Live Lobster 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— 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.

Live Lobsters Packed and Shipped

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 cooler. Learn more about how lobsters are shipped to you, plus our delivery costs.

Live lobster handling and care

Live Maine lobsters are actually a dark green-brown color.

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

Recycle Lobster Cooler

Recycle Your Seafood Cooler

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

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

Were you lucky enough to receive a special delivery from LobsterAnywhere? Here’s what to do:

  • Refrigerate your lobsters immediately, and keep them cold until you’re ready to cook them (best around 40 degrees F).
  • It’s best to cook your 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 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.

How to Hold Live Lobters

  • If the lobsters are warm to the touch and there is a foul odor, contact the day of delivery. Please see our Happy Cracking Guarantee.
Do NOT store live lobsters in fresh or salt water, your freezer, in plastic bags (lobsters need to breath), or let them sit in melted ice.

How to Hold a Lobster without Getting Pinched!

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. Also, be careful not to let your fingers go below the tail. The under part of the tail shell has some sharp edges as well. Be careful as the lobster may flip its powerful tail.

Only pick up one lobster at 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

DO—Refrigerate me when I arrive.
DO— Cook me as soon as possible, the fresher the better.
DO—Cook me even if I appear motionless. After cooking, my tail should curl under me and my meat should be firm
DO—Pick me up by the body, not the claws or tail.
DON’T—Remove my rubber bands around my claws until after cooking (unless you know what you’re doing!).
DON’T—Put me in fresh or salt water, your freezer, in plastic bags (I need to breathe), or let me sit in melted ice.


First timers should keep the lobster bands on.

My lobsters are not moving or are damaged?

Your lobsters are packed to order, live and kicking and shipped overnight. Since they have traveled a long way they may have tired. (Note that cold temperatures make lobsters sluggish.)  Live lobsters will move very slowly while cold, but come to life once it starts to 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.

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

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

Store Live Lobster Refrigerator

Our lobsters are very hardy and have been know to last up to 36 hours out of sea water, 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 and you’re good to go!

The best way to keep your 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 the 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 instructions below.

Packing and Keeping Lobsters in a Cooler to Go

Pack and surround the lobsters with sea-water 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 gels 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

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 in cold water for 3 minutes, drain, and refrigerate. You can finish cooking them any time up to 48 hours later.

How Long Store Cook Lobster

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

Need Help Cooking Live Lobster?

Checkout our Guide for Cooking Live Lobster at Home.