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Lobster Information: Varieties, Cooking & Buying Tips

With its sweet succulent meat, lobster is one of the most cherished seafood delicacies in the world. However it wasn't always that way, in the 1700's it was used to fertilize fields, bait fish hooks and even fed to prisoners. What a difference a couple centuries make, today it is served in the world's top restaurants.

Of the 30 or so clawed lobster species you will find 3 main species on the market, including:

The American or Maine lobster which is considered the largest crustacean in the world. Average sized adults are 20 cm - 60 cm in length, however they have been known to grow upwards of 1 meter. They have round fleshy claws with dark coloring that turns red when cooked. For more detailed information about this variety check out my article on Maine lobsters.

European lobster, also called "breton" are slightly smaller than the American variety at 23 cm - 50 cm in length.  Despite the size difference they are hard to differentiate from American lobster. They are found in the Eastern Atlantic from Norway to Morocco, however they are also found in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Uncooked they are violet-blue in color and turn red when cooked like their American cousins.

Slipper lobsters which are found in all warm oceans and seas are not true lobsters as they don't have claws. However some varieties such as the Moreton Bay bug , which is also known as the bay lobster are quite popular delicacies in Australia. They are recognizable by their enlarged plate-shaped antennae and wide bodies. You won't generally find this variety for sale in the US.

Lobster is available in a variety of forms, including live, raw, cooked, frozen and canned. Keep in mind a 1 1/2 pound lobster yields about 1 1/3 cups of meat. Whenever possible I suggest buying live lobsters from a gourmet seafood delivery supplier as this ensures they are at their very freshest. The most common way to cook live lobsters is by boiling them in a lobster pot. There have been several studies of the most humane way to cook a lobster, and the results say putting it in the freezer for up to 2 hours before cooking will render it unconscious so it won't feel any pain. For more information about buying and cooking live varieties please refer to my live lobster article.

When buying cooked lobster, look for bright reddish-orange shells and tails that are curled under. A curled tail is a sign that the lobster was alive when it was cooked. It is very important that lobsters are kept alive until just before cooking to avoid food poisoning. Raw lobsters should be refrigerated and cooked within 24 hours of purchase. They should have a fresh salt water smell and no discoloration.

Frozen lobsters should be kept in the freezer at a temperate of -15 to -20 F. They will keep for up to 9 months with no quality loss if properly frozen. The best way to thaw whole frozen lobsters is to submerse them in brine in the refrigerator for 3-5 hours, depending on the size. If you are in a hurry you can thaw them under cold running water. Thawed lobsters should be eaten within 24 hours of thawing, never refreeze them.

When you buy lobsters online from a reputable gourmet lobster supplier they will come with a preparation guide and cookbook. You can also find information on how to cook lobster as well as cleaning techniques and how to eat lobster in my Maine lobster article. This site is a work in progress and I will be adding several more resources including several of my favorite lobster dinner and lobster tails recipes so be sure to bookmark it.

We are constantly adding more information on gourmet seafood to this Affluent Tastes website. If you would like specific information that we don't currently have listed please feel free to contact me at
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