Summer is almost upon us, and that means lobster season is in full swing.
I’m sure all of us who have tried to get every bit of meat out of a lobster (or crab, for that matter) have found the task finicky and possibly a little frustrating. Sure, the tail usually comes out easily enough, but what about all that other wonderful goodness inside?
Luckily for us, Executive Sous Chef Josh Davoudi from New York City’s crustacean haven The Lobster Place recently sent along a fantastic guide on how to deshell a lobster so that you can get every last morsel of meat out of it.
How To Open & Eat a Lobster
What You Need
- Whole cooked lobster(s) that have been dunked in an ice bath to stop the cooking process
- Melted butter (prepared however you like, although we like garlic butter)
- Seafood scissors
- Seafood/nut crackers
- Thin metal seafood picks
1. Remove the claws first by holding your cooked lobster in one hand and twisting the claws off the body with your other.
2. Next you will want to separate the tail section from the body by twisting and pulling them apart.
3. Don’t throw the body or head of the lobster away, because then you will be leaving a lot of meat behind. “First, pull the top shell away from the body and discard. Look inside the cavity. If you pick out the thin papery shells separating the meat, you’ll end up with about half a cup of lobster rib meat.”
4. “Pull the legs and the pale spongy gills away from the body. Suck the meat and juices out of the legs.”
5. The next part requires checking in with the claws. “Go back to the claws. Separate the claws at the joints to get 4 pieces. Use the crackers or scissors to remove the shell and get to the meat. Scissors work best here to get one big, unbroken piece of claw meat.”
6. Now, it is time for the tail to get broken down. “First, pick off the tail flaps and suck the juices and meat out of the holes.”
7. For the final step, “extract the tail meat out of the shell in one piece. Stick your finger in the base of the tail at the smallest opening where the tail flaps were and push the tail meat out. It will look like a giant shrimp. If your lobster is a female, you will find delicious roe at the top ridge of the tail meat. If it’s black, it’s undercooked and inedible. Steam it for a minute or two to get it red, and then eat.”
More tips for enjoying your lobster now that it’s deshelled
- Save your lobster, crab, and shrimp shells in the freezer until you have enough to fill a small pot and make some delicious shellfish stock. You just have to roast the bones (for only a few minutes, you don’t want them burnt!) and add to a pot with some aromatic vegetables (roasted onions, carrots and celery are a great base), then cover with cold water and cook at the gentlest simmer possible for 2-3 hours. This stock can be used to make wonderful gumbo, paella, jambalaya, chowder, and really any other seafood-based stew or sauce you can think of.
- If sucking the meat and juices out of the legs seems a bit too gruesome for you, you can slowly push them out with a rolling pin. This probably isn’t something you’ll want to do at the dinner table, but they make a great cook’s snack if you’re every doing the deshelling ahead of time. Credit goes to the great Thomas Keller and his book Ad Hoc at Home for teaching me this trick.
- If you want to take your melted butter to the next level, melt it in a saucepan and add some chopped chives and a little garlic powder, as well as any other seasonings you might want to add in there.
- Looking for a fancy cocktail that also happens to fill you up? Check back on Saturday for our take on the recipe for Red Lobster’s decadent Lobster Claw Bloody Mary.
Have any of your own tricks and tips for preparing lobster?