Handling and Care – How to Store and Keep Lobsters at Home

Learn how to handle and care for live lobsters at home with tips from the lobster experts at LobsterAnywhere.com.

Note our tips for storing lobsters apply mostly to hard-shell lobsters. Although soft-shell lobsters (lobsters that have shed their old shells) can be purchased locally, they are generally weak and fragile and do not store or ship well.

How Do You Store a Lobster?

Refrigerate lobsters immediately, and keep them cold until you’re ready to cook them (best around 40 degrees F). The colder the lobster is, the sluggisher it will become, and the less it will move around. Don’t put them in your freezer or a bathtub or tap water – it will kill them.

Keep lobsters moist with wet newspaper or seaweed that it was packed in. A dry lobster is an unhappy lobster. It’s best to cook lobsters the day they’re delivered. See below if you cannot cook your lobsters right away.

How Long Can You Store Live Lobsters?

While lobster can live out of water for a day or more when stored in the refrigerator between 36 and 45 degrees, for the best result, we suggest that you cook them the day they arrive.

Live Lobsters Packed and Shipped

Store Live Lobster
Contrary to popular belief, live lobsters are dark greenish-black or brown — they will turn the familiar bright red after cooking.

Your hand-selected lobsters are packed live with seawater-soaked newsprint or fresh seaweed to keep them moist and frozen ice gels to keep them cold. Lobsters are shipped in extra thick insulated coolers. Learn more about how lobsters are shipped to you, plus our delivery costs.

DO NOT freeze live seafood: live lobster, mussels, oysters, steamers.

My Maine Lobsters Just Arrived at My Doorstep — Now What?

  • Refrigerate lobsters immediately, and keep them cold until you’re ready to cook them (best around 40 degrees F). The colder the lobster is, the more sluggish it will become and the less it will move around. Don’t put them in your freezer.
  • Keep lobsters moist with wet newspaper or seaweed that it was packed in. A dry lobster is an unhappy lobster.
  • It’s best to cook lobsters the day they’re delivered. See below if you cannot cook your lobsters right away.
  • Store lobsters in a strong paper bag or right in the lobster pot if you were lucky enough to receive one.
  • When transferring lobsters, pick them up by the body, not the claws or the tail. To handle a live lobster, pick it up by the large shell just behind its head (the carapace shell). The lobster may wave its claws, flex its tail, or display only the slightest movement.
  • If the lobsters are warm to the touch and there is a foul odor, contact LobsterAnywhere.com on the day of delivery. Please see our Happy Cracking Guarantee.

Recyle Your Seafood Cooler. The packing container (shipping cooler) and frozen gel packs are completely reusable! Save them for the beach!

How to Hold a Lobster without Getting Pinched!

How to Hold Live Lobters
How to handle lobsters.

Lobsters will come to you with heavy rubber bands on their claws. The fisherman put those on as soon as the lobsters are removed from their traps. These bands are to protect the lobsters from damaging each other.

First things first, keep the bands on the claws! Both claws should be banded. (It’s up for debate of whether to take the bands off the lobster before cooking.)

To hold live lobsters without getting pinched by the claws, hold the lobster by the lower end of the bigger body shell (called the carapace) while letting the lobster head and claws hang down.

Be careful not to let your fingers go below the tail.

The shell on the underside of the tail has some sharp edges and may cut you if the lobster flips its tail as if it were swimming. That’s right; lobsters swim backwards by flipping that powerful tail. You have probably heard the old adage, “crabs crawl sideways, and lobsters swim back.”

Only pick up one lobster at a time. Follow the rule: one hand, one lobster. Do not attempt to pick up several lobsters at a time. Also, set lobsters down with care. Do not drop or toss them, as you can easily damage them.

Lobster Rules – Dos and Don’ts of Handling Live Lobsters

Do Not Store Live Lobsters Fresh Water
Lobsters cannot survive in fresh or warm water.

DO — Refrigerate your lobster after it’s dropped off.
DO — Cook your lobster as soon as possible; the fresher, the better.
DO — Cook your lobster even if I appear motionless. After cooking, my tail should curl under me, and my meat should be firm.
DO — Pick your lobster up by the body, not the claws or tail.

DON’T — Remove the rubber bands around their claws until after cooking (unless you know what you’re doing!).
DON’T — Put your lobster in fresh or salt water, in your freezer, in plastic bags (I need to breathe), or let me sit in melted ice.
DON’T — Put lobsters in your aquarium or see if he can swim in the pool. Seriously!

