How To Store and Cook Live Lobster

The North American Lobster is available year round, though the best fishing seasons are late spring and fall. Lobsters are found from Eastern Canada down to North Carolina, but the bulk of the U.S. lobsters come from Maine, where size limits are enforced.

Lobster may feel like a special-occasion food, but it doesn’t have to be, so here are some tips for storing and cooking this crustacean any day of the week.

Live lobster should be cooked the same day it is bought. Keep lobsters cool, covered and moist in the refrigerator until ready to cook. Never put lobsters into fresh water or salt water to attempt to keep them alive; fresh water will kill them, as will salt water made with tap water that has been chlorinated. Dechlorinated salt water will work only if the water is aerated and the right temperature, so when you bring the lobsters home, the fridge is the best place for them.

The tail, claws and arms above the claws all have ample meat, and the legs on larger lobsters will have meat as well. The flavor of lobster meat is sweet and mild, with firm texture. Orange lobster roe, which is tasty, is found in the top of the tail. The dark green tomalley (liver), against the top of the body carapace, is sweet and tasty as well. A hole in the shell is not a sign of contamination; it indicates wear or an older shell.

Steaming Lobster
The ratio of lobsters to pot is important. A 4-5 gallon pot is ideal for steaming 6-8 pounds of lobster. Put 2 inches of seawater or salted water in the bottom of a large kettle. Set a steaming rack inside the pot and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Put in the live lobsters one at a time, cover the pot and start timing. Rearrange the lobsters halfway through cooking.

Cooking times- (based on the lobster-to-pot ratio mentioned above)
1 pound: 10 minutes
1-1/4 pounds: 12 minutes
1-1/2 pounds: 14 minutes
1-3/4 pounds: 16 minutes
2 pounds: 18 minutes
2-1/2 pounds: 22 minutes
3 pounds: 25-30 minutes
5 pounds: 40-45 minutes

Boiling Lobster
Fill a large pot with water. Allow 3 quarts of water per 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of lobster. Add 1/4 cup of salt for each gallon of water. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Put the live lobsters in the pot one at a time, do not cover and start timing immediately. Stir the lobsters halfway through cooking.

Cooking times- (based on the lobster-to-water ratio mentioned above)
1 pound: 8 minutes
1-1/4 pounds: 9-10 minutes
1-1/2 pounds: 11-12 minutes
1-3/4 pounds: 12-13 minutes
2 pounds: 15 minutes
2-1/2 pounds: 20 minutes
3 pounds: 25 minutes
5 pounds: 35-40 minutes

Grilling Lobster
Par-boil your lobsters in a large pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. Remove the lobsters and plunge into a large bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Drain the lobsters and store in a refrigerator if you do not plan to grill them right away. Place a lobster on its back on a cutting board. Using a large sharp knife, split the lobster down the middle. Remove the black vein from the tail, the tomalley from the body and the sand sac located near the head. Repeat with the remaining lobsters. Baste the lobster meat with some oil or butter. Grill the lobsters flesh side down for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the flesh is just beginning to look opaque. Turn the lobsters over, baste with more oil and continue to cook for 4 to 5 minutes longer, or until the lobsters are cooked through.

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