How to Extract Meat from a Lobster
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Eating lobster can be a messy endeavor—but, one that is well-worth the effort.
The Best Way to Extract Meat from a Lobster
Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner
Lobster tastes delicious, but eating it can be messy. If there were a tidy way to do it, restaurants wouldn’t supply their customers with a bib, but the succulent meat makes all the effort worthwhile. Although techniques can vary depending on local tradition and personal preference, here’s a general guide that will help you get the most out of your next lobster dinner.
Separate the tail from the rest of the body by bending the lobster backward.
Snap off the flippers, and push the meat out of the shell using a fork at the flipper end of the tail.
Twist off the claws, and gently move the pincher from side to side until you feel it snap. Gently pull it away.
Gently crack the claws open with a nutcracker to release the meat.
Pluck off the legs. If you’d like, use a small fork to break the shell.
Crack the body of the lobster open to remove the meat.
Losbter bisque soup is one of the most popular seafood soups in haute French cuisine, found in gourmet seafood and fine dining restaurants.
Bisque is a rich and creamy soup made of crustaceans stock, commonly from lobster and shrimp even though crawfish, crab and langoustine can be used.
In this easy recipe, you are going to learn how to make this scrumptious soup just like French chefs, with simple ingredients.
Removing the meat from cooked lobster
You can find meat in most parts of the lobster, so be sure to pick it thoroughly.
-Twist off the legs at the base. Twist the legs from the claws.
-Hit the side of the lobster claw carefully but firmly with the heel of a sharp, heavy knife, keeping your fingers well away from the knife blade. When the blade is embedded in the claw, twist the knife until the claw cracks. (If this does not happen first time round, repeat the process, hitting the claw in a different place.)
-Wiggle the small pincer and carefully pull it away from the claw to reveal the meat. Remove the meat from the remaining claw in one piece.
-Twist the legs at the joint. Crack the shell using the blade of the knife, remove the shell, then ease out the meat.
-Fully extend the lobster body. Look for a cross below the head and push the blade of the knife firmly into the lobster at this point. Lever the knife to cut along the back of the lobster, then open it out. Ease the meat out of the body of the lobster in one piece.
Butter poached lobster with leeks and a lobster sauce
I&rsquove cooked lobster a couple of times in the last decade. Each time it&rsquos been disastrous - and not just for the lobster. But it&rsquos part of the sea&rsquos bounty in this part of the world - so it&rsquos really one of those things I would add to my basic rule that each time it&rsquos in season, I should have it at least once. So I had to break the run of bad luck and get it right.
The first time, the lobster was undercooked when it was released from its shell, and I didn&rsquot do a great job of correcting the problem. The second time, the timer failed to go off (let&rsquos call a spade a shovel and say we assume it was human error) and the lobster ended up very overcooked.
This time, I decided a different approach was in order. Rather than cooking the lobster in one go while still in its shell, I would steep it in hot water just long enough to be able to extract the raw meat from the shell, and then butter poach the flesh using the sous vide machine. Extracting the meat before cooking gives you a lot more control (although there are no good excuses for the original failures which, in my defence, were quite some time ago).
Cooking fresh lobster begins with the part that discourages the faint at heart - because you really need to buy the lobster still alive, and dispatch it yourself. Personally, I think it&rsquos healthy if you decide to eat meat that, occasionally at least, you should be confronted with the full weight and implications of your decision. Not everyone agrees, and that&rsquos just the way it is. In any case, there is a well-described procedure for killing the lobster without pain and suffering. Few natural predators would extend the same courtesy, so that&rsquos progress of a sort.
The real joy of this recipe is the lobster sauce. All the flavour comes from the shells and when you first taste the liquid you&rsquove been cooking them in, it doesn&rsquot taste that big a deal. But then you reduce it down by around two-thirds and by then the flavour packs a punch and has glorious complexity. It&rsquos a magical thing.
In this case, I was going for a meal that was delicious and rich but not large. A small bed of sautéed leeks and charred crushed new potatoes was all I had with the lobster (half a lobster per person). You can obviously add more substance should you wish with additional veg, or even another seafood element. Once you&rsquove butter poached the lobster, and made the sauce, there&rsquos really no end of the combinations you could add that would make for a happy plate.
I&rsquom lucky, obviously, to have the sous vide option. It enables you to poach the lobster at a very precise temperature and using a lot less butter than you would poaching it in the conventional way. I give the instructions for non-sous vide as well below, should you not be in the happy position of having your own water bath.
Lobster and sustainability
Lobster gets a different rating depending where in the UK you source it. Very generally speaking, the further north and west you go, the more you need to check. Wales, North England and Scotland have the most red flags. The upshot is that this is one that you should check the origin of very carefully, and establish its rating. If in doubt, leave it until you can identify a verified sustainable source.
