Sunday, September 2, 2012

How to Pick a Lobster in Pictures

Before you start, make sure there is a big pile of napkins on the table and big bowl for everyone to put their shells in as they pick. This is going to be messy. One more thing, the order doesn't matter much. Pick them in the order you want to eat them.

Start with a whole boiled lobster. They are hot, and there are spiny parts, so be careful not to burn or poke yourself.

Turn over the lobster and locate the joints where the claw arms attach to the body.
Twist the arm joints to pull them off the body.
Now twist the claw off the two piece arm parts. These are called the knuckles.
Break the two knuckles apart. You may find that the meat from one knuckle comes out when you pull them apart. That makes it easier!
You make be able to get the meat out the knuckles with a lobster fork or pick or sometimes even your pinky. The only difference between a fork and a pick, is the fork has two tines and the pick just one. If those don't work, you will need to crack the knuckle shell with a lobster cracker.
Now to the claw. First break off the small portion of the claw. Do this over the shell bowl to catch the water that will gush out of the bottom of the claw shell.
You may get lucky and the small claw meat pulls right out. Otherwise, you can use your pick.
To get to the meat in the claw you are going to need to crack open the bottom of the claw shell.
The meat should pull right out of the shell once it is cracked. You can eat that white stuff. Think of it as lobster aspic.
Now we move to the tail meat. The first step is to locate the spot on the belly where the tail attaches to the body. You first need to pierce that spot with your fork. It doesn't have to be a big hole.
Then you are going to bend the tail and body backwards until they tear apart. Do this over the shell bowl to catch the water that will come out when they separate. The green stuff is the liver, or tomalley. You can eat this, but most people don't.

Most people discard the body at this point. You can too, but there is meat in the legs and even in the body cavity. It can be hard to get out. I'll describe how to get it out later, but you may not think it's worth the extra effort

Now locate the joints on the fan at the tip of the tail. There are five of them.
You want to twist them to pull them off the tip of the tail.
This is the tricky part. To get the meat out of the tail you are going to push it out of the tail shell with your thumb. Put your thumb in the tip end where you just removed the fan tail parts. While you push, it helps to straighten out the tail. If the tail meat is stubborn, you may need to break the belly side of the shell at the wide end.

You should be left with a big chunk of tail meat and a tail shell that can be thrown into the shell bowl.
There is a strip of meat along the back of the tail that you should peel off. That will expose a thin dark line, and possibly a clump of red-orange stuff. Clean off the dark line. It's ... well, let's just say you don't want to eat that. The red clump is lobster eggs. You can eat that, but most people don't. You can cut the hunk of tail meat into bite-sized pieces and eat the whole thing.

Now for the advanced picking. There is meat in each of those small legs along the belly of the body section. Some people say this is the sweetest meat in the lobster. They are probably just justifying why they go through all the effort to get to it. You can break off each of these legs at the body.
Then rip them into as small a section as you need to get to the meat inside. You can often suck on them like a straw to get the meat out. Sometimes you might need to chew on them a bit to force the meat out.

Next, pull the body shell off the inside of the body. You may find more tomalley in there, which you can eat if you like.
If you turn the inside of the body upside down and flatten it out, it should crack along the line where the little legs used to be attached. I outlined the area in the picture. There is meat all along that crack, but it looks just the same as the gills. You can't eat those gills. They don't have any flavor, but they have a funky, cloth-like texture. The meat there is seldom worth the effort.
That's all the meat there is. You could boil the shells to make a base for lobster bisque if people didn't suck on the shells while picking them. When you are done, double wrap the shells in plastic bags before throwing them out. They can really stink after a day or two in the trash.

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