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Jun 19, 2008 08:24 AM
Discussion eating roe of more than 3 pound lobster safe??

i'm very concerned that single lobster much hevyier than 2 pounds such as 3 pound lobster may not have roe of proper quality as opposed to that of lighter one. because i think bigger body may indicate its being of more aged than much smaller one.
of course, it's not human but i just wonder that being more aged may cause quality of roe inide lobster.
could it be true?

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  1. I've never heard of such a thing, and I'm not sure what it is you're specifically concerned about. Old lobster = lower quality eggs = what? Food poisoning? Even if the eggs are reduced in "quality" for reproductive purposes, I seriously doubt that they would have any effect on your health.

    But I would avoid a 3 pound lobster just because it's a 3 pound lobster. Most lobsters served in restaurants are about 1.25 pounds, maybe 1.5. A three pounder would be very large and likely very tough.

    15 Replies
    1. re: curiousbaker

      I disagree with the 3 pounder being very tough. It isn't. We've had our fair share of 3 lb. lobsters over the years and they are every bit as tasty as any other size.

      As for the roe - I have eaten roe and tomalley all my life. It's ALL very delicious!!
      Enjoy without guilt.

      1. re: Gio

        Hm, thanks for the info! I'm surprised, because I've always heard that 2+ pound lobsters start to get chewy. But I can't say I've ever tested out the claim - mostly because lobster is too expensive to experiment on!

        1. re: Gio

          Gio, I beg to disagree with you. 3-pounders are generally tough as nails. Besides, they are old-timers who deserve to be left alone. How would you like it if your grandfather turned 100 and someone ate him the next day?

          1. re: HSBSteveM

            Nonsense. A 3-lb lobster isn't even considered particularly large here in the Boston area. I've eaten many dozens of true jumbo lobsters, 5 lbs and up, the largest being a 26-pounder that fed an entire family gathering. My wife and I shared a 6-pounder just last week. The meat on larger lobsters can have a different texture, particularly the claw meat, but it's a long way from "tough as nails." And as for the grandfather analogy, presumably we can conclude that you're in favor of eating babies instead??

            1. re: FlyFish

              A big touche there, fellow Bostonian - can't gather a snappy come-back for the baby analogy. But I remain a fan of the little ones.

            2. re: HSBSteveM

              Clearly you've never eaten a 3 pounder or you would know that isn't true.

          2. re: curiousbaker

            As far as a large lobster being tough, I have laid that myth to rest. A local supermarket was advertising a sale on live lobsters of large size. When I got to the store I requested a female lobster. There were only males in the display tank but the counterman said he would check in the back. He came back with a 9 read NINE pound female. The sale price was about $6 / lb. I took it and had the store steam it for me. When cooked he filled up my large cooler with chopped ice (a tip I learned from Alton Brown on foodtv). Me and Mrs. doc had lobster for dinner for the next 3 nights. Totally tender and sweet. No trace of stringy or chewy. Went back the next week and got a 9lb. for brother in law and 7lb. for myself.

            1. re: phantomdoc

              Lobsters that size are generally from the Nova Scotia coast. The reputation that lobsters over 2 pounds are tough and chewy I think is because of a tendency to overcook the larger ones. My old standard ( which many here think is insufficient) is 3.5 minutes the first pound, 2 minutes each additional pound, after the water returns to a boil. It can take a long time to bring a 9 pounder back to a boil, and I think that changes the calculus.

              1. re: phantomdoc

                Well, that settles it for me - and serves me right to go on conventional wisdom without testing the truth of the claim.

                1. re: curiousbaker

                  what about grilling a lobster? does anyone know anything about doing that? i assume you need to boil it first then grill it after?

