Top: One sign of a good lobster: long antennae (photo courtesy I Love Blue Sea. Center: Mmm, mmm: a lobster Platter at North River Lobster Company. Bottom: Different lobster have different colors, both live and when cooked. This one is from Portugal (photo courtesy Vermillion Restaurant).
Planning to buy live lobsters for National Lobster Day (June 15th) or Father’s Day (June 19th)? Here are tips from Executive Chef Cenobio Canalizo of Michael Jordan’s The Steak House N.Y.C.
HOW TO PICK THE BEST LIVE LOBSTER
1. FEEL THE SHELL. There are hard-shell and soft-shell (new-shell) lobsters. It’s just a function of whether the lobsters have recently molted (shed their shells), an annual process.
On a soft-shell (new shell) lobster, the claws will look pristine. On a hard-shell lobster, the claws will have have scrapes from banging against rocks over the course of the year.
The meat in soft-shells is a bit sweeter and more tender, but a lobster with a softer shell is likely to have more water weight and less meat. They’re not as hardy, so they don’t travel as well as hard-shell lobsters. Similarly, hard-shell lobsters have more meat, but they can be a bit tougher.
2. GIVE IT A SNIFF. A live lobster should not emit any odor.
3. PICK A LIVELY LOBSTER. The more active the lobster, the more tender the meat. If the lobster is limp when you pick it up, it’s on its last legs. If it isn’t moving at all, it may be dead. Here’s an easy test: If you straighten out the tail, it should swiftly curve back under the body.
4. LOOK FOR LONG ANTENNAE. The longer the antennae, the fresher the lobster. Lobsters in a holding tank will often eat each other’s antennae. If a lobster has been there for a long time, its antennae can be nibbled down—often to the base.
5. DON’T MIND THE COLOR. The top shells are usually dark green or greenish-brown, but they can be black, blue, orange, red, white or yellow. The underbody of a live lobster, particularly the claws, are usually a vibrant red.
6. SIZE MATTTERS. The larger the lobster, the tougher the meat. Chef Cenobio prefers lobsters under two pounds for the most tender and flavorful meat.
7. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. There are many different species of lobster in the world’s oceans, but Chef Cenobio says the best come from Canada and Maine.
8. GENDER DOESN’T COUNT. Most aficionados agree that there is no difference in flavor or texture between male and female lobsters. Females have a small, hard, edible roe called the coral (because of its color). These are the unfertilized eggs of the female. Both genders have the soft, greenish, edible tomalley, which serves as both the liver and pancreas.
9. PAY ATTENTION TO PRICE. Live lobster costs between $9 to $11 dollars per pound. If the price is lower, often the quality is lower as well.
LOBSTER RECIPE IDEAS and LOBSTER TRIVIA: Check ‘em out.