Lobster-Bands
First timers should keep the lobster bands on even while cooking.

How Powerful Are Lobster’s Claws?

Lobster claws are powerful in the grasping direction. They can cut your finger if you are not careful. The claw bands will protect you and also prevent lobsters from injuring themselves or other lobsters. Although the claws are strong in the grasping position, they are weak in the opposite direction. We suggest leaving the bands on the claws until after it is fully cooked.

How Do You Hold a Lobster Without Getting Pinched?

Hold the live lobster by the lower end of the bigger body shell (called the carapace) while allowing the lobster’s head and claws to hang down. Be careful not to let your fingers go below the tail. The underpart of the tail can have some sharp edges and will sometimes flip its powerful tail.

When Should I Cut the Rubber Band from Lobster Claws?

The best time to cut your rubber band is after the Lobster is already cooked. If you do it too soon, you might get pinched!

What Should I Do If My Lobsters Aren’t Moving or Are Damaged?

Lobsters are packed to order, live and kicking, and shipped overnight. Since they have traveled a long way, they may be tired. (Note that cold temperatures make lobsters sluggish.) Live lobsters will move very slowly while cold but come to life once they warm up on your kitchen counter.

Cook lobsters even if they appear motionless. This is also true if a lobster is damaged or drops a claw in transport.

In the unlikely event that a lobster has died, it is usually acceptable to cook if it is still cold to the touch and if the other lobsters in the shipment are still alive. Cook them up! The tail of the lobster is the best indicator of its freshness: it should curl under the body and be somewhat firm, not watery or mushy when cooked.

If my Maine Lobster dies on the way home from the supermarket, is it ok to cook? If not, why?

The answer to your question is probably “yes,” unless the supermarket is in Belfast, ME, and your home is in Berkeley, CA! Lobster meat does not take long to spoil after the lobster dies. As long as there isn’t an unusual odor, cooking and eating the lobster is probably ok.

However, there are a couple of things to watch for to be certain. If the Lobster is safe, the tail will be curled tightly after cooking, and the meat inside will be firm. Don’t take the risk if either of these conditions is absent!

How long Can You Store and Keep Live Lobsters Before Cooking?

Store Live Lobster Refrigerator
Keep live lobsters in your refrigerator, not the freezer.

Once your live lobster arrives, how long can you keep it before it needs to be cooked? What if you cannot cook your lobsters on the same day?

Our lobsters are very hardy and have been known to last up to 36 hours out of seawater, but we cannot guarantee it. We always suggest cooking your lobsters the day they are delivered.

You can store live lobsters overnight, one night, in your refrigerator. Keep them upright, moist, and cold; you’re good to go!

The best way to keep lobsters alive for up to 24 hours is to store them with damp newspaper (or fresh seaweed) in the coldest part of the refrigerator (usually the lowest shelf at the back or in the meat keeper). Keep lobsters in a loose paper bag or in a shipping container. Don’t even think about the freezer!

Periodically check up on your lobsters; if the lobsters are still moving, you may delay cooking, but if they begin to show little or no movement, they need to go right into the pot! Follow the instructions below.

Packing and Keeping Lobsters in a Cooler to Go

Pack and surround the lobsters with seawater soaked newsprint and/or seaweed and frozen gel packs. Try to pack for a snug fit, as you do not want the lobsters smashing up against each other in transport.

If you do not have frozen gel packs, you can use bags of ice. Double bag the ice to keep it from leaking. Never let live lobsters rest in fresh water from melted ice, as this can cause osmotic shock, suffocation, and death.

Cooking Lobsters and Eating Later

Cook Live lobsters in  pot
Use a big pot with plenty of space to cook live lobsters.

If, for some reason, you find that you cannot cook the lobsters for more than a day, you may partially cook them. After you have par-cooked them, submerge them in cold water for 3 minutes, drain, and refrigerate. You can finish cooking them any time up to 48 hours later.

Alternatively, you can cook lobsters and pick the meat. Cooked lobster meat may be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2-3 days or months if frozen.

Break Down Fresh Killed Lobster Before Storing

Breaking down a fresh, dispatched lobster before storing it in the refrigerator is important. Separate the tail and claws from the body to prevent the tail from becoming mushy. As Cooks Science notes, the digestive enzymes found in the lobster’s body (hepatopancreas) will break down the proteins in the tail, turning it mushy.

