Taking a crack at lobster

August 13 • 2012

How to eat a lobster<br><a href=http://www.emilieinc.com target=_blank>emilie inc. photography</a>

Boiled, baked, steamed or grilled, lobster meat has a rich, straight-from-the-sea flavor that only tastes better dunked in the customary ramekin of melted butter. But while ordering a lobster is easy — except for deciding whether to have just one — actually eating it can prove a bit more difficult. To get to that tender meat inside the tail, claws and legs, some tools and little know-how are required.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to crack a lobster’s shell and get to the goods, lest you find yourself hungry and confused at the rehearsal dinner:

  1. Decide whether you think a bib is a funny and practical accessory or just downright embarrassing. Restaurants often provide plastic bibs with a lobster dinner, and for good reason. Lobsters live in the water, and there’s plenty of it inside them. If some infants are joining you the table, at least you’ll have some company.
  2. Remove the elastics from the claws — these are necessary when the lobster is alive and pinching, but you’re safe by the time it’s on your plate. Twist the claws off from the body at the joints.
  3. Use a lobster cracker or nut cracker to, you guessed it, crack open the claws’ shells. First, pull the two pincers apart and pull out the meat in the smaller pincer with a pick. Then crack open the tip of the larger claw and push the meat out the bottom with your finger or a fork. If you’re eating a softshell lobster, which are available from July to October, you may be able to do this with your hands. Remove the meat and enjoy. Repeat with the second claw. Don’t forget the meat in the joint as well.
  4. Separate the tail from the body by flipping the lobster on its back and cracking it apart in a twisting motion. (You will see a soft green substance inside the body, more on that in step 7.) Remove the petal-shaped flippers on the end and extract the meat with a pick or small fork.
  5. Insert a fork or your finger into the small end of the tail and push to remove the meat in one piece. You’ll see a black vein running the length of the tail. This is not part of a lobster’s “delicacy” appeal. Discard it. Eat the meat, which is slightly tougher than the claw meat. Declare yourself a “claw person” or a “tail person.”
  6. You’ve enjoyed the bulk of what the lobster has to offer by this point. The rest involves some fine motor skills. If you’re full, pass the remains of your dinner off to a more ambitious guest guilt-free.
  7. Back to that green substance in the body. It’s called “tomalley” and it’s part of the lobster’s digestive system. Hard-core lobster fans will eat it, but be mindful that the FDA has warned about toxins in tomalley in years past. You’ll also find small bits of meat throughout the body.
  8. A note about another substance you might find, if you’ve got a female lobster: eggs. The red “roe” is edible, and is considered a special delicacy, if you’re game.
  9. Twist the legs off from the body. Put aside any concerns about being delicate and bite down on each leg, squeezing the meat out with your teeth.
  10. Wipe down your hands, remove your bib (if applicable) and pat yourself on the back. You’ve cracked the mystery about how to eat a lobster.

If you’re thinking about cooking lobster yourself, check out the Maine Lobster Promotion Council’s website for tips and recipes.

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