Nothing adds flavor and elegance to recipes like sweet, tender lobster meat–the main ingredient for many of New England’s signature dishes. Whether you’re at a roadside seafood shack or white tablecloth restaurant, you’ll find lobster meat in regional favorites like lobster macaroni and cheese, lobster pie, Maine lobster rolls, pasta, soups, salads, casseroles and more. The uses for this highly prized meat are limitless. Its versatility, texture and flavor have elevated this crustacean to where it stands today. While lobster can come from just about anywhere, it is the the cold-water, North Atlantic lobster which is regarded as the best.
Where Does Your Lobster Meat Come From?
The Atlantic waters are clean with a rocky coast, making it ideal for lobster to flourish here. The cold, pollution-free water produce tender, succulent meat, with a rich, luxurious texture. In cold waters, like that of the northern Atlantic, lobsters grow at a slower rate. It is because of this that Maine lobster meat is firmer and more succulent. The cool temperatures keep the salt water from permeating the meat. This helps explain why Maine lobster has a noticeably sweeter flavor than other species of lobster.
Look for the scientific name: Homarus Americanus, or American lobster, when buying lobster meat. Be wary of cheap imposters including slipper “lobster”, langostino, craw fish and even pollock masquerading as American lobster. Pollock is found in a product called Surimi. It is used to make imitation crab as well as lobster meat. Not too long ago a well known New York grocer was busted for selling faux lobster salad to its customers. It contained craw fish, not lobster! Maine Senator Olympia Snowe have called on the FDA to stop allowing restaurants like Red Lobster and Long John Silver to market langostino as lobster.
The majority of lobster meat processing can be found to in Canada. As much as 70% of the lobsters caught in Maine waters is shipped north of the border to Canadian processors. Maine’s processing industry is still small compared to that in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. However, with Maine’s surging lobster haul new lobster processing plants are springing up. In 2013, the state issued 16 processing licences, according to the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.
How is Lobster Meat Processed?
Lobster meat is typically harvested from the tail, legs, knuckle and the large claws. With a little work you’ll find tender pieces in the lobster body or cavity. Lobster meat is most often processed into Tail (T),Claw meat (C), Knuckle (K), Leg (L) and body meat. Lobster meat is also available in various combinations, including: TC (Tail/Claw), TK (Tail/Knuckle), CK (Claw/Knuckle), TCK (Tail, Claw, Knuckle) and CKL (Claw/Knuckle, Leg). Finally you can find lobster meat processed in minced and broken forms. This meat is often used to make soup, stews and lobster bisque.
The latest technology called UHP or ultra high pressure, shucks lobsters raw and vacuum packs them. This process removes the meat from within the shell leaving it whole, raw (tails, claws, knuckles and legs). The UHP process leaves the tender texture and delicate flavor of the lobster intact. The meat can be purchased raw, blanched or cooked. It can also be purchased fresh or frozen.
Frozen Lobster Meat
In the old days lobster lobster meat was first canned in hermetically sealed tins. This made Lobster meat shelf stable and able to to be safely shipped across the USA and even overseas. Incredibly, by 1880 more canned lobster meat was supplied than live lobster. With the advent of modern refrigeration in the 1970s lobster meat could now be frozen in a “cold pack.” Today, there are a number of different freezing methods, including gas, brine, and blast freezing.
Gas or quick freezing is super fast and uses nitrogen (-195.8 c) or carbon dioxide tunnel freezers to produce a super fresh quality taste. Brine freezing involves immersion in a super cold brine. It is not as fast as gas freezing and can leave a slight salty taste. And finally meat is frozen in a blast of cold air.
It takes up to 4-5 whole 1 1/4 pound live lobsters to make one pound of cleaned meat. One pound of lobster meat is roughly equivalent to 2 cups. You will need more lobster if you are shucking meat from a soft-shell lobster. Lobsters undergoing molting have softer shells and have lower meat content. Hard-shell lobster contains fifty percent more meat than the same size soft-shell lobster. Hard-shell meat is firmer, while soft-shell meat is softer and tends to have more water. When cooking lobster meat, you can lose anywhere between 5 to 25 percent of the live weight.
Lobster Meat is Good for You
Lobster meat is not only an impressive meat flavor-wise, but offers nutritional benefits as well. It is high in vitamins and minerals, particularly in zinc, phosphorus, and selenium. These essential vitamins are important to maintaining immune system health. As compared to certain types of other meat, lobster meat is lower in saturated fats and cholesterol (without butter, of course!). It also has a high content of omega-3 fatty acids (these are very good for your health).
How to Cook, Prepare and Store Lobster Meat
Cook live lobster according to the general boiling, baking, or steaming directions found on our lobster cooking guide. Lobster meat should be white, opaque and firm to touch. Lobster takes very little time to cook so be careful not to overcook. Rinse with cool water until cook enough to handle. Remove from shell, following directions of How to Eat Lobsters. Walking legs should pull out easily form the body. Tomalley (liver) will be green and firm. Roe from the female lobster will be bright red and firm when cooked, and black if under-cooked. The tail meat can be cut in half lengthwise, left whole, or sliced into medallions.
Cooked lobster keeps for up to two days in the refrigerator, we we recommend using it as soon as you can. Freeze lobster meat in a brine solution of two teaspoons of salt to 1 cup water, in tightly sealed containers with 1/2 inch room on top for expansion. Keep for up to 2 months. Thaw unopened containers in the refrigerators, or if you are in a hurry, they can be set under cold running water. Never thaw at room temperature or refreeze. The lobster meat is best consumed within 24 to 36 hours of thawing.
Where to Buy Lobster Meat
The quality and taste of the lobster meat not only starts with healthy, lively hard-shell lobsters, but also the processing techniques. Specialized handling maintains the quality, taste and yield. Where is the best place to purchase Maine lobster meat? Maine, of course, but assuming you can’t make the trip out there, our lobster meat is some of the best you will find. Try our specialty dry pack, frozen cooked meat. It makes a luxurious lobster roll or lobster salad. It is processed using the UHP method discussed above. We also sell a special, raw, shucked lobster tail meat.