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Just ate lobster for the first time

If you ask the average guy to name a super-luxurious food, chances are he'll say "lobster". These sea bugs have a high culinary cachet in our culture, but I had never had one until this weekend. I was pretty excited to break the life-long streak of not eating lobster, but I tried to go into it with no expectations to give the sea bug a fair shake.

First, I was surprised how easily it came apart. The way people carry on about de-shelling the beast it seemed like I would need power tools and a cutting torch to get through the shell. Actually, it was very simple to cut the claws open with a pocketknife. The lobster came apart very simply, like an oversize crayfish.

Taste-wise, I thought it was OK. There was frankly not much taste to the flesh, other than a slight briny sweetness. A little lemon and butter helped to wake up the flavor a bit more. Texture–wise, I found that it was a bit chewy and stringy for my taste, at least compared to other seafood types. The fat chunk of tail meat was actually my least favorite because of the stringy texture, while the little lump of claw meat inside the "bicep" was the best.

As an aside, the poop chute in a lobster tail is truly colossal. I was not expecting to see that.

I enjoyed the meal but I feel lobster's exalted place in the American mind is more about scarcity and price than about the actual culinary value. On my seafood list lobster now comes way behind crayfish, shrimp, giant prawn, Dungeness crab and most kinds of fish. So to sum it up lobster ain't bad, but only if someone else is paying.

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  1. Lobsters have a soft shell and hard shell season. You do not easily open a hard shell, especially one of serious size, without serious effort and sometimes a mallet and chisel. But it's worth it!

    It takes a lot of time and effort to get all the meat out, and there's plenty of it in good sized lobsters even in the little swimmer legs, worth hunting for with a lobster pick, twisting each segment apart. Also the arm joint segments holding the claw.

    There's also a very easily reached chunk of delicious meat atop the head once you peel the body shell off of it.

    The best tasting meat is a bitch to get out; it's between the white cartilage/ribs on both sides of the main body. Again, a larger lobster has bigger, more easily found intact chunks.

    Chewy and stringy lobster tail is generally due to having been overcooked, and I would not bother eating it.

    I love lobster for flavor, and I only ever make it at home, easily done and better prepared that way, and lobster is cheaper than most other fish and meats these days. Locally in suburban NY metro it's $3.99-$5.99 per lb, $2 bucks more if they steam it for you.

    5 Replies
    1. re: mcf

      "The best tasting meat is a bitch to get out; it's between the white cartilage/ribs on both sides of the main body. Again, a larger lobster has bigger, more easily found intact chunks."

      I forgot to mention, that part was very juicy and tasty, if a bit hard to eat. It was honeycombed with tendons, or something like tendons. I ended up cutting the midsection into segments to gnaw the meat out of the inner shell.

      After the meal I found myself wanting to take everyone's shells home to make seafood stock but I couldn't figure out a graceful or hygenic way to do it.

      1. re: RealMenJulienne

        Too bad, they make a great stock! I don't use the soft, squishy lungy stuff, though.

        It's much easier to just pop out chunks of that rib meat on a bigger lobster. DH and I prefer to share a 4 lb hard shell for the flavor and size of the meat from even the smallest body parts.

      2. re: mcf

        "and lobster is cheaper than most other fish and meats these days. Locally in suburban NY metro it's $3.99-$5.99 per lb"

        Not sure about your math or you must pay a lot more for other fish and meats than I typically see. Considering there is only about 1/4 lb of meat per lb of lobster, even that $4/lb lobster (assuming you can get them that cheap) is $16/lb of meat.

        1. re: Clams047

          a few years back we opted to do a lobster bash. got them live from the local market - something like $13/pound for the 1.25 lb size.

          being a curious sort, boiled them, cleaned out the meat prior to 'reassembling' for ease of eating, weighed the meat.

          the math came out to roughly $80/pound.

          1. re: PSRaT

            Yabbut, that's not a typical lobster price, way high these days.

      3. I don't know why lobster has acquired a luxury image other than its pricey away from the coast. Last summer, Stop & Shop was selling them 3.99 a pound. Less than a steak. It was historically a cheap food. Some places it still is. There's a local place that does a lobster dinner for two for about $29 IIRC. But I'm not a big fan of whole lobster anyways. Prefer a CT style roll or the Spaghetti Homard at Joe Beef in Montreal.

        If it was stringy, it was over cooked like mcf said.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Bkeats

          Since only about 25% of the weight of a lobster is meat, that's more like $16/#.

          To get meat out of the legs, tear them off and roll with a bottle or rolling pin, from the "toes" upward towards the body.

          1. re: greygarious

            Yes, but prime steak for me is $20+ a pound.

            1. re: greygarious

              I tried this method a few days ago, and it only works well sometimes. Other times, it flattens the meat.

            2. re: Bkeats

              I found it for $1.99 both last summer and the summer before.

              2 pounders, fully cooked, for $5.99

            3. Claw meat is the best.

              Having grown up in the west coast, im partial to crab - I just find them sweeter and more succulent on average. You'll notice that a lot of folks just dont eat lobster as is - often there is some kind of dressing or, more often, melted butter. Crab, on the other hand, I find I can eat with some white wine and a sourdough baguette and im all set.

              13 Replies
              1. re: majordanby

                I so disagree! Maine lobster pounds are full of folks eating nothing but a sea water boiled lobster served sans anything, save occasionally butter, maybe some lemon.

