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How long will lobster live out of the tank?

I would like to buy some live lobsters on Friday to prepare on Saturday evening. Is there a way to keep them alive for 24 hours or so? I'm used to doing tails, so steaming a live one is a new adventure for me. I just hate to fight the crowds at the fish market on Saturdays..... Thanks in advance for any tips!

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  1. Lobsters are hardy creatures even out of water. Just put them in a paper bag and put them in a cool part of the refrigerator. They'll snooze and bubble but I think they'll stay alive for at least 24 hours.

    1. Buying them friday to cook saturday is a fine idea but you might want to change your tack. Have you considered parcooking your lobsters friday night and then throwing them in the fridge to finish saturday? I don't think that they will be in the prime of life after 24 hours out of water.

      1. They will survive if properly refrigerated. I wouldn't go much longer than 36 hours.

        1. 24 hours in the fridge won't be a problem for healthy lobsters. Wrap some damp newspapers around them and put them in the bottom of the fridge.

          If you're not locked into steaming them, you might consider stuffing and baking them.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Scrapironchef

            I watched the Alton Brown episode on lobsters recently. . .he advocates putting them in the fridge because it dulls their senses -- he's overly concerned with killing them humanely. So yeah, you wouldn't have to worry about them running around.

          2. i may sound dumb, but i keep kosher, so i have no experiance whatsoever with lobsters but if its still alive, wont it crawl around the fridge?

            4 Replies
            1. re: chai18

              They could, but the light is off in the fridge so they probably won't get too far :) I squeamish about live seafood and the same thought crossed my mind.

              1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                Out of the water they're not exactly speed demons, chilled in the fridge they're pretty torpid.

                1. re: Scrapironchef

                  How far do you think you'd go wrapped in wet newspaper??

                  They'll get in there and more or less fall asleep.
                  As I understand it, they can actually live a surprisingly long time like this. As long as the paper is wet.
                  I'd just fight the crowd on Saturday. Get there really early and it won't be too bad.


                2. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                  LOL Tracy!!!

                  I was going to comment that unless there is another lobster in the frig, I don't think they'd want to go anywhere.

                  I've parboiled my lobsters and then "finished them off" later.

                  Melly http://www.sacramentofoodgroup.org

              2. If you keep kosher, why are you throwing a lobster in your fridge? But anyway, it shouldn't crawl around in there. Lobsters are cold-blooded and the cold will make it sluggish and not move. Just in case, maybe put it in a plastic tub with a lid.

                3 Replies
                1. re: scoobyhed

                  im not the one buying the lobster mothrpoet is! i was just wondering how you could possibly put a live lobster in your fridge.

                  1. Personally, I'd buy it on the same day as I planned to cook it. Sure, you may get 24-48 hours in the fridge but what if you don't? Who's the lucky recipient of the cooked dead critter on Saturday if one dies pre-pot? If you must buy the day in advance, make sure the market only gives you very lively looking lobsters. There's a difference if it's just barely moving. A good sign is if it snaps its tail wildly as they are being taken out of the tank. Of course, your proximity to actual ocean will be one factor dictating the degree of freshness. Every lobster that I've ever bought comes in a paper bag so crawling around the fridge is never an issue. (Kosher lobster?....Puh-LEASE!!! May as well stuff it with fatback bacon and italian sausage.)

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: CapeCodGuy

                      All also throw in that you want to see the claws spread out and long antennae. Basically, you're looking for one that is pissed about being taken from his tank. The more fight (claws/tail), the healthier. The long antennae would suggest that it hasn't been in the tank very long.

                      One other tip. Bigger is not better. About a pound and a quarter is perfect IMHO.


                      1. re: Davwud

                        The antenna tip is good but aren't lobster's claws banded where you live? They all are here for two reasons. First the bands are color coded as to size to help the fishmonger choose the approximate size from a glance. Second, the bands prevent them from fighting each other in a crowded tank as a one armed lobster is a discounted lobster! I was told once by an old lobsterman that the best weight lobster for meat to shell ratio also happens to be the tastiest. He insisted a 2.5 pounder is the way to go. Having tested his theory many times...I agree with the ole salt! There's a reason the selects are more expensive by the pound than the chix or the jumbos. A 5-6 pound lobster is a chewy effort. A 1.25 pounder may as well be shrimp! A 2.5 pounder is heaven.....

                        1. re: CapeCodGuy

                          I have a friend who won't eat a lobster over 1.25lbs. He's from Cape Breton so he oughta know. I guess I could go to the market and buy one of each and do a taste test.
                          It could also be the type of lobster. What we get here (TO) is from Nova Scotia. Perhaps from other areas this theory is different.
                          As for the claws, I don't mean that they open up, I mean their whole "Arms" open up wide to expose their "Chests". Not just hand there.


                          1. re: CapeCodGuy

                            My personal preference (key word being "personal") is a 1.5 to a 1.75 pound lobster. I have been eating lobster for years and always wanted to try a 2 pounder. For my birthday one year, my hubby bought me a couple of them. I found them to be really tough to chew. The claws and the arms were fine, but the tail meat was really tough. So I prefer the ones that are a little smaller and of course hard shell are the best.

                            1. re: lobstahlovah

                              i prefer the big lobsters,and have eaten several over 12 lbs. we cook them over an open fire in a large pot. the water never stops boiling, even when the lobster is introduced. they are always good and never tough. having a 13 pounder tommorrow and expect a good meal as usual.

