8 Essential Tips for Selecting and Buying Fresh Lobsters | Your Guide to Choosing the Best Catch

Lobster is one of the most delicious and luxurious seafood you can enjoy, whether you’re making lobster rolls, bisque, ravioli, or grilled lobster. But how do you choose the best lobsters for your special occasion? And how do you prepare and cook them to bring out their succulent flavor? In this guide, we’ll share with you eight tips for buying and choosing fresh lobsters, as well as some recipes and ideas to make the most of your lobster feast.

1. It Should be Alive

A great indicator of the lobster’s freshness is its life. You want to buy live lobsters that are active and responsive when you touch them or pick them up. Avoid lobsters that are limp, sluggish, or have black spots on their shells, as these are signs of poor quality or illness. Live lobsters can survive for up to 48 hours out of water if kept in a cool and moist environment, such as a refrigerator or a cooler with ice packs.

2. Soft Shells vs. Hard Shells

What type of lobster meat do you prefer, soft or hard? Lobsters shed their hard shells periodically and grow new ones, a process called molting. After molting, the lobsters have soft shells that are easier to crack and contain sweeter and more tender meat. However, soft-shell lobsters also have less meat per pound and are more fragile to transport and store. Hard-shell lobsters have more meat per pound and are more durable, but their meat is firmer and less sweet. The best way to tell the difference between soft-shell and hard-shell lobsters is by squeezing their claws gently. Soft-shell lobsters will give a little, while hard-shell lobsters will feel solid.

3. Look at Fat Content

Fresh lobsters directly from the ocean contain higher fat content than those that have been stored for a long time. Fat content affects the flavor and texture of the lobster meat, making it richer and creamier. You can check the fat content by looking at the tomalley, the greenish substance in the lobster’s body cavity. The more tomalley there is, the higher the fat content. You can also look at the roe, the red-orange eggs in female lobsters. The more roe there is, the higher the fat content.

4. Opting for Tails

If you don’t want to deal with a whole lobster, you can opt for lobster tails instead. Lobster tails are easier to prepare and cook, and they still offer plenty of meat and flavor. However, not all lobster tails are created equal. You want to look for tails that are firm and full, not shriveled or curled up. You also want to avoid tails that have been frozen and thawed multiple times, as this can affect their quality and taste. To check for freshness, smell the tails before buying them. They should have a mild sea aroma, not a fishy or ammonia-like odor.

5. Consider Seasonal Availability

Lobster season varies depending on where you source it from, as different regions have different water temperatures and fishing regulations. In general, lobsters are more abundant and cheaper during the summer months in cooler climates, such as Maine and Canada, where they molt more frequently and move closer to the shore. In warmer climates, such as Florida and California, lobsters are more plentiful and affordable during the fall and winter months, when the water is colder and they are less active.

The table below shows the lobster seasons for some of the biggest lobster-producing states:

State Lobster Season
Maine Year-round, with the majority caught between June – December
Florida August – March
California September – March

6. Ask Whether it’s Frozen or Not

Fresh lobster is always preferable to frozen lobster, as freezing can affect the texture and flavor of the meat. However, sometimes frozen lobster is unavoidable or more convenient, especially if you live far away from the coast or want to stock up on lobster for later use. If you buy frozen lobster, make sure it has been frozen properly and recently, not repeatedly or for too long. Look for vacuum-sealed packages that prevent freezer burn and moisture loss. Thaw frozen lobster slowly in the refrigerator overnight before cooking it.

7. Have Fresh Lobsters to Your Heart’s Content

Once you’ve bought your fresh lobsters, you want to cook them as soon as possible to enjoy their peak quality and taste. There are many ways to cook lobster, such as boiling, steaming, baking, broiling, grilling, or frying. The most common and simple method is boiling, which takes about 10 minutes for a 1-pound lobster. To boil lobster, fill a large pot with water and add some salt and lemon juice. Bring the water to a rolling boil and then add the lobsters one at a time, head first. Cover the pot and cook until the shells turn bright red and the meat is opaque and firm.

8. Enjoy Your Lobster Feast

Now that you’ve cooked your lobsters, it’s time to enjoy them with your favorite accompaniments and sauces. Some classic options are melted butter, lemon wedges, mayonnaise, cocktail sauce, or garlic aioli. You can also serve your lobsters with some bread, salad, corn, potatoes, or rice. To eat your lobsters, you’ll need some tools, such as a lobster cracker, a small fork, a knife, and a napkin. Start by twisting off the claws and cracking them open to get the meat. Then twist off the tail and pull out the meat with your fork. You can also scoop out the tomalley and roe if you like. Finally, you can split the body in half and pick out the meat from the legs and chambers.

We hope this guide has helped you learn how to select and buy fresh lobsters for your next seafood feast. Lobster is a delicacy that deserves to be savored and appreciated, so don’t be afraid to treat yourself to this delicious crustacean once in a while. Bon appétit!