                  1. re: ellie_chic

                    no need to boil than grill - would lead to an overcooked lobster. Split lengthwise while alive and grill or stuff and grill away. I supose there is really no need to split - but does encourage faster cooking and a slight grilled flavor that is nice.
                    A skewer thru the tail to prevent curling is advisable

                    1. re: coastie

                      i just found this food network guy - doesnt this look like he cooks it first? i dont know if i can cut the poor little guy in half! lol. (that basil butter looks amazing btw)

                      1. re: ellie_chic

                        In a professional kitchen we don't cook it first in general. BUT - you could - then u are using the grill to warm with some nice grilled butter - don't think u can go too wrong as long as u just cook til hot. But the split and cook works really well. Do understand your squeamishness though - my first time was tough!!

                        1. re: coastie

                          i have one of cook books of tom collichio.
                          he suggested to parboil lobster tail first while its being wrapped in plastic. after slightly parboiled it, he said he grills it or just pan sears it with other ingredient..

                        2. re: ellie_chic

                          As coastie says, you don't HAVE to boil first, but I do find it slightly easier. The tomaley and roe is set up, and generally stays in place when cutting in half and grilling. As for overcooking, you can first undercook in boiling water, and simply grill briefly with a bit of butter - the resulting flame adds just enough grill flavor and Larry isn't dried out.

              2. This is purely anecdotal, I claim no scientific basis to this.

                I adore lobster, and I adore tomalley and roe. When we do lobster boils, for whatever reason, I seem to be the only person who likes this stuff. A few years ago, I ate my lobster, and then ate the tomalley and roe of a few other people lobsters too. (Total 3 lobsters worth, smallish lobsters, 1-1.5 lb.) That night I got horribly sick.

                A year later, same event, same crowd, I ate about 2 lobsters worth of tomalley and roe. Again, I got very sick, exactly the same symptoms, and the same time frame. I had heard of people developing similar intolerences of lobster and other shellfish.

                Since then, I have severely limited my intake of lobster. I have eaten small pieces of lobster, and I have avoided tomalley and roe. No significant problems to date, so small amounts of meat seem to be ok.

                I wonder if the problem was the roe and tomalley. I would have a higher suspicion about the tomalley, as the liver is the site of toxin detoxification. But i do wonder about eating that much lobster innard. A larger lobster would have a larger amount of tomalley and roe, and so more of whatever might be contributing to symptoms. That being said, I have eaten large quantities of both prior to these episodes without problems for years. So it's likely that for those who don't have a lobster intolerance, large amount of roe is no issue at all.

                18 Replies
                1. re: moh

                  i dont know but i think you might have some allergy to some specific seafood.
                  or if it is not, i want to ask what the symtom was like?
                  was it like that of food poisoning or some allergies.?

                  1. re: hae young

                    All GI symptoms, both up top and down below, lots of stomach cramps, lots of nausea. Very unpleasant, gone within 4-5 hours. I don't know that this is a classic allergy, my understanding is that it is an intolerance rather than true allergy. Very sad, I do miss my lobster! Fortunately I have not noticed similar symptoms with crab, scallop or other shellfish.

                    1. re: moh

                      Definitely the tomalley is suspect. I had a similar experience and have avoided tomalley ever since without incident. Shellfish allergy usually manifests differently doesn't it?

                      I don't think you need to give up lobster.

                      1. re: mrsleny

                        Yes, i suspect it is the tomalley - very sad, I love the stuff. Lobster won't be the same without it....

                        1. re: moh

                          Very topical:

                          The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers to avoid eating tomalley in American Lobster (Maine Lobster), regardless of where the lobster was harvested, because of potential contamination with dangerous levels of the toxins that cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).

                          American lobster, also known as Maine lobster, are harvested from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean from Northeastern Canada to South Carolina, inclusive.

                          The FDA advisory applies only to tomalley, the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of the lobster that functions as the liver and pancreas. Cooking does not eliminate the PSP toxins. However, studies have shown that, even when high levels of PSP toxins are present in lobster tomalley, lobster meat itself is typically unaffected.

                          Symptoms of PSP include tingling and/or numbness of the mouth, face or neck; muscle weakness; headache; and nausea. In extreme cases, when large amounts of the toxin are consumed, these symptoms can lead to respiratory failure and death. Symptoms usually occur within two hours of exposure to the toxin. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention.

