Lobster is New England's (and especially Maine's) signature delicacy, but eating a whole lobster can be a bit intimidating for first-timers.
Don't just settle for a lobster roll. If you've never eaten a whole lobster, or if it's been a while since you tangled with a crustacean, here is your step-by-step, visual guide to how to eat lobster. Follow these pictures and instructions, and you'll learn how to eat a lobster like a New Englander.
Before we get started, be sure to tie on a lobster bib. Eating a lobster... legs and all... can be a rather sloppy business.
Twist off the Claws
Start by twisting off each of the lobster's claws at the point where they are attached to the body. American lobsters have one crusher claw and one pincher or ripper claw. The crusher claw, which is generally larger, has teeth for crushing shells. It can be either the lobster's right or left claw and is generally the tougher one to crack.
Crack Open the Claws
Usually, live lobsters are sold with rubber bands around their claws. You'll want to leave them in place until the lobster is cooked (unless you want to find out what a lobster can do with its crusher claw). Once you've twisted the lobster's claws away from its body, however, you can remove the rubber bands with complete confidence. In a restaurant, the rubber bands will probably be removed before your lobster is served.
Using a lobster cracker or nutcracker, your next task is to crack open the claw.
Use a Lobster Pick to Remove the Claw Meat
Ready for your first taste of claw meat dunked in sweet drawn butter? Use a lobster pick—the long, narrow utensil commonly provided—to remove every delicious morsel from inside the jointed claw sections.
Unfurl the Lobster Tail
Most lobster eaters find the meat in the lobster tail to be the sweetest and most enjoyable. When you've finished eating the lobster's claws, roll your "bug"—as lobstermen call these saltwater cockroaches—onto its back, and unfurl the tail.
Twist to Break the Tail Away From the Body
With the lobster's tail spread open, grasp the lobster with two hands and break the tail away from the body with one decisive twist.
Ew. OK. Let's talk about that green stuff. Often, when you break the lobster's tail away from its body or carapace, you'll discover some squishy green stuff. That's tomalley: the lobster's liver. Some folks consider tomalley a delicacy. However, because mercury and other environmental contaminants are concentrated in the lobster's liver, you really shouldn't eat it. If you're near a sink, that's usually the best way to wash it away.
Now, if you spot bright red bits inside your lobster tail, you know you're eating a female. That's lobster roe—lobster eggs. Roe is also considered a delicacy and is safe to eat.
Break off the Lobster's Tail Flippers
You're doing great! The next step is easy. Break off the little tail flippers, also known as telsons. There are tiny morsels of meat in there, so don't miss them.
Push the Lobster Tail out With Your Thumb
Insert your thumb into the flipper end of the lobster tail. You should be able to force the meat out with one push. If you run into trouble, you can use a sharp knife to slit the underside of the tail shell.
The dark, vein-like structure that runs the length of the tail should be discarded.
The Last Leg
You've been working hard, but it's so worth it. After you've savored your lobster tail, you're ready for the last leg. Make that eight legs! Gently twist each of the lobster's walking legs away from the body. Believe it or not, there is delicious meat hidden in there. And, yes ... you should bother to get it out.
Good 'Til the Last Bite
Yes, there is meat in a lobster's scrawny legs. As you might imagine, though, it's not all that easy to get to. The best technique is to bite down hard on each leg section to loosen the meat, dip the leg in drawn butter, then suck the meat out.
You're ready now to enjoy one of New England's distinct pleasures. Once you've had your first luscious taste of lobster, you'll be hooked for life. If you can't get to New England, you can also order fresh lobsters from New England online.