                Small lobsters have little flavor, IMO, unless hard shell, but I won't bother with anything under 2 -4 lbs range. The best.

                I only ever make lobster at home, unless I'm in Maine, where I can get a lobster pound one boiled in sea water, because I don't want it chewy/overcooked nor anything but boiled or steamed. Best done at home for much less money.

                I've always found crab to be too much work for not enough food.

                1. re: mcf

                  "but a sea water boiled lobster"

                  sea water vs non - makes the difference in taste?

                  1. re: majordanby

                    I have heard that lobster connoisseurs want their bug boiled at the end of the day in the sea water that's been cooking them all throughout the day, by which time it's full of added briny flavor.

                    1. re: majordanby

                      I enjoy both, but yes, sea water boiled lobster is a very special treat, concentrated flavors.

                    2. re: mcf

                      "I've always found crab to be too much work for not enough food."

                      major is likely referring to Dungeness which is little work and a HUGE amount of food. We share a 2+#er and have plenty to eat.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Or blue crab which really *is* too much work for not enough food. IMO.

                        1. re: tcamp

                          There is nothing finer than freshly caught blue crab. I live in Houston/Galveston and a mess poured out on newspaper on a table with cold beer is not "work."

                          1. re: tcamp

                            crab crackin' with friends is a social experience
                            sitting outside at a picnic table covered in paper, with a little mallet and a pick, and some good beer or a white sangria some corn and tomato salad on the side, good music playing in the background of friendly conversation.

                          2. re: c oliver

                            I didn't find that to be so, but I do know plenty of folks who enjoy it. And plenty for you might be meager for me.

                            I don't much care for stone crab legs, either, but others seem to.

                            1. re: mcf

                              When I was in my 20s, I could eat a whole D. crab but by my 40s, it was a shared dish.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                I share a lobster, too, but it has to be 4 lbs. :-)

                            2. re: c oliver

                              I buy Dungeness Crab for my Gumbo.I have the butcher to clean it.

                          3. re: majordanby

                            Oh yea the crab claw is loaded with meat.That reminds me time to make a pot of Gumbo.

                          4. Having been a huge fan of lobster in any of its recipe iterations since childhood I advise you not to base your attitude regarding taste, texture, etc. on one sampling. If you were able to slice through a shell with your pocket knife you surely had a soft-shell lobster. One that is molting and that is the new shell. The best meat, IMO is from hard-shell. Ask when you order. As the others have said, your lobster was definitely overcooked. Soft shell lobster meat is generally a little mushy. Def. not my favorite.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: Gio

                              Yep, soft shell lobster is typically waterlogged while hard shell is so tightly packed with meat, there's no room for a water filled shell nor water logged meat.

                              1. re: Gio

                                I'm putting in a vote for soft shell lobsters being better!! for years we have done side by side tasting of hard and soft shell - I find the meat sweeter and more tender in the soft shell. - to me - hard shell has less flavor and is tougher - not in a good way. But, of course, this is all personal preference.

                                the trade off with soft shell is that there is less meat per pound that you are buying - because there is more water - and they are a bit messier to eat because the tamale is usually very liquid, as well as the additional liquid (which I love to drink straight out of the claws!)

                                What sounds like the unknown variables is where the lobster came from, where it travelled to - how it was cooked and for how long -

                                One other thing - if you're dunking in butter - use whole melted butter, not clarified.

                                1. re: harryharry

                                  Yep, any time the discussion comes up, just as many folks say they prefer soft shell for the softness. Really up to individual choice.

                                  Soft shells are cheaper, too, due to having less meat, more water, when purchased at a lobster pound.

                                  1. re: mcf

                                    was referring to op

                                    edit - meant to reply to Gio

                                  2. re: harryharry

                                    I never dunk in butter. Never saw the need. Steamed lobster cooked properly doesn't need anything else to be tasty. Especially is one has the tamale and roe to add to the enjoyment. To me any lobster that's tough and stringy is way overcooked. We usually have 2 pounders, 3 lbs. and once in a while 6 lb. lobsters. Never tough or stringy.

                                    I live in eastern Massachusetts not far from the shore and I can ell you with certainty that lobsters I eat are caught locally and when we're at the pier, that's as close as one can get unless one has a friend with lobster pots, was we have.

                                    1. re: Gio

                                      agreed. i don't use any butter, either. and i live in boston. head to the cape most weekend. lobster was dirt cheap the last couple years. it's still not prohibitive. it was so cheap and the shells so soft of the last few years, i'd get like 4 chicken lobsters in the morning for like $20 for some just for lobster salad. cuz really, who has leftover lobster? it's like leftover wine. total mythical creature.

                                      1. re: Gio

                                        No one needs lobster, either, but we eat it, right? I enjoy mine plain, but I love the extra richness of the tail in melted butter. Sometimes I'll add lemon.

                                        I don't like lobsters close to 6 lbs and up, have had tough ones, and I never overcook at all.

                                  3. I prefer Dungeness crab to lobster 100 times out of 100.

                                    3 Replies
                                      1. re: jpc8015

                                        Depends on what taste imprinted on your taste buds first. For me, Dungeness too. That said, I have spent many happy hours on docks in Maine eating fresh lobster. After 20 years in the mid-Atlantic, I am still meh about blue crabs and you'd think I suggested killing puppies when I pass them up.

                                        1. re: jpc8015

                                          I don't think there's anything to compare. I love them both although lobster is a treat whereas Dungeness comes along dependably every winter. The taste and especially the texture are so different.