How to store, prepare and cook live lobster

Many people have no idea how to handle a lobster. This page is intended to be a brief guide for the uninitiated and includes instructions on cooking lobster.

Our lobsters are caught (in season) off the rough grounds of the north coast of Cornwall, where they live in the clean Atlantic Ocean water by traditional potting methods. The boats that supply us select the prime fish for us, and store them at sea until we need them. A small number are brought ashore for temporary storage in our tank as needed, to ensure a continuous supply if the weather is bad. We then cook them to order for sale as required each day. ##Storage Live Lobsters are comparatively hardy creatures. They store well in the bottom of the fridge, covered with a damp cloth and can survive for up to a week, though after travelling they may be weak and, as with Crabs, they should be checked regularly, if in any doubt cook straight away.

While we make every effort to ensure they arrive alive, we cannot guarantee it, but if they have expired during the journey they will still be good, provided you cook them straight away. Once cooked treat as any cooked food and store for up to four days in the coldest part of your fridge. DO NOT immerse in fresh water, unless you want to kill them. ##Killing Lobsters It appears that there are many different ideas on the way a Lobster should be dispatched, from drowning in fresh water to dropping them into boiling water. Many of the ideas have a certain merit since a Lobster is a cold blooded creature with no brain as we understand it, except for its nervous system with two processing centres, and body fluids which are pumped around it's system by muscle movement. It is not possible to kill it, in the normal meaning of the word.

I believe the RSPCA suggests two hours in the freezer, however since we have a cold room which operates at 0 C to -1 C we simply put them in there for 4 to 5 hours where they cool slowly. This slows down their metabolism to such a low level that they peacefully sink into oblivion, then they are cooked without even knowing. There is some research being done on an electrical stunning system which is intended to be a more humane system.

Incidentally never remove the bands on it's claws, they were put there to prevent them eating each other as they are carnivorous, and they are very fast and strong at room temperature. Our tanks are maintained at below 6 C to slow them down but they will still have a go at me when I put my hand in. ##Cooking Lobsters have a thinner shell than Crabs so require slightly less cooking time, otherwise the same system applies.

  1. Using the largest saucepan/fish kettle you have, half fill with fresh water and add plenty of salt, we use half a cup to a gallon of water ( 150g salt to 4 1/2 liters water) and bring to a vigorous boil.
  2. Drop the Lobster in and bring back to the boil, won't take long.
  3. When the water comes back to the boil start timing. We use 15 mins for Lobsters up to 1 1/2lb and add 5 mins per pound over that.
  4. When the time is up, carefully pour the whole lot into your sink and wash off with fresh water to remove any surplus protein.
  5. Allow time to cool then prepare as follows.
  6. Pull off the claws and crack them, and remove the white meat.
  7. Either Pull off the tail and peel like a prawn, then cut the body lengthwise in half. Remove the grey feathery gills. The top shell will have a little cream in as a crab, and the body (where the legs and claws were attached) contains more white meat. We find the handle of a teaspoon useful for extracting it.
  8. Or Using a large pointed chopping knife, locate the centre of the cross conveniently located on the top of the shell, and push the point vertically through the shell and down through between the eyes. Turn the fish around and with the knife reversed in the same hole cut down through the tail. Separate the meat as above.

PLEASE NOTE: Some Lobsters contain a green liver or "tamale" which may be eaten, and is considered a delicacy by many lobster gourmets. Not everyone likes it, however, so tread carefully if this is your first time. Females may contain eggs. They may appear red and hard or black and gooey depending on their stage of development. They are edible if rinsed first. (The eggs, like the tamale, are for the seasoned explorer only!)

For more ways to cook lobster, see our lobster recipes.