Butter poached lobster with leeks and a lobster sauce
50g butter (if using sous vide), 250g butter if not
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon tomato purée
2 tablespoons brandy
1 glass white wine
500 ml boiling water
250 ml double cream
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 leeks, white and pale green, sliced
10 new potatoes, cut in half
Heat the sous vide water bath to 60ºC.
Steep the lobster in recently boiling water for 3 minutes. Remove it, and remove the claws and put them back in the hot water for a further five minutes. You might want to use rubber gloves or a towel, because the shellfish will be hot. While it&rsquos still hot, twist off the tail. Twist off the end fan and push the tail meat out of the larger end. Cut in half and remove the digestive tract that goes up the length of the tail near the top, if present.
After five minutes, remove the claws, crack them open using a nut cracker or similar tool, and extract the meat aiming to keep it as whole and undamaged as possible.
If using sous vide, lightly season the flesh, and then place the tail meat in the sous vide pouch, add half the butter on top, add the rest of the meat and then more butter. Vacuum seal the pouch and put to one side.
Remove the insides from the head, and then chop the shell up into medium-sized pieces. Heat the olive oil and sauté the shell over a medium high heat, stirring often, for five minutes or so. Then reduce the temperature to medium and add the onion, carrot and garlic. Fry these for a further few minutes until softened but not coloured. Then add the white wine, brandy, and the tomato purée. Simmer until the wine has been reduced by half.
Add the boiling water and simmer for 25 minutes. Then strain the lobster sauce through a fine sieve into a clean pan. If you taste the liquid at this point, you&rsquoll probably think it somewhat underwhelming, but panic not. Simmer this liquid until it has reduced down by around two-thirds.
While that&rsquos doing, sauté the leeks in a small frying pan with a little oil. When they&rsquore nearly done, add the butter and continue to cook on a low heat.
Also, put the new potatoes in to cook in a small pan of salted water. When the potatoes are soft, take them off the heat and lightly crush them with a fork or a potato masher. Put to one side.
At this point, the flavour of the sauce should be a lot more powerful. Add the double cream and continue to simmer gently.
While the sauce is thickening, put the lobster into the sous vide water bath for 8 minutes.
If not using sous vide, add a couple of tablespoons of water to a pan and bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat and whisk in 25g of the butter until it&rsquos all melted. Keep adding the butter piece by piece until it&rsquos all been added. Bring the melted butter emulsion to 60ºC using a digital thermometer to check progress. When it&rsquos reached the right temperature, add the lobster and poach - keeping the temperature constant - for 6 minutes.
While it&rsquos in, check the sauce and adjust the seasoning with salt and the white wine vinegar. Remove the leeks from the frying pan and keep warm. Add a little fresh oil to the pan and put in the crushed potatoes, seasoning them lightly with some salt as you do so.
Once the lobster has been poaching for 8 minutes, it&rsquos time to serve. Using a food ring, place a circle of the sautéed leek, and top with the crushed potatoes. Add half of the tail meat, then the rest of the meat, topped by the claw. Spoon the sauce around the plate, with a little drizzled on top of the lobster. Garnish with a little parsley if wished, and serve.
As ever, when using double cream, if you have some left and don&rsquot know quite when you&rsquoll use it, you can freeze it for future use. This only really works if it&rsquos double cream.
I&rsquom assuming you don&rsquot need ideas from me on what to do with the rest of the bottle of white wine &hellip
Maine’s Best Lobster Stew
A few years ago I dragged a couple of friends and my husband to Maine. It was a two fold trip, one-to see the New England fall foliage and two-to see how much lobster we can eat in a long weekend. We succeeded in both, while the beauty of the seasonal changes was an incredible site, the lobster was the stand out. After the trip we attempted to tally the total weight of all the lobster we consumed, I believe we agreed that it was about 30lbs. between the 4 of us.
Enter the Dolphin Marina and Restaurant in Potts Harbor. A fantastically scenic drive north of Portland, Dolphin Marina and Restaurant is located at the very end of a peninsula overlooking the Casco Bay. We paused our regularly scheduled lobster roll roll when the waiter recommended their Lobster Stew. “It’s award winning”, he touted “and the blueberry muffin is baked fresh in house”…”BLUEBERRY MUFFINS!?” we all exclaimed followed by huhs, whats and whys… “it is really really good” he continued. So, we gave it a try…and it was INCREDIBLE! How incredible? Well, as Dolphin Marina and Restaurant was near the tail end of our lobster themed road trip (maybe around the 25lb. point) we considered ourselves lobster aficionados. Every lobster shack and road side restaurant we dined we adopted an Olympic style blind voting.
