What Size Lobster to Buy? Pick the Right Size Lobster

We often get asked, “what is a good sized lobster to buy?” We ship lobsters from from 1 ¼ lb. each, (the size you might find at a Boston seafood restaurant), all the way up to 10-12 lb. monster lobster. What size lobster to order will depend on your budget, your menu, the occasion and the size of your event.

Sizing Up Maine Lobster: How Live Lobsters are Graded

Maine is famous for the supply of succulent lobsters they produce year after year. This natural resource is protected by a series of laws, rules and regulations that help the state of Maine maintain a healthy and flourishing population of lobster. Sizing and grading lobster also helps the consumer know how much meat they are purchasing. The cost is also determined by the size and grade of the lobster. What are some of these regulations? How are live lobsters from Maine measured and graded? What are the legal limits? Here is a look at how lobsters are sized and graded in the beautiful state of Maine.

Lobster Grading and Sizes
Lobster Grading and Sizes

Live Maine Lobsters vary in size and quality. In Maine, the health and protection of this important species is taken seriously. The regulations all help the consumer know what they are buying. This ensures that you will always get the very best lobster for your money. Protecting the population means that for many more years to come, Maine will continue to provide us with this tasty delicacy! Be sure to order the right size lobster from online seafood purveyor LobsterAnywhere.com.

Measuring Lobster Size

Legal Lobster

Once caught, a lobster’s size is determined using the state of Maine’s double-sided gauge. The carapace or body of each lobster is measured using this gauge. To do so accurately, the length is determined by measuring from the rear of the eye to the rear of the shell or carapace. The minimum legal length is 3 1/4 inches. The maximum is 5 inches. Anything below the minimum or above the maximum is to be immediately returned to the water where they were found. Ignoring these regulations is costly and penalties for each violation and subsequent lobster are steep. Once the length of the lobster had been determined, and it meets the appropriate standards, it can be graded and then sold.

Grading Lobster for Quality

Grading a lobster is a way of determining its value and quality. It enables the consumer to know how much lobster meat and the quality of the meat that they are purchasing.

Measure Lobster Size
Grading Lobster Size

No matter the time of year, lobsters are graded to weed out damaged and weak lobsters. The lower the grade, the softer the shell and less hardier the lobster. Lobsters undergoing molting have softer shells and are generally weaker with lower meat content than a hard-shell lobster.

Soft Shell Lobsters

Soft shell lobsters are not shipped due to their weak and fragile nature. Plus, the meat yield is about 10% less than a good hard-shell lobster. Learn why you will always want to buy hard-shell lobsters.

Hard-shell Greatness: Find out what makes a hard-shell lobster, the best lobster. Difference between soft-shell and hard-shell lobsters.

Hard Shell lobster

Hard shell lobster remains popular due to the quantity and quality of the meat. When cooked, its shell turns bright red to orange color. Its white flesh is firm and dense with a sweet flavor. Hard shell lobsters are the industry standard for quality with a higher ratio of meat to shell which means better value. Typically, the meat only makes up about 20% of the lobster by weight. You’ll want a good hard-shell lobster because it will be full of meat from claws to tail. 

Grade A Lobsters

The best lobsters are Grade A. The highest grade is given to those with hard shells. They have the most meat. The shells are hard because time has passed since the molting of the old shell. These grade A lobsters fetch the highest price.

Grade B Lobsters

The next is grade B. These are generally lobsters that are caught in the summer, their shells are firm or medium hard. The molting process was not very recent, but the hard shell is still forming. The meat in these lobsters are not as robust as in grade A, but they are still delectable!

Finally the next grade is divided into two industrial grades. The first is grade is Market. This means that these lobsters can be sold at local markets and to local customers. The next grade is called Canners. These are low quality lobsters that are cooked for meat at processing plants.

How Much Lobster Meat in a Lobster?

In can be confusing buying lobster and calculating how much lobster per guest. Most of the confusion comes from the differing measurements. Lobster weight by carapace length varies throughout the year since lobsters molt and shed their shells. On average a good hard-shell lobster will yield about 19-22% cooked lobster meat. Soft shell lobsters will yield much less meat per pound than hard shell lobsters. You’ll find soft shell lobsters primarily in the summer months and are not shipped by LobsterAnywhere due to their low meat yield and fragile state.

You can get a good idea of the cost of meat per pound with a simple formula using the price per/lb. of live lobsters multiplied by the number of lobsters needed to make a l lb. of cooked meat.

For a 1 lb. hard-shell lobster, for example it will yield 3.36 oz. of cooked meat (Based on a 21% yield).

To get a pound of meat, divide 16 oz. (1 lb.) by 3.36 oz.
So you’ll will need 4.76 1 lb. lobsters for 1 pound of cooked meat.

Cost Formula:
$ x/lb. (live) x 4.76=$_/lb. meat      

So What is Considered a Serving?

About 4 oz. is considered a typical serving. For example, a good Maine lobster roll will be piled high with about 4 oz. of fresh cooked lobster meat. The chart below shows the meat yield differences between a hard shell and soft shell lobster and the number of lobsters needed to yield a pound of cooked meat.