Check out our Guide for Cooking Live Lobster at Home.

How Long Can Lobster Live Out of Water?

Live lobsters can survive for 24-36 hours outside of water if kept cool, moist, and well-ventilated. Store them in the coldest part of the fridge in a ventilated container, and avoid freshwater, ice, stagnant water, or airtight containers.

You can also store them in a cooler with insulation, ice packs, and damp newspaper or seaweed. Check their condition regularly and cook or consume them promptly if any signs of distress or illness are observed.

What’s the Best Way to Store Fresh Lobster?

To store fresh lobsters:

  • Handle them with care and transfer them to a ventilated container.
  • Keep them cool between 32°F and 40°F by placing the container in the coldest part of your fridge.
  • Add moisture while maintaining proper ventilation by slightly dampening a clean cloth or paper towel.

Do not submerge live lobsters in water during storage. Remove any ice that forms inside the container promptly. Consume them as soon as possible after purchase. Live lobsters can generally be stored safely for up to 24-48 hours.

How long will live lobsters keep in a cooler?

A styrofoam or insulated cooler works well for transportating live lobster as well as storing them and maintaining their freshness. Keep lobsters at a temperature range between 34°F (1°C) and 38°F (3°C), and avoid freezing temperatures. Use ice packs or bagged ice, damp newspaper, or seaweed to maintain the desired temperature range.

If you are using ice, be sure to double bag to prevent the lobsters from coming in direct contact with fresh water. Live lobsters cannot be stored in fresh water or enclosed in plastic bags.

Insulation is also crucial, so get a cooler with sturdy walls and adequate insulation thickness. Choose healthy, hardshell lobsters free from visible signs of damage.

Cover them with damp towels or wet newspaper and store them for up to 24-36 hours. Remember to monitor their condition regularly and cook promptly if you notice any weak lobsters.

How Long Can I Keep Live Lobster in the Fridge?

To store live lobsters in the refrigerator:

  • Use the refrigerator and keep them as cold as possible in a container with ventilation.
  • Consume within 24-48 hours and set the fridge temperature between 34°F-38°F.
  • Place a damp cloth or seaweed to enhance their lifespan and avoid strong-smelling foods.

Check regularly for sluggish lobsters; discard them if necessary. Steam live lobsters for a classic Maine dinner experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Can You Store a Cooked Lobster?

You may keep them refrigerated for up to two days. It’s best to partially cook lobsters to reheat them.

Maine Lobsters are red when they’re cooked; what color are they in the ocean?

The shade varies a little from lobster to lobster, but they are generally a dark blue-green in the wild.

Can I store live lobsters in my bathtub until I am ready cook them?

Maine lobsters are harvested from the icy, salt water of the North Atlantic ocean. Storing them in a bathtub of fresh water will kill the lobster. Shelfish should be kept chilled and stored in the refrigerator. Lobsters should be live when they are cooked.

Conclusion: How To Safely Store Lobster At Home

Mastering the art of storing and keeping lobsters at home is an excellent way to ensure that you savor the rich taste of these crustaceans to the fullest. To maintain their freshness until you’re ready to indulge in your homemade lobster feast, you need to adhere to the right temperature and moisture conditions and handle them properly.

We recommend keeping them cool, moist, and alive for the best results and avoiding freezing. With the right approach, your next lobster meal will be a gastronomic masterpiece right in your own kitchen.

Comments

  1. I used to dive for Live lobster all the time in the Azores as well as in Italy and in the Mediterain. I always put them in the freezer until I was ready to eat what I couldn’t after a dive no matter where in the world I ventured. The meat did not taste as fresh although very good. I also buy my Live Lobster when I go in August to the Lobster Festival and put them on dry ice with brown packing paper between them. I have to drive back to Wisconsin and then I put them in an air sealed pack and in the freezer for when I want to eat them and never had a problem. They were still delicious. This might be good for people traveling through your area?

    1. Your diving and catching warm water lobsters (Rock lobster or spiny lobster.) In New England, it’s cold-water Maine lobster (Homarus americanus). Dry ice would kill a live Maine lobster instantly. We actually ship them with frozen gel packs to keep them cold, not frozen so they are fresh right before you cook them. But you dry ice is a good way to keep things frozen solid at -109 degrees. This is what we ship our frozen, raw lobster tails and meat with. Thanks for visiting!

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