is one of the most delicious and prized shellfish found in today’s seafood markets. They can be found in saltwater in all parts of the globe and they range in size from the large, clawed North American lobster to some of the smaller spiny lobsters which do not have claws. They all have 5 pairs of legs and a hard outer shell which they shed, or molt, many times during their life which enables them to grow. The largest American lobster known topped the scales at about 44 pounds. They are slow growing and it is believed they have a lifespan of over 100 years. They shed their shell about 20 times in their first 5-8 years and once or twice a year after that. It is because of this that it is hard to determine their actual age. They spend most of their life walking but have the ability to propel backwards with a swift curl of the tail. They can do this at a speed of about 11 miles per hour. There are two basic groups of lobsters, clawed and spiny. The American lobster which is also known as northern or Maine lobster is a true lobster and the spiny lobster which is sold as lobster is actually a different species. The female is considered by many to be the best eating. They can be distinguished by the leathery fins on the underside where the body meats the tail. The male has the same fins but they are very bony.
The common lobster is the most popular and the only true lobster found in the United States waters. Also known as northern, American or Maine lobster, the common lobster can be found in the cold waters of the North Atlantic from Canada to North Carolina. It averages about 2 -4 pounds and 9-15 inches in length but it has been known to reach 3 ½ feet and 44 pounds. It ranges from yellow or reddish-brown to bluish-green when alive and turns bright red with white meat when cooked. The common lobster has 5 pair of legs with the front 3 pair having claws. The front pair of claws are very large and is used for crushing and cutting its food where the second and third pair are very small. The common lobster is considered by many to be the best tasting of the different species. The lobsterette and the langostino are similar in shape and taste to the common lobster but they are much smaller, about 3 inches long, and only the tails are eaten.
The spiny lobster, also known as warm water or rock lobster, has long spines that they use for protection and lack the large claws characteristic of the common lobster. The spiny is prized for its tail meat which comprises about one third of its total weight. The majority of frozen tails are taken from spiny lobster. They are marketed under 2 different types, warm water and cold water. Warm water tails come mostly from Brazil and the Caribbean. The Caribbean spiny lobster is the most common warm water tail found in the United States. The coldwater tails come mostly from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa with Australia being the largest producer. The spiny lobster has a smooth shell that is usually brownish-green with large yellow or white spots on the first segment of the tail. Cold water tails will not have these spots. If from the Pacific, they have a smooth shell and lack the spots and vary in color from dark red to orange and brown. Like the common lobster, the shell turns bright red when cooked and the meat turns opaque white.
Whole lobster is usually bought alive or pre-cooked. Allow 1 ½ -2 pounds per serving. A one pound live lobster will yield about 4 ounces of cooked meat. A two pounder should yield about 8 ounces. When buying live lobster assure that they are lively, when picked up it should look active not lethargic. If it is not active it has probably been in the tank too long. If that happens they tend to lose muscle and taste. Also make sure the shell is thick and hard. If the shell is soft or flexible they have recently molted which causes the meat to get watery and less tasty. The younger and smaller they are more tender the meat will be. Live lobster can usually be kept in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours with a moist towel on them. Market sizes of whole lobster; Chicken lobster ¾ to 1 pound
Quarters 1 pound to 1 ½ pound
Large 1 ½ pound to 2 ½ pound
Jumbo over 2 ½ pounds
Coldwater tails are more expensive than warm-water but they are worth the investment. The cold-water have a firmer meat and are tastier because of the slower growth in cold-water. The quality of warm-water tails is not as reliable as the cold-water. On occasion they can become mushy or fall apart after cooking. This happens very seldom with cold-water tails.
Buy raw tails only if frozen solid, watching for signs of age. Look for cottony areas on the meat which is a sign of freezer burn. If they are packaged check for frost or ice in the package which is a sign that they have been thawed and refrozen. Do not buy tails with any dark spots on the meat. On the bottom of the tail, check for dark meat especially towards the end of the tail. Keep tails frozen for up to 6 months. Thawing can be best done in the refrigerator for 24 hours. In a hurry they can be placed in a plastic bag under cold running water.
For some more interesting facts on lobster check out this site. http://www.woodmans.com/100-lobster-facts/