                          1. re: ChefBoyAreMe

                            Yup! The warning was just out in the local press. Avoid tomalley at this time of year due to red tide and the possibility of PSP. Sad about mercury too. What have we done to the sea.

                            Vote Tomalley; The Green Stuff Party!
                            Bumper sticker is SW Hbr, Me.
                            Really large lobsters are illegal to catch in Maine and come from Canada. The big guys are the breeders. Fifty to sixty pound lobsters were not uncommon a hundred years ago. Now they were old!
                            A 1 1/4 lobster is about seven years old.

                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                              That's not the type of stuff that makes you sick an hour later... that sounds more like standard food poisoning. What you get from Tomalley is things like PSP, cancer, and just flat out death. And you would most likely need more than one or two.

                  2. re: moh

                    There's a lot of literature out there saying that the tomalley's got a lot of toxins. I also love it as well. I don't eat lobster every often. So when I do, I eat everything. But if you had problems with it, I would definitely avoid it.

                    Here's one of those articles:


                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      Eating tomalley is a communist plot to "sap and poison our vital bodily fluids" least according to Col. Ripper

                      1. re: Hue

                        Er, that was sex.
                        Vote for Tom Alley
                        The Green Stuff Party!
                        Eat the coral too/\.
                        Save the shells for bisque.
                        Lobster the other white meat.
                        I lobster then I flounder,
                        ad nauseum ...

                    2. re: moh

                      A question. Was the roe and tomalley fully cooked? When undercooked it is black. When cooked roe is bright red. Cooking kills off the microbiology living in the lobster. Allergy might be to something the lobster has eaten. Were the lobsters cooked Live? If not freshly killed much higher chance of bacteria.

                      1. re: phantomdoc

                        Most of us who have eaten 300+ lobsters can easily distinguish the firm green tomalley, and the firm red roe, and we know if we want to eat it or not. It's the oozy, black, tar-like substance that I want no part of and I scrape away. I'm no crustacean scientist, but I suspect that the black ooze has more to do with the early development of the next cycle of egg growth, and is not correlated with cooking time. But when I scrape it off, the residual tell-tale color is green, not red. I don't believe that 2 more minutes in the pot is going to turn that black goop into inviting, green tomalley, at the expense of turning my lobster meat into an overcooked chewy waste. Can someone out there with definitive knowledge enlighten us?

                        1. re: Veggo

                          I am by no means a lobster doc. I have had undercooked lobster that had black stuff inside that subsequently turned red with further cooking. I guess the lobster eggs are different from Salmon eggs.

                          1. re: phantomdoc

                            To further complicate the quandary, after reflecting on my years in the Caribbean enjoying spiny lobsters, they don't suffer the green-red-black mystery; only the ones we call "Maine" lobsters do.
                            'Splain it to us Lucy....

                            1. re: Veggo

                              I have been referring to Maine Lobsters in this discussion. I do not particularly care for the Spiny what are commonly called Lobster Tails around here in NY. IMHO not as tender, juicy, or flavorful.

                              1. re: Veggo

                                Spiny lobsters are not very closely related to 'Maine' (true) lobsters.

                              2. re: phantomdoc

                                Please allow me to add to the observations here. I recently enjoyed a 3 lb. lobster (recently meaning that I'm still picking meat from my teeth) and here's what I found----there was some black stuff that seemed to be on the edges of the roe. It was bitter. This is not new to me. I've had this numerous times before and always attributed it to slight undercooking. With this discussion in mind I scooped some out and stuck it in the microwave for 20 seconds. Sure enough all the black turned red. And it lost its bitterness. So there you go.
                                I looked at all 107 of the google definitive rules of thumb re: cooking a large lobster and decided to go with the 'after returning to a boil cook 10 min. for the first lb., 3 min. for each additional lb.--------16 minutes at full boil. As often happens to me, it was damn near perfect but the tail was a bit overcooked. I've always considered the claws and knuckles to be the prime meat and the tail somewhat less flavorful so I'm always thankful for perfectly cooked claws (these were the size of catcher's mitts!)
                                Any tips for not overcooking lobster tails?

