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How-To

How to Extract Lobster Meat

Learn how to get the most meat from a lobster without a lot of fuss

Sarah Breckenridge, videography by Gary Junken and Mike Dobsevage, edited by Cari Delahanty
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Cooking lobster is easy-you just drop it in the pot and steam it. The part that intimidates many people is extracting that delicious lobster meat from the shell. But it’s not that hard as long as you have the right tools including some good kitchen shears.

For this demonstration, we’re using 1-lb. lobsters that have been steamed for about 10 to 12 minutes so they’re fully cooked. That means the meat will separate easily from the shell. 

You’ll want to get the lobster meat from three sections: the tail, the knuckles, and the claw.

Remove the two front legs from the lobster by twisting them off. If they don’t come off easily, use kitchen shears. Then separate the claws and the knuckles.

To crack open the shell on the claws, you can whack it with the back of a heavy chef’s knife or mallet, or an even easier way to get at the meat is to simply cut away the shell with some sharp kitchen shears.

A lot of chefs like to extract the claws whole for fancy presentations or garnishes. It can be a little tricky to get the hang of, but it’s worth practicing even if you’re going to dice up the lobster meat for, say, a lobster roll.

Start by bending the small pincer back and forth until it breaks off. Pull the shell away gently and the meat inside should stay attached to the rest of the claw. If this “thumb” stays inside the shell, you can remove it separately with a bamboo skewer.

With shears or the back of a chef’s knife, crack open the large claw shell and remove the meat in one piece.

If you don’t see a wide fin of cartilage attached to the small shell you took off before, that means it’s still in the claw meat. Pull or cut it out.

For the knuckles, it’s easier if you break or cut them into sections, and then use a bamboo skewer to push the meat out.  You can also use a skewer to extract some meat from the skinny legs-it’s not a lot of meat, but it makes a good cook’s treat while you’re working.

Now for the tail: Bend the tail backward and give it a slight twist to separate it from the body. Then use kitchen shears to cut open the shell on the underside-this is softer than the top of the shell-and remove the meat.

Just like shrimp, lobsters have their intestine running through their tail. Remove it by cutting down the center of the tail with a sharp knife, and then carefully pulling out the intestine, just like you would do to devein a shrimp.

And that’s all there is to it. Now your lobster meat is ready for whatever you want to make―a lobster roll, a salad, or just dipped in a little drawn butter.

More lobster how-to: Watch our How to Kill a Lobster video for step-by-step instructions on the most humane way to kill a lobster.

Cooking lobster is easy-you just drop it in the pot and steam it. The part that intimidates many people is extracting that delicious lobster meat from the shell. But it’s not that hard as long as you have the right tools including some good kitchen shears.

For this demonstration, we’re using 1-lb. lobsters that have been steamed for about 10 to 12 minutes so they’re fully cooked. That means the meat will separate easily from the shell. 

You’ll want to get the lobster meat from three sections: the tail, the knuckles, and the claw.

Remove the two front legs from the lobster by twisting them off. If they don’t come off easily, use kitchen shears. Then separate the claws and the knuckles.

To crack open the shell on the claws, you can whack it with the back of a heavy chef’s knife or mallet, or an even easier way to get at the meat is to simply cut away the shell with some sharp kitchen shears.

A lot of chefs like to extract the claws whole for fancy presentations or garnishes. It can be a little tricky to get the hang of, but it’s worth practicing even if you’re going to dice up the lobster meat for, say, a lobster roll.

Start by bending the small pincer back and forth until it breaks off. Pull the shell away gently and the meat inside should stay attached to the rest of the claw. If this “thumb” stays inside the shell, you can remove it separately with a bamboo skewer.

With shears or the back of a chef’s knife, crack open the large claw shell and remove the meat in one piece.

If you don’t see a wide fin of cartilage attached to the small shell you took off before, that means it’s still in the claw meat. Pull or cut it out.

For the knuckles, it’s easier if you break or cut them into sections, and then use a bamboo skewer to push the meat out.  You can also use a skewer to extract some meat from the skinny legs-it’s not a lot of meat, but it makes a good cook’s treat while you’re working.

Now for the tail: Bend the tail backward and give it a slight twist to separate it from the body. Then use kitchen shears to cut open the shell on the underside-this is softer than the top of the shell-and remove the meat.

Just like shrimp, lobsters have their intestine running through their tail. Remove it by cutting down the center of the tail with a sharp knife, and then carefully pulling out the intestine, just like you would do to devein a shrimp.

And that’s all there is to it. Now your lobster meat is ready for whatever you want to make―a lobster roll, a salad, or just dipped in a little drawn butter.

More lobster how-to: Watch our How to Kill a Lobster video for step-by-step instructions on the most humane way to kill a lobster.

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  • Beachmom | 08/02/2018

    A couple of hints......
    When you take the lobster from the pot hold it claws down over the pot and use you kitchen shears to cut the tips of the claw shell and most of the water will drain into the pot. Much neater than having lobster water all over your plate.
    Twist the tail off the twist the fins off the end. Then you can push the meat out with your thumbs.
    Use your teeth to get the meat from the little legs.
    As the other commenter said, "the green sticky stuff" is tamale. Not only is it good with the meat, it's good on crackers.
    You guys really need to spend some time in Maine with locals.

  • Oval | 07/08/2018

    It's an ongoing debate whether it's best to steam or boil lobster, but I was taught by Maritime lobstermen always to boil, preferably in clean sea water or tap water with several tablespoons of sea salt added. Sea water makes for far richer lobster meat.

    Get the water to a roaring boil, stick in the lobsters and after returning to the boil, cook for 19-20 minutes.

    Also, Sarah I think unwittingly gave some bad advice about the "green stuff" that sticks to the tail meat after it's pulled out of the shell. That "stuff" is tomalley, not poop, but a combination of liver and pancreas. For many people, it's a delicacy. It is delicious and should not be thrown away. Even combined with the lobster meat in a lobster roll, it is delicious, though it will darken the color somewhat.

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