9 Things You Need To Know Before You Buy Lobster

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Lobster Mac and Cheese

Find out everything you need to know about buying, choosing and cooking lobster in our guide.

Warmer seas, fewer natural predators and better fishing methods have resulted in more lobsters, mostly from Canada. In some stores, they are cheap, but how do you know what to buy?

Food Director Jane Curran whizzes through her tips for how to buy lobster, including what to look for when you buy cooked lobster, what to ask your fishmonger when you buy a live lobster and how to get the flesh out of the claws.

1. A live lobster should be heavy and smell super-fresh

If you buy a live lobster, it should be heavy for its size and not contain eggs - we shouldn't encourage this kind of fishing. It should smell super-fresh - definitely not fishy - and be lively when you pick it up. The claws should be bound with an elastic band for safety.

For all our ways with lobster, take a look at our lobster recipes.

2. Never put a live lobster in fresh water

To store a live lobster, wrap it in a damp cloth and put in the bottom of the fridge. Whatever you do, don't put it into fresh water as you'll kill it.

3. Stun a live lobster by freezing it first

To cook a live lobster, put it into the freezer for about 2 hours before cooking to make them comatose. Then either plunge into boiling water or get the fishmonger to show you how to despatch them with a knife - not for the faint-hearted!

4. Don't be put off by green liquid

You may see a greenish liquid once you've cooked your lobster. This is quite safe and results from its diet. Some people love the taste of it but you can easily wash it off as it doesn't look very appetising.

5. Buy local

We would always suggest you buy lobster from our own waters - whether British and Irish or Norwegian - better for your carbon footprint and they are sweeter, too, in our opinion. Plus, we should support our own fishermen.

Psst! Looking for impressive festive starters? Take a look at our Christmas starter recipes.

6. You don't need a lobster cracker

To get the flesh out of the claws, a nutcracker or hammer comes in handy if you don't own a lobster cracker!

7. A good cooked lobster will have a tightly curled tail

If you're buying a cooked lobster, the tail should be tightly curled under the body, which means it was live when cooked. Lobster flesh deteriorates very quickly and a shrunken, flat tail may mean it was left out of salt water too long before cooking.

Some pre-cooked, cheaper lobsters may well have been over-cooked in the factory and taste woolly.

8. Check the use-by date

If you're buying cooked, chilled lobster, eat within 24 hours and pay attention to the use-by date. Like all fish, lobster deteriorates quickly.

9. You can adopt a lobster

Lobsters can't be farmed but there are hatcheries where the eggs are brought to a juvenile size where they are less vulnerable before they are released into the wild. The National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow released 53,000 juveniles back into the wild in 2014 into the waters around Cornwall and the Scilly Isles, with the help of local fishermen and divers. You can visit the hatchery and even adopt a lobster for £3 to help their efforts and research.

Jane Curran

Jane Curran is a freelance food editor, stylist, writer and consultant based in Cape Town. Former food director of TI Media & woman&home. All about food, wine (dipWSET), gardening and the Arsenal.