Eating lobster, cracking the shell and searching for the sweet, prized meat is a New England ritual. Eating live Maine lobster can be a little intimidating. Don’t worry; you’ll learn how to eat Maine lobster like a native in no time!
Cracking Into a Cooked Lobster
Taking a lobster apart before eating is an art. It involves protecting your clothing with a lobster bib and napkins, and taking the time to crack the lobster open, and remove the meat from the tail, claws, and legs. This whole process can be messy, and it may leave you behind others dining with you who are not so brave. You may have to adjust to the idea of finishing last.
You will notice the claws of your Maine lobster have been banded. These should be removed before the lobster is eaten, but not before the live lobster is steamed. The bands are placed on the lobster for two reasons: The first is to protect whoever handles the lobster from the powerful claws. The second is to protect the lobster from other lobsters.
Lobsters are traditionally cooked by steam or boiling water. Some folks believe putting a bottle of beer or other special ingredients in the water makes for a tastier lobster. For cooking instructions be sure to review our seafood cooking and handling guide.
What Parts of the Lobster Are Edible
Lobster meat is found within the large front claws, knuckles, legs, tail, fin and within the body.
The tail offers the most meat and is saved until last by many lobster lovers. Remember, the smaller the piece of meat, the sweeter, so it is often worth the extra time to find the little morsels! The Knuckle meat tastes extra sweet and is a natural for lobster salad. Claw meat can be used in salads, too.
Is any part of the lobster poisonous? You can eat almost every single part of the lobster depending on who you ask. The FDA recommends you stay away from the Tomalley ( green stuff) and we recommend you take out the digestive tract, in the tail. It will be a black line, which looks like a vein.
Save the Lobster Shells
And don’t throw out the shells. They can be used as a flavoring for soup or to make lobster bisque. Note: The greenish-gray “stuff” inside the lobster’s head is called the tomalley. Some people consider it a delicacy. The “red stuff” that you sometimes see inside a lobster are immature, unfertilized eggs. Although red after cooking, before they are cooked, the eggs are black. The eggs are also called spawn, roe, or coral. It’s caviar to lobster enthusiasts.
Get Ready. Crack. Eat Lobster!
It’s easiest to remove the meat while the lobster is still warm. Eating lobster with fresh lemon juice or melted butter is the usual way to enjoy a meal. There are many recipes that can be added to a lobster dinner, and we recommend that you browse through some of our lobster recipes on our site for ideas.
Tip for Getting the Meat Out: If you are at home, use a rolling pin to push the meat out of the legs.
Now take the plunge and don a lobster bib and get ready to crack, eat and enjoy one of the most wonderful food experiences ever. Tools to use:
- Nutcracker or kitchen shears
- Seafood fork or small fork
- Lobster bibs
- Plenty of wet naps
- Large bowl to discard the shells
- Newspaper to cover table or towel to work over
- Small bowl of melted butter.
- Chefs Knife
- Your Bare Hands!
Be sure you allow the lobster to cool down before handling and before you get cracking!
Crack open the lobster by piercing the underside with a sharp knife or crack with lobster crackers. Then, gently pull apart the lobster. Alternatively you could crack the lobster first and then bake or grill the meat with butter and spices.
Step by Step Instructions for How to Eat Lobster
Time needed: 10 minutes.
How to Remove the Meat from a Cooked Lobster
- Attack the Lobster Claws First
Grasp the body (carapace) and twist off each of the front “arms” and remove the claws and connected knuckles.
- Remove the Knuckle Meat
Twist off the knuckles, the two small jointed sections connected to the claws, and remove. With a nutcracker or back of a chef’s knife, break the knuckles at the joint into two pieces. Push out meat out with the handle of a fork or pick.
- Crack Open the Claws
Wiggle the smaller hinged pincher of each claw and gently pull out. If the small piece of meat is stuck in the claw, remove with a pick. Crack the widest sides of the claws with a nutcracker and pull out the claw meat in one whole piece.
- Separate the Tail
Hold the lobster body in one hand and the tail in the other hand and twist the tail away from the body and remove. Bend the tail fins off the tail piece. Use a seafood fork to pick the small pieces of meat from the fin.
- Crack the Tail
Place the tail on its side on a flat surface, like a cutting board or cooking sheet (to collect the juices.) Press the tail firmly down until you hear a crack.
- Remove the Tail in One Piece.
Using a fork or your finger, force the tail meat up and out of the other end. You can also hold the tale with your thumbs on the side of the flippers facing you and tear open as if you were prying open a book.
You may find a green substance on the tail. It’s the lobster tomalley and can be simply rinsed off with cold water.
Beneath the outer top layer of meat is the digestive tract which should not be eaten. Sometimes the vein is very prominent, other times you’ll hardly notice it. Make a shallow cut along the center top of the tail and then pull out the vein with the tip of your knife or rinse out with cold water.
- Break the tail flippers from the tail
Bend the tails fins up and break them off. Use a small fork to pick the small pieces of meat from fin.
- Suck out the Leg Meat
There is some delicate meat in the smaller claws or legs. Pull and twist of the legs from the body and suck out the meat. You can also use a rolling pin to push the meat out of the legs.
- Unhinge the body shell from the body
There is meat in the body at the points where each joint was attached. You can use a fork to pull out the small pockets of meat.