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Sep 6, 2009 02:43 PM

Large vs. small lobsters (split from Outer Boroughs board)

The Chowhound Team split this tangent from the NYC Outer Boroughs board.

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I totally do NOT subscribe to the opinion that larger lobsters are less good eating but the 5 lb'er I cooked yesterday (which by some luck and some research was timed close to perfect) was perfectly ok and was enjoyed a lot but was NOT one of the great lobsters I've known. Not very sweet, not very flavorful. I haven't a clue what makes one lobster better or worser than another but... there it is.
Enough leftovers to do something interesting with and since it is not super primo delicious I can do some flavoring things that I wouldn't normally do to a lobster that deserves nothing more than butter. Got scampi style in mind.

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  1. Yes...that happens. There could be a couple of factors affecting the taste. 1) It may have been about to shed...was the shell extremely hard and thick? Was it covered with barnacles? Was there a "package" of hard calcium crystals in the head? I have found that lobsters that are just about to shed lose their sweetness, especially males (and the large ones are almost always males)..sometimes they even taste like cotton. 2) It could have been in the tank a long time. 3) Although Maine does not allow collection of large lobsters, I can't speak for other states. Its conceivable that it came from an area where the water had warmed up...lobsters lose their flavor at this time of year when waters are warmer...that's why I prefer Canadian lobsters in the late summer/early fall...water is still very cold. 4) I have always suspected that some stores are cheap with the salt in their tanks...and that too little salt "muddies" the flavor. No proof...just my gut feeling. Where did you get your lobster? I have always associated this flavor pattern with the store on Centre. St.

    2 Replies
    1. re: EricMM

      Just to be clear, there was nothing 'off' about it. Perfectly clean-flavored. Just not as flavorful as other lobsters I've had. I eat maybe three lobsters/year. Usually around 2 lb'ers. Some make me groan aloud in pleasure. Others are just good.
      The shells were difficult to crack---they didn't really break ---more like they crushed and you had to pick away the shards. But they were fully meat-filled. No barnacles or growths. Very clean in appearance. This was from Red Hook Fairway. The tank was overfilled with lobsters---they definitely intended this for short-term holding. And those that wouldn't fit were sitting, live, on ice which I declined. Not an excellent environment but at cooking time (next day) my well stored fridge lobster was quite lively.
      I will say....your statement about the large ones being breeding stock has given me pause. This does matter.

      1. re: JonL

        My guess is just that your lobster was mature and very near shedding. I know exactly what you are talking about in terms of flavor...its a healthy, high quality lobster, it tastes like lobster, just doesn't have that sweet, fantastic flavor.As for breeding the moment lobsters are in a very good situation. They are sustainably harvested...and in fact increasing in some areas, particularly Canada. Unfortunately, its in large part due to the decrease in predators such as codfish.

    2. I have found, with a lifetime of lobstah meals under my belt, that the bigger ones are much tastier.... hands down.

      1. I'll take lobster in ANY size, however, I must say that the absolute best I ever had was a 19 and 1/2 pounder bought on Long Beach Island, NJ in 1978. No stock pot could accommodate it so we had to buy a galvanized garbage can for cooking. Once done, the claw shell was so thick, we had to make a trip to the workshop and use a sledge hammer. You've never see a hunk of claw meat like that in your life! (I saved the thumb.) The tail was like a filet mignon that we cut into large slices. Seven of us went off the cholesterol scales that night and we still had four pounds of meat left over for lobster salad. I wish I knew how to post pictures here as I have a shot of me and the Beast on the dock just before it met its demise.

        While it was a feast for the ages, I felt a bit criminal in being part of its taking. The lobster monger said it was probably 70 years old. If hatched in 1908, it survived the torpedoes and depth charges of two world wars only to be served with drawn butter and made into salad. R.I.P. Homarus americanus colossus - and thank you!

        7 Replies
        1. re: Chefpaulo

          I appreciate your mixed feelings. And I'd totally love to see that picture.

          did you try to click "attach photo" and then click "browse" which should take you into your computer file system where you can try to find the photo.

          1. re: JonL

            I'll have to scan it in first as it was loooong before digital photography. Let me work on it.