Every voter wrote their (on a scale of 1-10) vote on a napkin and shared their rating with the group-the American Judge gives this lobster roll an 8.5 while the Austrian Judge gave it a 7…and so forth. This stew (and accompanying muffin) received 9.5-10 scores across the board. The highest rated place on our trip.
I just had to recreate this recipe when I got home! As I live a multitude of hours and miles away from Maine, getting this delish dish on site was just not feasible. It didn’t become ‘just right’ until I started using Cameron’s Seafood Whole Lobster. The size was right, I knew the lobsters were coming from the same waters where I dined on location-it was what I needed to put my seal of approval on this Maine lobster stew recipe.
Get Lobster-centric recipes here!
22 comments on &ldquo Claws Out for Lobstermania 2021 &rdquo
Is there a limit on how many lobsters I can get? I wanted to get 6.
Hi Barbara! Thank you for reaching out. You’ll be fine to get 6 lobsters. We just recommend you come early to ensure you get yours!
I can’t wait to join our friends next door for their Family Lobster Fest. It’s a family tradition to buy the fresh live lobsters from DLM on Saturday morning and spend the day enjoying the beginning of summer!
That sounds like a blast! We’re honored we can be a part of your annual family tradition.
How big are the lobster tails?
I can’t wait, our kids & grandkids are coming for lobster!
Step 1: Pre-pay for your lobster at any register in stores on Saturday, May 29, starting at 9 a.m. Where are the stores located?
Hi Charlene! You can find out store locations here: https://www.dorothylane.com/contact/
Hello! Thanks for reaching out. Live lobsters will be $16 each and cooked lobsters will be $19 each.
Instructions for reheating (for those of us without pots large enough to cook a lobster) says “heat until warm”. How warm? What temperature should it be heated to in degrees Fahrenheit?
Hi Fred! Thanks for the question! Because the cooked lobster is safe to eat as is, you just want to reheat it until it’s hot enough for you to enjoy.
Hi Jeanne! For live, they will be $16 each and for cooked, they will be $19 each. Thanks for reaching out!
Is this at all your locations? And is there a limit per person?
Hi Melanie! Yes, Lobstermania will be happening at all of our locations and there is not a limit per person!
Are you not having lobster rolls this year? Thank you
Hi Phyllis! Thank you so much for reaching out. We actually have our Lobster Rolls available at Jack’s Grill every day!
Can a cooked lobster be frozen?
Hi Lisa! Thank you so much for reaching out. Although best when eaten fresh, cooked lobster can be frozen. We recommend keeping it in the shell when you wrap it up as the shells acts as an additional barrier preventing freezer burn.
What is the average weight of a lobster?
Any estimate on the ounces. For example are they closer to 6 oz or 16 oz. ? Thank you
How to prepare a cooked lobster like a pro
Lobster's a big deal for starters this Christmas. And the experts from Masterchef have the step-by-step guide you need to extract meat from this luxury shellfish.
Lobster is all well and good as a treat in a fancy restaurant, but how about serving it at home?
Lots of the major supermarkets are stocking lobster as a treat for Christmas this year &ndash and with many of them already cooked, it could be an easier dish to make than you'd expect.
If you are tempted to ditch the beloved prawn cocktail for a more elaborate shellfish starter or want to make a showstopper seafood platter, it's always best to know how to get the most lobster meat from this expensive ingredient. So we asked the experts at Masterchef to share their step-by-step guide for the best way to get the meat out of a cooked lobster.
1. Rinse the lobster under cold running water and pat dry with kitchen paper, then place on a cutting board. Take hold of the tail and twist it sharply away from the body to detach it.
2. Set the lobster's body aside and turn the tail over with the shell-side down. Using a pair of sharp kitchen scissors, and beginning at the far end of the tail, cut down the centre towards the thickest part.
3. Using your thumbs, pull the shell apart along the line where you cut it with scissors, and fold the shell back. You should now be able to extract the meat in one piece.
4. To remove the meat from the claws, crack them open with a lobster cracker or a small hammer. Once the shell has been opened, extract the meat inside carefully, and discard any attached membrane
This how-to guide was taken from MasterChef Kitchen Bible (DK, 30.00). BUY HERE!
Technique: The Best Way to Extract Lobster Meat
There’s a lot more meat in a lobster than just the tail and claws—if you know how to get it.
Here’s our tried-and-true approach to extracting every last bit, no special tools needed. The method works for both hard- and soft-shell lobsters.
1. START WITH TAIL: Once cooked lobster is cool enough to handle, set it on a cutting board. Grasp tail with 1 hand and grab body with your other hand and twist to separate.
