Maine Lobster Buying Guide
If you are buying lobster from a seafood market or a lobster pound make sure it's busy and has lots of turnover. Ask your fishmonger when the lobsters were caught. Some markets keep lobsters for a week or more, and these won’t be as succulent as those that are fresh-caught. Lobsters held in a tank for a long time will eventually lose weight and the claw meat will shrink. When pulled right from the tank the lobsters should flap their tails and raise their claws. If the claws are droopy and the lobster doesn’t seem to have any fight—it is weak. This lobster is not fit for travel. An easy test is to push the tail straight — if it doesn’t re-curl, try another lobster. Also, check a lobster’s antennae. A lobster with long antennae is a sign it has been fresh caught.
Hard-shell lobsters ship well because they are stronger and hardier. Equally important, hard shell lobsters have more meat and better texture. Select a lobster that feels heavy for its size. Keep in mind that larger (1 1/2 –to 2 21/2 pound) lobsters with harder shells have a better survival rate. Squeeze the sides of the lobster's body; the soft shell will yield to pressure, while the hard shell will be firm, brittle and tightly packed. Soft-shell lobsters will always be cheaper than hard shell but may not necessarily be a bargain in the end.
When you visit the fish market, don’t be surprised at the lobsters black or bluish-brown color; the familiar bright-red hue comes only with cooking. The color of the lobster does not affect flavor or texture. Lobster can also be blue, yellow, red or sometimes rare white.
Generally, there is no taste difference between male and female lobsters. Adult males will have bigger claws and only female lobsters have roe inside, which some consider a delicacy. Female lobsters have a meatier tail. To identify male and female, turn the lobster on it's back and look at the first pair of swimmerets, or appendages, just where the body and tail meet. The male lobster legs are thick and stiff while the female legs are soft and delicate.
Whole lobsters should have their tails curled, a sign that they were alive when cooked. Cooked lobster meat should be sweet-smelling and snow white.
Hard shell lobsters are available year round however in the summer and autumn months the warmer waters of the North Atlantic affect the overall supply and price. The price of lobster, like most prices, is ruled by supply and demand. On the coast, where the lobsters come from, the tourist season starts Memorial Day weekend, and you can expect a rapid increase in prices. The season ends with Labor Day weekend, and that's when the prices drop again. At Lobster anywhere we hand sort each and every lobster to ensure top quality no matter what time of year.
Lobsters come in different sizes, from under legal size to a whopping 20 pounds. If lobster is the main event, a 1-1/2 to 2 pounds per person is in order. How can I tell when you are paying for meat and not just the shell? Measure the length of carapace (eye socket to the start of the tail) and this determines the weight of lobsters. In two same weighted lobsters, the smaller the carapace, the better off you are. This makes more room for meat in the tail. Estimated yield from live lobster: A 1 ½ pound lobster yields approximately 1 1/3 cups of meat. A one-pound lobster yields 2/3 cup. There is much debate about the quality of taste between a smaller lobster versus a jumbo lobster. Properly cooked and prepared a 5-pound lobster can be just as tasty as a 1 ¼ pound lobster. If you are looking for a good deal ask if culls are available, lobsters that are missing one claw. Culls are usually less expensive and a good choice for a recipe calling for cooked lobster meat. Live lobsters are sold by the weight of each individual lobster. Live lobster grading sizes follow.