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Oct 24, 2008 07:07 PM

Hard-shell vs. soft-shell lobster?

can a knowledgeable chowhounder help me understand the pros and cons of hard vs soft shell lobster.

Much appreciated! Thank you.

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  1. Funny - a coworker (whose dad works in the biz), some team mates, and I just had this conversation today. She said soft-shells are quicker to cook as chucktownlady stated (as they haven't fully grown into their shells yet), so unfortunately the average cook tends to cook them just as long as other lobsters, and as a result come out tougher and overcooked. She also described the meat as denser, though I've never had softshell lobsters myself. She prefers hard shells and says she finds the meat sweeter/tastier, but she thinks the difference is primarily texture for most people (with hardshell lobsters the preferred choice).

    1. A hardeshell lobster will have more meat- the soft shells are the ones that get meat inside the claws, and then all over your plate. The outside of a hard shell will look almost pitted- somehwhat like the peel on an orange.

      1 Reply
      1. re: macca

        I agree with both posts above. I personally prefer hard-shell lobsters. I find their meat to more dense and sweet. It's worth the extra effort (possible use of a mallet) for it! :)

      2. Soft shells have more water because they have not yet fully grown into their shells (as stated below), I and my family agree (having done side by side taste tests) that the soft shell lobsters are more tender and taste sweeter - it's all a trade off - they taste better, they are messier and they're easier to get into - oh and usually they're cheaper! So eat these at home and enjoy the mess!

        1 Reply
        1. re: harryharry

          At a recent group lunchen at Chauncey Creek, while eating lobsters, two of us being in the business agree that soft shell was the way to go. Less cooking time, cheaper, easy to shell, sweet meat. While the other six of the group, non lobstering people, swore hard shells were better! I'd say it's a toss up and a personal preference.

        2. I write a blog for Gorton's called The Lobster Spot. I recently researched how and why a lobster molts. In preparation for molting, a lobster is "programmed" to take on a lot of water in its tissues, thereby increasing its mass and facilitating the molting process. Until the new hard shell forms, the lobster is both quite vulnerable and the flesh is quite watery. A hard shell lobster is in between molts and consequently the flesh is much more meaty. A "soft-shell" lobster is rarely marketed or sold by restaurants or other establishments due to this fact. If you want to see a lobster molt, I put a YouTube video on the post. The main page is and the post was entitled How (and why) does a lobster molt?

          1 Reply
          1. re: The Lobster Spot

            you are accurate. Its the water in the flesh, from shedding the shell, that makes the soft shell lobbys inferior to most tasters.

          2. Tough to tell what is tastier or sweeter. First of all, if it isn't a Maine lobster from the north Atlantic it isn't. Lobsters caught in warmer waters of long island sound or off the Jersey coast (we call them Jersey Lobsters) taste like mud. I prefer soft shelled lobster because it is easier to eat. There is less meat inside but if the restaurant of fish store is fair, you should be charged a couple of dollars less per pound for soft shell. What I find is more relevant to the taste of a lobster is whether or not it's a male or female. Males have a larger crusher claw but no roe in it's belly. Females are supposed to have broader tails. There are those who feel that the roe adds a sweetness to a lobster. With all else being equal, we always ask for females. My pet pieve are restaurants who claim to serve drawn butter when in fact it's some sour, oily margarine concoction. We all know the difference and nothing ruins a fine lobster more than some cheap motor oil dip that they try and pass for drawn butter.