                                I'm convinced that whoever wrote the biblical rules against gluttony did so while god was otherwise occupied----possibly eating an obscenely large lobster.

                            2. re: phantomdoc

                              Phantomdoc, the lobster was live when cooked, and the roe and the tomalley were fully cooked both times.

                          2. Interesting, I'd always assumed this was an old wives tale, but i'd thought it was more to do with the tomalley than the roe. Given that it's the lobster's filtration system/ doesn't surprise me that lots of toxins might get trapped there, especially given the increasingly poor state of the environment. I have no desire to eat either of them in any case.

                            But i do remember, when i was about 5 years old, and there was a cooked and opened lobster on the kitchen table, while Mom was on the phone. I guess in my curiosity, i poked my finger into the tomalley for a taste, and I'l never forget the 'no no no!!! Don't eat that!!" holler that came from my mother. I did not eat lobster again until I was about 24.

                            I had a 3 pound lobster last summer and it was bliss. Came from very cold waters off Nfld. I would have loved to have seen that nine pounder! Although I wouldn't want to attempt to get that sucker into a pot

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: im_nomad

                              The supermarket fish monger did the steaming each time. I did not have to "dispatch" the lobsters or have a vessel large enough to contain them on the stove. I have some pics and will figure out how to post. Again I can guess that the toxins processed by the liver have much to do with the individual lobsters diet. I recall an incident several years back when a friend and I dined on seafood preceding the New Years Central Park midnight fun run. After the race she began to show signs of allergic reaction. We went to Roosevelt hospital emergency room. Her face and lips were very swollen. While waiting for treatment we spoke to another person who happened to be a toxicologist. He told us that the reaction was probably to something the lobster had eaten. Possibly a blowfish? After injection of benedryl all was well and friend swore off shrimp for several years. Frequently have New Year Eve dinner at Sambuca on west 72nd st. Manhattan.
                              The stomach cramps described do not seem like allergic, but rather bacterial or common name "food poisining". I have never gotten sick from lobster, but once had similar gastro-intestinal symptoms from an undercooked Tad's $2.99 steak.

                              1. re: phantomdoc

                                I never had a reaction of any sort to shellfish a until a few years ago when my husband and I sat down to a peel and eat shrimp fest at home one night. The shrimp were bought where I always got them and cooked like I always do for cold peel and eat. An hour after eating them my skin got hot and everything from my neck up started itching. Now I know sensitivities can develop at any age, so I figured that's what happened. A few weeks later I had breaded shrimp, no problem. Awhile after that I had salt and pepper shrimp with shells on and the itch started. A good bit after that I had scampi, no problem. I saw a pattern and decidied to check it out. Peeled shrimp and cooked them for shrimp cocktail, no problem. Cooked shrimp, shells on, itchy. It's the shells, I've developed a sensitivity to the shells. Haven't tried the lobster experience yet to see if it's the same but did react to crawdads with shells on.

                                1. re: morwen

                                  Sounds like the scientific method. Isolate the offending variable. I once had a reaction similar to the one you describe. I was having an X-ray study done of my kidneys. The study used a "contrast dye" which was an iodine solution that blocked the X-Radiation. The contrast would be filtered out by the kidney and therefore would show up white on the film. Iodine is a large component of shellfish and frequently the source of allergic reaction. I do not know if it is a higher concentration in the shells or if the shell is just containing the iodine content of the shrimp. You can try taking off the shells and boiling separately to make a shrimp stock to challenge your system.

                                  1. re: phantomdoc

                                    I've had the contrast thing done just recently after I discovered the sensitivity, knew about iodine and shellfish, and told the tech about it before the procedure. Other than a slight warm, flushed feeling which I was told to be expecting, I didn't get the itchies. I haven't made shrimp stock since noticing this phenomena but someday when I'm feeling brave and adventerous I suppose I should try it. I haven't had a reaction to shrimp or shrimp-like critters cooked without the shells so I'm pretty sure it's some component in the shells and not the meat. I've also noticed I have no reaction when peeling and handling uncooked shells. Maybe the cooking process releases whatever I'm reacting to.

