When Europeans first settled in coastal New England, lobsters were so plentiful that farmers plowed them into fields as fertilizer. There are even accounts of lobsters crawling onto dry land to escape an overcrowded ocean floor. Once abundant, Maine lobsters are now a luxury.
The Maine lobster is fished commercially from Long Island Sound to Newfoundland. The only lobster similar to it is the Brittany lobster, found on the European shores of the Atlantic and North Sea. Other lobsters exist all around the globe: the langouste of France, the spiny or rock lobster of the tropical Atlantic, and the slipper of Southeast Asia have more of a shrimp-like flavor, and the only edible part of them is their tail. Maine lobsters have a sweeter, more delicate flavor and a more tender texture than these clawless lobsters, and they yield additional meat from the claws, knuckles, and legs.
One 1-1/2 - to 2-lb. lobster per person is usually enough. But if you are buying “chicken” lobsters, which weigh under a pound a piece, count on two lobsters per person.
When buying Maine lobsters, make sure that they’re alive. A healthy “bug” will arch its back and raise its claws menacingly, while both a sleepy lobster and a dead lobster will have drooping claws and tail. Always check to see if the mouth parts are moving because the gills located there will be faintly waving for oxygen if the lobster has any life left in him. While a recently expired lobster may still be fine to eat, a long-dead lobster can contain toxic amounts of dangerous bacteria.
Watch our video on the most efficient and humane way to kill a lobster before cooking it.
There are many ways to cook lobster. Steaming lobsters is the simplest method and better than boiling because you don’t have to wait for gallons of water to come to a boil, and little of the lobster’s flavor leaches out. You’ll need a pot large enough to easily contain all the lobsters you plan to cook, and it should have a tight-fitting lid. Add just one inch of water to the pot and bring it to a rapid boil. If you’re near the ocean, try using sea water or adding some fresh seaweed to the pot.
Before adding the lobsters, rinse them briefly under cool running water and remove the elastic bands from their claws. The rubber can impart a slight aroma to the cooked lobsters. Put the lobsters in the pot on their backs. This quickens cooking a little, and the lobsters expire faster. Quickly cover the pot and turn up the heat to bring the water back to a boil.
Cook 1- to 1-1/2-pound lobsters for seven minutes over high heat, timing from the moment the water returns to a boil. After seven minutes, turn off the heat and let the lobsters rest in the covered pot for a minute. If the lobsters are stacked more than three or four layers deep in the pot, cook the lobsters in the steam for ten to twelve minutes. Remove the lobsters from the pot with tongs and serve immediately. Larger lobsters will also require more time over boiling water. Two-pound lobsters need about ten minutes to cook through. To check if a lobster is done, take hold of one of the long feeler antennae, and give a slight pull. If it separates easily, the lobster is sufficiently cooked.
Grilling imparts a gentle smokiness to lobsters. Brush them with olive oil and grill them over a medium-high fire. To keep the lobster's tail from curling up as it cooks, thread a metal or bamboo skewer through the tail meat before cooking.
Check out how we get every last bit of cooked lobster meat out of the shell.
Store live lobsters in the refrigerator in a damp paper bag on wet newspapers or paper towels in a large pan or platter with sides. Lobsters won’t live long out of the water, so it’s best to buy and cook them the same day.