Lobster Meat Yield
How many lobsters yield a pound lobster lobster meat?

It would require about five 1 lb. live lobsters to make a pound of cooked meat.

How much lobster meat is in a 1.5 lb. lobster?

You will get a little over 6 oz. of cooked lobster meat in a 1 1/2 lb. live lobster.

How Much Lobster to Order

What is the best lobster size for eating? For the true lobster experience each person should crack into his or her own individual lobster. No sharing allowed, unless you order a large jumbo lobster! The larger lobsters not only weigh more but will have a higher proportion of meat. Hence, they will cost more per pound. Sometimes the real big lobsters can be cheaper per pound than Select lobsters.

Lobster Size Chart

Graded lobsters are sold by size and by shell quality. While lobsters are graded by size it is best to buy healthy, stronger lobsters instead of ones that are a specific size.

Live Lobster Sizes

Lobster Name & SizeWeight
Chix 1.0 – 1.25 lb.
Quarters 1.25 – 1.49 lb.
Halves 1.50 – 1.75 lb.
Deuces 2.5-3 lb.
Small Jumbos Over 3.0-4 lb.

Did you Know? It takes about 6-8 years for a lobster to reach a market weight of 1 pound.

Chix or Chicken Lobsters

You might see a “twin” lobster special at some of the New England tourist spots featuring two small lobsters just over a 1 lb. each (the smallest legal size.) We do not ship small lobsters under 1.20 lbs. (called “chix” in the trade); nor do we we ship soft-shell lobsters, known as new shell lobsters— crustaceans that recently shed their shell. It is not worth the work shucking a chicken lobster when you can crack into a bigger one full of meat.

Quarters

If you are throwing a large lobster bake or want to keep cost per person affordable, your best bet is to start with 1 ¼ lb. (550-650g) lobsters, also know as “quarters”. These lobsters are a good size and are usually more plentiful than the larger lobsters. Quarters are also a good choice if you are serving a surf and turf or have plenty of side dishes.

How Much Meat in a Live Lobster? A 1 1/2 pound hard-shell lobster will yield about 1 1/3 cups of cooked meat.

Halves

A 1 ½ lb. (650-775 g) lobster are called halves. These are NOT lobsters cut in half, they are whole, live lobsters! Halves are a large enough lobster for a “Maine” course lobster dinner.

Deuces: Two Pound Lobsters

Going up in size is a 2 lb. (900-1000g) lobster (known as “deuces”). This a nice hefty lobster perfect for a special occasion like a birthday or an anniversary. Select grade lobsters are often in high demand and this is reflected in the price. High end restaurants and steak houses will always get a premium for Selects.

Jumbo Lobsters

Even bigger in size are jumbo lobsters3 lbs. and up. In Maine the giant lobsters are not available because of the maximum catch size limits of 5 inches, as measured by shell length. The penalty for keeping oversized and undersized lobster is a fine of up to $500 for each violation.

Super jumbos are caught by offshore trawlers in the deep waters off Canada, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. They make an impressive gift for your seafood loving friends or business associates. How about a big lobster for Dad for Father’s Day?

Largest Lobster Caught

Are Small Lobsters Better than Big Lobsters?

Which is better, smaller or bigger lobsters? While some lobster aficionados believe the smaller lobsters are sweeter and more tender, we strongly disagree.
Bigger lobsters give you a better yield, and the meat is no tougher than the smaller ones, unless, of course, you overcook them. You’ll get a lot of sweet meat out of a two, three—even a six pound lobster. There will be more meat as a proportion of total weight in a larger hard-shell lobster. In most cases you will pay more for Select and Jumbo lobsters due to the high demand and short supply.

Cooking Your Prized Catch: Learn more about lobster cooking times and techniques.

Are Big Lobsters Tough? One of the biggest misnomers is that big lobsters are apt to be course and tough. Not true at all. You’ll not only get more meat with a good hard-shell jumbo lobster, but the meat will be just as tender if it is cooked properly. Most of the cooking lobster cooking times we find online are much too long. See our lobster cooking times. There is also no taste difference between a male and female lobster; the female will have a bigger tail with roe, and the male will have bigger claws.

Save Money Buying the Right Size Lobster

LobsterAnywhere ships live lobsters from Maine, where product is received daily, then each lobster is selected for vigor and hard-shell excellence. You can pick different size lobsters and mix and match at our online store. For example, if you are planing a special birthday dinner you can surprise the birthday boy or girl with a special jumbo lobster and serve your dinner guests 1 ½ lb. lobsters each.

Our lobsters will not be the lowest price you’ll find online, but they will be superior quality. Simply put, these are the BEST lobsters available, anywhere.

Why Lobster Meat is a Good Deal

If your making lobster rolls or dishes like lobster scampi or lobster mac and cheese you’ll save money buying fresh lobster meat. It takes about 4 ½ pounds of live lobsters to get a pound of meat! In the summer months it will take even more lobsters. If you do not care about presentation, culls (lobsters with only one claw) are a good deal if available.

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