people really sick.
Cooked lobster is good for about three to four days when kept in the fridge or for a few weeks in the freezer. If you are trying to decide if your lobster is still edible, look for any of the four common signs to tell if your leftover lobster has gone bad: foul odor, discolored meat, cottage cheese-like texture, or slimy to the touch.
If your cooked lobster has any one of these signs, it’s best to throw it out to avoid the risk of food poisoning.
Sometimes the lobster can be spoiled before being cooked and give an unsatisfactory result. Mushy lobster and slimy lobster are common when cooking live lobsters but can be avoided if you know what to look for.
It can be really frustrating when you are looking forward to a juicy lobster and get a sad mush of meat instead. Mushy lobster is a bit more complicated to diagnose than other conditions and happens to even the most experienced chefs.
There are a few speculations as to why lobster meat becomes “mushy” and almost mashed potato-like.
Some chefs suspect that freezing, thawing, then refreezing could be a big factor in why meat becomes mushy. Another reason could be the lobster was recently dead or almost dead and released enzymes that start the decomposition process prior to being cooked.
There could even be a link to how long the lobsters are in captivity before being cooked since the longer lobsters are in captivity the more mass they lose.
In short, it can be hard to tell when lobster might become mushy during the cooking process.
The only advice we can give is to buy lobster alive or as close to capture as possible to avoid mushy meat. If you use frozen tails, avoid refreezing them after thawing to keep the tails quality, and make sure they were frozen using the higher-quality High-Pressure Process (HPP) for quick-freezing lobster.
Slimy lobster happens when an already dead lobster is cooked. Lobsters, like many crustaceans, immediately start to decompose after they die, so it’s vital to cook the meat as soon as possible!
There are a few ways to avoid this:
- Keep the lobster alive until you are ready to cook
- If it does die before it’s cooked, immediately cook the lobster or remove the tail and freeze after proper cleaning
- Avoid leaving the meat at room temperature for too long, as warm air accelerates decomposition
Just remember that the sooner you cook a lobster once it dies, the better chance of non-slimy meat.
Avoid Cheap Lobster, Do This Instead
Buying quality lobster can be intimidating. Supermarkets don’t supply the fresh quality lobsters that customers want and often result in mediocre dishes. Shopping for lobster online can be tricky because you don’t know what to look for when you can’t see the product.
Look for sources that provide Maine lobster directly from the lobstermen themselves. This allows for less time in captivity and freshly caught lobster to make its way to your table.
Freshness is also a priority, so you want to keep an eye out for shops that provide overnight shipping. Look for the weight chart to see the sizes of the lobster you’re getting. Oftentimes the chart will also tell you the pricing for each size.
Pro tip: Big claws are a good sign the product has a lot of good meat.
Luckily for you, LobsterAnywhere does all of these things and more!
At LobsterAnywhere, we believe that everyone should receive the best quality lobster with no hassle. We provide live lobsters, fresh lobster tails, and other seafood delicacies shipped anywhere in the United States. We will ship frozen lobster tails and claws directly packed in dry ice keeping it perfectly cold for your dinner at home.
All our lobsters are:
- Sustainably wild-caught
- 100% real lobster with no added preservatives
- Shipped overnight to ensure maximum freshness
Avoid the risk of getting bad lobster when you shop with LobsterAnywhere.