          2. re: Chefpaulo

            In the Summer of '78 (I'm pretty sure it was that year, but it might have been '77 - the summer memories of an 8 year old focus on things like Yankees' wins and "Life's Been Good"'s release). We too had a 20 pound lobster - caught out of Point Pleasant and eaten in Lavalette. The tail meat, which could only be accessed with a hammer and chisel, was succulent and flavorful. We ate giant chunks with our hands dipping it in large bowls of butter (much to the disgust of my non-lobster eating, "Martha Stewart"y aunt). Somewhere, I think, my dad still has the "thumb" portion of one of the claws!

            1. re: MGZ

              Funny, my dad used to get "small" New Jersey Lobsters for $12 per dozen in the sixties. Mom used the tails in spaghetti sauce!

              1. re: MGZ

                Ooooohhh, MGZ, we are kindred. I, too, saved the thumb portion of the claw. Its bleached white now but is on my kitchen memorabilia shelf. Perhaps your lobster and mine knew each other in times distant before we were hatched.


                1. re: MGZ

                  A little info. Are you aware that there is no such thing as a 5 lb Maine lobster (legally)? Why? The largest lobsters do almost 95% of the breeding. They battle it out for breeding right. Maine has a very controlled lobster harvest and over the last 20+ years it has shown a slight increase. Other states and provinces are in decline. what ever happen tpo the NJ lobster and soft shell calm (steamers) industry?

                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                    Hey Pass, we're reclamming the Banegat Bay, so maybe someone down here is learning . . . . Swords seem to be doing better . . . .

                    I do, however, appreciate what your saying. I learned the "larger lobsters breed" facts year ago (while trying to find accessible surf in Maine) and typically stick to the 1 1/2 lb'ers. In fact, on Monday we passed on a 5 and a halfer at $4.99 a pound - think about that $27 for a jumbo bug in NJ! Oh the pangs of doing the right thing! (that being said - one never forgets devouring chunks of meat ripped from a lobster tail the size of a Polish mason's forearm!)

                    Chefpaulo - perhaps the lobsters went to "school" together - Jersey-Atlantic High Class of '26 or something. As to the thumb (in classic "Dad" fashion), I am pretty sure that the old man coated it with marine spar for preservation purposes.

              2. I prefer my lobster in the 2.5-3 lb. range. At least large enough that the meat in the legs is worth going after.

                Last summer my wife and I wanted some lobster while we were in Bar Harbor - a couple of friends that were locals were trying to tell me that the big lobsters were no good and the locals only ate the small ones because the meat was more tender. I have always found small soft shell lobsters in the summer to be salty, watery, and the meat is kind of mushy. So we went to the place they recommended and the lobster sucked. Not only was it the way I described, but the lobsters were so small, the meat inside was just a tease - even after eating three of them. After dinner, we left them and went to another lobster pound that had big ones and I had a wonderful 2.5 lb'er that satisfied all my lobster wishes.

                2 Replies
                1. re: LStaff

                  If they were mush, they were undercooked; I've eaten hundreds of shedders and found them to be mush only when undercooked. In me 'umble opinion, soft shell are like veal, tender and sweet (but w/ a lot of expensive salt water); and big lobbers are like beef, firm and fully packed. I like them both, no complaints. A further tip; if you prefer the tail, ask for a female, like the claws, get a male. A male can have up to 50% of its meat in the claws. But don't forget to eat the bodies.

                  1. re: LStaff

                    Ooh, Bar Harbor, gotta go to the Trenton Bridge Lobstah Pound, no substitutes! We shared a fabulous 4 lb hard shell there last year; I like the density of the meat compared to soft shell and all the legs are big enough that meat is easy to get and big and chunky from them so my husband doesn't get discouraged.

                    I never bother eating lobsters much under 2 lbs, but definitely did not enjoy a more than 5 lb one we cooked perfectly this year. I think around 2.5- 4 lbs is the sweet spot, for me anyhoo.

                  2. I agree, you can never tell how fresh a lobster will be based on its size... but that is a great idea to use to leftovers in something else. I usually dont want the fish smell to take over the ouse so i throw away anything left after dinner..thanks for the suggestion!