                      2. I use to work at a seafood wholesaler place, I remember that the lobsters were wrapped in damp newspaper and then packed in a cooler. I have seen lobsters stay alive in this packaging for over 24 hours (in a fridge). The lobsters need to stay in a cool place, live lobsters hate heat.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: sweetie

                          YOu guys are the greatest! I'll put the big critter in a cooler with plenty of ice and plan on him living overnight. If I have to wrap him in newspaper, what would he like to read? I suppose he would die if I wrapped him in the food section..
                          Thanks for all the good advice!

                          1. re: mothrpoet

                            Go for th ecomics- if ya gotta go, go with a smile!

                            1. re: mothrpoet

                              DON'T SUBMERGE THE BEAST IN ICE. BE SURE TO LEAVE HIM ON TOP!!!

                              1. re: mothrpoet

                                As a former owner of a Commercial Lobster Co. from Boston, I have some advice here. Don't put lobsters in a cooler with "wet" ice. All lobsters bought and shipped, are done so on dry ice. The lobster will die quickly by adding fresh water or ice.
                                The best way to store them in the fridge, is in the "crisper drawer". Put a dry paper towel down on the bottom of the drawer, and add the lobster in the drawer (no bag), shut the drawer. They will keep very nicely for about 2 days or more, in this weather.

                                1. re: mcel215

                                  DO NOT PLACE ON DRY ICE!!!!!!!! Dry ice has an approx temp of MINUS 70 F
                                  placing anything on dry ice will immediately freeze it, instead, place newspapers on regular ice and then place the lobsters on that, or, as others have said, just wrap in wet newspaper and stick it in your crisper drawer, but DO NOT put them on dry ice.

                                  1. re: bobcat1911a

                                    When lobsters are shipped commercially, dry ice is used. The lobsters on not put directly on dry ice, they are protected by newspaper. Regular ice will melt and leak. I haven't flown for a few years and don't know the new rules, but having liquid leaking out of a cardboard box was a complete 'not acceptable' by the Airlines. Dry Ice is fine, if the lobsters are protected.

                                2. re: mothrpoet

                                  NO ice!! A cold refrigerator is all the cold needed.

                                  1. re: twinsue

                                    I've never had a problem keeping the lobster in the fridge for 24 hours.

                              2. I used to work in a seafood department - lobster were shipped in cardboard boxes with a little chipped ice on refrigerated trucks - they were kept out of the water (and alive) after 48 hours of travel.

                                The lobster will keep fine - keep them in the heavy duty paper bag that the fishmonger gives you, on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Depending on the market, see if they have some seaweed you can wrap them in - otherwise, use some damp newspaper.

                                1. Just a reminder. If when you are ready to cook them and one (or more) is dead, throw it away! You do NOT want to cook a dead lobster and serve it to anyone. If you garden, dead uncooked lobsters makes for great ferilizer, just not dinner!

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: CapeCodGuy

                                    I don't get it -- it dies the minute you steam it -- what does it matter if one dies a bit before? Is there a certain amount of time it's been dead where it becomes a problem? And for what? (Just wondering. . .)

                                    1. re: Covert Ops

                                      From what I understand, the second a lobster dies, bacteria start to take over. You may be okay for an hour or two, I don't know. The thing is, are you willing to gamble??


                                      1. re: Davwud

                                        Ah, didn't know about that, thanks.

                                  2. I went to a birthday party a few years back in Montana where the birthday girl had about 50 lobsters flown in from Maine (for her 50th). They dumped them out on a tarp prior to putting them in the pit they dug and I only saw one live one. I think they had stored them in fresh water and drowned the poor things. I (and a chef friend of mine, who saw the whole fiasco too) avoided the lobsters and watched everyone else eat the slimy, mostly undercooked nasty looking things. Amazing everyone didn't get sick. Oh, they also had a bunch of steamers that they neglected to clean, gross. Luckily they had a locally raised lamb that was delicious.

                                    1. Lobster can be still good to eat after they have died. But, you only have a few hours (about 6), to cook them. Lots of commercial people in the field, have lost lobster due to lack of refrigeration, filtering water problems etc. They can't sell them, but we used to take them home. When you have a "dead" lobster, fold the limp tail under the lobster and place it on the bottom of the lobster pot in boiling water. Cook about 10-12 minutes (depending on size), and when you take it out of the water, the tail "must" be tightly clinging to the underpart of the lobster, just like any other cooked lobster. If the lobster is limp after cooking (tail hanging down), definately throw it away, it has passed it's stage to eat.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mcel215

                                        Good tip.
                                        I'll have to trust you I guess. I do a good job of keeping my critters alive though.


                                      2. Not sure how long but i know some companies in maine sell live Maine lobsters on the internet. They wrap them in wet newspaper I think and add some cold packs and ship them so they must stay alive for at least a couple of days.

                                        1. You might enjoy a book titled 'Fish Without a Doubt,' by Rick Moonen & Roy Finamore. We live in a fairly small town but found it at the library, after which we bought our own copy (& we don't buy many cookbooks, whatwith so much available online).


                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: FishTales

                                            I bought "Fish Without a Doubt" when it was cookbook of the month here. It's a very useful book. Moomen says to wrap the lobsters in wet newspaper and put them in a box in the refrigerator.

                                          2. I buy lobsters every week from RI flown to Charlotte NC and my lobsters will last almost a week in the fridg. Don't pack them too tight and put wet paper over them and cull out dead or real slow ones and they will last almost a week. This is in 90-95 deg heat. they taste as good a few days later as they did the first day. Lobstermobster