In the vein of learning to deal with crustaceans, I am posting a step-by-step guide to breaking down a lobster. In this case I am removing the meat to serve with a soup, so the photos are from that process (instead of using lobster crackers on the claws, I’m using a rolling pin like a hammer). However, the general ideas of how to eat a lobster still apply, so this guide can be used by anyone who has never eaten a lobster, or anyone who wants to get every last morsel of tasty meat out of that shell.
So we’re getting into lobster season. I generally only eat lobster in the summer (because I catch them in Long Island Sound on my boat, and I have an issue with paying for them if I can catch them myself). In this case I was making a cold avocado soup and wanted to top it with crab meat, but after seeing the $32.00/lb lump crabmeat from India that was being sold at Fairway, I decided to go for a 1.75lb fresh lobster instead. At $9.99/lb, I figured that it was a better deal in multiple ways: fresh, and probably cheaper per pound than the crab, after cooking and picking out the meat.
First off, cooking a lobster in the traditional manner is super easy. You can boil or steam them, but either way a 1.5-2 lb lobster will cook in about 12 minutes.
If you’re eating the lobster, serve it immediately with a side of melted butter. Feeling a little adventurous? Try my go-to lobster dipping sauce: melt a stick of butter in a saute pan, throw in a little minced garlic (1-2 cloves) and saute until just golden brown. Throw in some fresh chopped rosemary and crushed red pepper (to taste). Pour that into your butter dipping cup, and give it a squeeze of fresh lime. Heaven.
So, onward to deconstructing the lobster. First off, grasp the tail in one hand and the body/head (cephalothorax) in the other, and twist off the tail.
The biggest single chunk of meat is in the tail. Pull the fins off the bottom of the tail (but don’t discard them). Push your thumb up the tail from the fin side, and you should be able to pop the tail meat out of the top of the tail without having to do any other cracking.
Next you’ll want to clean the digestive tract from the tail. With a sharp knife, make an incision down the length of the back of the tail, about 1/2 inch deep. Spread the tail out and remove the dark digestive tract. If you are lucky and you get a female lobster (not the case here) you will see bright red eggs lining the inside of the tail. This is called “coral” because of the color, and it great in sauces and bisques (as well as on its own).
Next, twist off the claws. If you’re not at your dining room table or a nice restaurant, I find that using a rolling pin and your cutting board is the best way to crack the claws. Below the claws are the “knuckles” which each contain nice chunks of meat. Give the claws a good beating, and hit the knuckles as well, and pull out all the meat.
Now, if you really want to get everything out of the lobster, move on to the legs, Pull them off the body, break them into segments, and squeeze them with your fingers to force out a nice piece of meat from each segment. Don’t forget the tiny claws at the end. You’ll be surprised by the amount of meat you get. Remember the fins you pulled from the tail? Do the same thing with them and you’ll have 4 more nuggets.
Finally, turn your attention back to the body of the lobster. If you remove the carapace you will see a lot of milky white cooked fat, and a the green “tamale”. The tamale is considered a delicacy, and you can eat it if you are so inclined. It has a very strong oceanic flavor, and actually makes a great addition to sauces if you don’t eat it outright.
On the underside you will see the sockets where the legs were attached. Dig around in each of them for another little nugget of meat, and you’re done!
This 1.75 lb lobster yielded almost a pound of meat, at a cost of $17.00/lb (vs. the $36.00 Indian crab meat).