Cook'n & Crack'n your own New England lobster

How to cook, how to extract the 'meat' and when to use a hammer

Story, Photos by Bob La Flamme

What a live lobster looks like before it gets popped into a pot of boiling water.

So, you’ve always wanted to cook and crack your own lobster but never have? Being a born and raised New England Yankee, I've been eating lobster since I was knee high to a seagull.  It’s still my favorite food.  Here’s how I go about it.

First find a lobster pound that sells them live and kicks, as we say.  There are several right here in Rye.  Just to name a few:  A little north of Jenness Beach on Ocean Blvd/Route 1A is Saunder’s Restaurant at Rye Harbor.  A little further north on Ocean Boulevard is Ray’s Seafood, and further up the road is Petey’s Summertime Restaurant (with traps as decoration in photo below).  I highly recommend all of the above as I have frequented them often.

Now, for really large lobsters over five pounds, even up to 10 and 15 lbs, I go to Sander’s Lobster Pound in Portsmouth.  For a lobster that large I would ask them to cook it for me.  I don’t know all of the street names, but I can give you directions. Continue north on Ocean Boulevard until you come to a stop sign at Foye’s Corner. Take a right over the Sagamore Bridge and follow the road until you come to a set of lights with a large cemetery on your right.  Take a right there and follow that road until you can only go right or left.  Take a right and look for their sign on your left just a few streets down.  I’ve bought 7-10 pound lobsters there many times.  For one dollar they will cook them for you.

Many people say that lobsters of that size are tough.  I never found that to be true.  If the tail is your favorite, ask for a female, or if the claws are your thing, ask for a male.

Cooking a small “chicken” lobster takes a pot the lobster can fit in first.  Fill it with water and bring to a boil before dropping the lobster in, head first and belly up and quickly cover.  Twenty minutes of boiling should do the trick. Another way I know it’s done is when the white thick stuff floats on top of the water.  For larger lobsters from two pounds and up my rule of thumb is 20 minutes per pound cooking time.

What lobster looks like after cook'n, with the crack'n still to come.

Here comes the messy part; -the “crack’n”.   When I was just a kid in the ‘50s, my dad used a hammer on the hard shell claws.  With small soft shell lobsters you can usually break the claws with your hands.  On a hard shell lobster of five pounds or greater, you’d better get out your own hammer for the claws.

The first thing I do is twist the tail off the body; then break off the end of the tail by bending it backwards.  Next, crack the under side shell “ribs” in the center, one by one, using your thumbs.  Use a fork to slide the meat out; -pulling it out in the same curvature as the tail.  Now go to the other end and break off both claws close to the body.  Then break off the big claw and the smaller claw.  Next break apart the smaller segment like “knuckles”.  Place these parts on a solid surface and get out your hammer.  At the base of the large claw parts, pound lightly at first until you find the force that you’ll need to break the shell enough to slide the meat out.   With the smaller claw parts just use a fork or try to shake the meat out.  On the smaller parts use the same method.

Now take the main body shell, and where the tail used to be, pull it open like the hood of a car.   Many people think that you can’t eat the “green stuff”. This is false.  In fact it is one of the tastiest parts of the lobster.  The “red stuff” on the tail is eatable too but not really tasty.  I don’t eat it but you can. Some people think these are lobster eggs, but they aren’t.  Lobster eggs would be under the outside of the tail, and they are illegal for lobstermen to take.

In the large lobsters you can get more meat out of the main shell.  Where you detached the claws close to the body you can get nice chucks of meat.  Also in the small side legs, you can break them apart at the joints and suck the meat out.

On lobsters smaller then five pounds you should be able to use a nutcracker instead of your trusty hammer.

While tearing into your lobster, slowly melt butter in a small pan.  You want it hot, but not boiling.

Enjoy your lobster!  It just may have been caught right off our shores.

June, 2006