2. TAKE OUT TAIL MEAT: Many sources recommend using knife to cut down center of tail we prefer to keep it in 1 piece. Lay tail on its side on counter and use both hands to press down on tail until shell cracks.
2. (CONTɽ) Hold tail, flippers facing you and shell facing down, with your thumbs on opposite sides. Pull back on both sides to crack open shell and remove meat. Briefly rinse meat under running water to remove green tomalley if you wish (for more information, see “Lobster Tomalley” in related content) and pat meat dry with paper towels. Remove dark vein from tail meat with paring knife.
3. MOVE TO KNUCKLES: Twist “arms” to remove both claws and attached “knuckles” (2 small jointed sections) from body. Twist knuckles to remove them from claw. Break knuckles into 2 pieces at joint using back of chef’s knife or lobster-cracking tool. Use handle of teaspoon or skewer to push meat out of shell.
4. NEXT UP, CLAWS: Wiggle smaller hinged portion of each claw to separate. If meat is stuck inside small part, remove it with skewer. Break open claws using back of chef’s knife or lobster-cracking tool, cracking 1 side and then flipping them to crack other side, and remove meat.
5. FINISH WITH LEGS: Twist legs to remove them from body. Working with one at a time, lay legs flat on counter. Using rolling pin, start from claw end and roll toward open end, pushing out meat. Stop rolling before reaching end of legs open tip of leg can crack and release pieces of shell.
Peter Doyle's lobster with artichoke hearts
This was a popular dish at Peter Doyle’s Palm Beach restaurant, Reflections, in the ’80s, using the local-area Palm Beach lobster. “It was delicious then and it’s still delicious today” says Doyle, now chef at Est in Sydney.
Lobster with artichoke hearts
- 3 small live rock lobsters (600gm each), killed humanely (see note)
- Chervil sprigs, to serve
- 6 globe artichokes
- 500 ml dry white wine
- 300 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 100 ml lemon juice (from about 5 lemons), or white wine vinegar
- ½ carrot, sliced
- ½ onion, sliced
- ½ garlic bulb, halved horizontally
- 1 bouquet garni (see note)
- 100 ml white wine
- 50 ml white wine vinegar
- 2 golden shallots, peeled, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp peeled and grated ginger
- 50 ml pouring cream
- 600 gm cold unsalted butter
- Lemon juice, to taste
RSPCA Australia's recommendations for killing crustaceans humanely are to first render the animals insensible by placing them in the freezer (under 4C - signs of insensibility are when the tail or outer mouth parts can be moved without resistance) crustaceans must then be killed quickly by cutting through the centreline of the head and thorax with a knife. For crabs, insert a knife into the heat. This splitting and spiking destroys the nerve centres of the animal. For bouquet garni, tie 2 tsp fennel seeds, 2 tsp coriander seeds, 1 fresh bay leaf, 2 thyme sprigs and 3 parsley stalks in a piece of muslin. Ascorbic acid is available from select health-food shops and helps to maintain the bright green colour of the purée.
- 1 1/2 lbs. (0.6 kg) live lobster or 6 oz. (170 g) lobster meat
- 8 oz. (226 g) spaghetti
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 3 dashes ground black pepper
- 2/3 cup chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons Japanese cooking sake or dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon mirin, sweet rice wine, optional
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 small tomato, cut into small cubes
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice or to taste
- Lemon wedges
- Shaved parmesan cheese, optional
- Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the lobster, for about 10 minutes. Drain and extract the meat from the claws and tail. Cut the lobster tail meat into bite-sized pieces.
- Cook the spaghetti per the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- On medium heat, heat up a skillet with the olive oil and butter. Add the garlic and saute, then add the lobster meat, follow by salt and black pepper. Add the spaghetti into the skillet, stir to combine well with the lobster.
- Add the chicken broth, sake and mirin (if using). Toss the spaghetti a few times, until the sauce slightly thickens. Add the tomatoes, parsley and lemon juice, stir to mix well with the spaghetti. Turn off the heat, transfer the pasta to two serving platters, garnish with lemon wedges and shaved Parmesan cheese, if using. Squeeze the lemon juice on the pasta before eating.
How to Crack Open a Cooked Lobster
The first step to dismembering a cooked lobster is to twist off the claws. Use a nut cracker or the back of your knife to crack each claw and knuckle and remove the meat. Using a knife is recommended for those with advanced knife skills.
Twist the tail off of the body and use a pair of kitchen shears to cut through the scaly shell on the underside of the tail to expose the meat.
Using a fork, carefully pull out the tail meat, taking care to keep it in one piece.
To extract the meat from the leg joints and the legs themselves, you can crack them with a knife and pull the meat out with your teeth.