                                    1. re: morwen

                                      We are all an experiment of one. Enjoy your shellfish.

                                      In follow up contrast studies I was spared the strong reaction by getting a "drip" (intravenous bottle) rather than a "push" (large syringe shot quickly into vein.

                                      1. re: phantomdoc

                                        Shoprite Supermarket in Woodbury 516 938 0240 and Morton Village 516 938 2250 Has the LIVE JUMBO LOBSTERS on sale July 3,4,5,and 6 only. Circular says 3-6 lb. $5.98/ lb.. This is where i got the 7-9 lb. seamonsters a couple of years ago. Any L.I. hounds that want to test the toughness or toxic theory can have at it at a bargain! They will steam cook for free and if you bring a cooler they will fill with chipped ice for transport to your home or picnic destination. YUM!

                                        1. re: phantomdoc

                                          One caveat: I once bought 8 lobsters on sale, figuring I would eat 2 fresh and cook the other 6 and freeze the meat along with the liquid from the claws, in individual zip lock bags, which I did. When I got around to using the frozen ones, they were so tasteless I threw them out. I can't think of another food that loses so much flavor by freezing..The only good lobster is a fresh lobster.

                                          1. re: phantomdoc

                                            That's a very good deal.

                                            BJ's Wholesale Club here sells live lobsters out of a pound and in keeping with the philosphy of a wholesale club, theirs are very large. Some are real whoppers, with bodies as large as a dachshund.

                                            I am surprised that so many people still beleive the "big is tough" myth. Big is usually cheaper and that is sweet.

                                            1. re: C. Hamster

                                              In NY which is where I've lived most of my life, the general rule is that larger lobsters are more expensive. I have never put lobster in the freezer either cooked or live. Best cooked live. I like steamed or boiled better than broiled. Most stores will cook for you. Saves big mess in the kitchen. Keep the mess at the table. I am a BJ's member too. Do they steam them?

                                              1. re: phantomdoc

                                                No. I don;t think they steam them. At least not at my store.

                                                Plus they're big enough to ride home on, if you keep them alive.

                              2. FDA just released a bulletin advising against consumption of American lobster tomalley. Here's the link:


                                4 Replies
                                1. re: mrsleny

                                  oh mi god !
                                  i already ate it. the fda news will make me not to buy the next lobster at least in near future. now i got why some fishmongers show some serious disgust of eating its innards while selling me their lobsters with firm guaranttee of its freshness.

                                  1. re: mrsleny

                                    I live in Maine and read an article in our local paper this weekend stating the same. Most Mainers treat tomalley as a delicacy (and heaven knows lobster is everywhere up here and comparatively cheap), but I don't think I'll be eating the roe anytime soon given the report on the levels of toxins in it.

                                    1. re: SharaMcG

                                      how do you know roe has also toxins? wasn't it just about tomally but not roe?

                                    2. re: mrsleny

                                      Thx for posting this. I have some traps in Boston Harbor and have been eating a lot of lobster, including roe and tomalley.

                                      No ill effects but I think I'll slow down on the "innards"..much as I love the tomallley.

                                      A few weeks ago, local authorities were saying that the "red tide" did not affect lobsters..but I'll go with this update.

                                    3. I was on the Maine coast 3 weeks ago for the first time. I'm no expert but was told by locals at the lobster pounds that the tomalley "scare" was humbug. I ate lobster, roe & tomalley multiple times and had no problems. Regarding the larger lobsters (I saw 4+ pounders at Young's lobster pound in East Belfast) I was told that as long as they're not overcooked the meat shouldn't be tougher than any other lobster. It may not be as sweet, but no tougher. Also learned that each pound a lobster weighs is equal to approx. 6 years of life. Those big guys I saw were about 25 years old. The largest one I ate was a 2 1/2 pounder. Darn good eating.