There are few things that say luxury more than fresh lobster. It is the go-to seafood for special occasions, a real treat whether dining out or at home. But it wasn’t always this way. Let's get to know this delicious crustacean with our Head of Quality Control, Robert DiGregorio.
In colonial times lobsters were so abundant they were used for fertilizer and fed to prisoners, and even as late as the 1880s lobster was still so common it was used as bait for cod and striped bass.
We are truly fortunate in this country, especially in the northeast, to have right on our doorstep the American Lobster, one of the most delicious creatures to live in the sea.
They are usually dark brown-green in color, which helps the lobster blend in with the ocean floor. I have, over the decades, on rare occasions, seen beautiful bright blue lobsters, and twice have seen the strikingly colored calico lobster, which marine biologists estimate occurs once in 30 million.
Our lobster does have a European cousin, Homarus gammarus, which is typically a little smaller though very similar in appearance. These two species are considered the “true lobsters,” but it is the American lobster that is prized throughout the world. In fact, a large percentage of American and Canadian production is exported to Europe and Asia.
American lobsters are found off the northeast coast, typically from the Gulf of Maine northward to the Canadian Maritimes. There was, some 30-35 years ago, lobster boats in Brooklyn, believe it or not. I have personally pulled traps under the Verrazano Bridge, and an older gentleman we knew set his traps by the Statue of Liberty!
Lobsters are very hardy, and will thrive if we let them. To that end the fishery is strictly regulated. Permits are needed to catch lobsters, there are size restrictions, meaning (currently) the carapace must be at least 3 ⅜” and no larger than 5 ¼”. Lobsters are measured as they are caught and ones that don’t fall within those parameters are released back into the ocean. No females carrying eggs may ever be taken, traps must have escape vents, and lobster boats must submit a vessel trip report, describing where and when they were fishing, as well as what was caught. The list of regulations is long, believe me, but we have to protect the fishery if we want to eat lobsters in the future.
There has been some progress made in regards with lobsters and aquaculture, but they are not aquaculture friendly. They grow slowly, taking 5-7 years to grow a pound, they will cannibalize each other, and poor feed-to-lobster conversion rates make it unlikely, in the near future at least, that we’ll see any large lobster farm endeavors.
Warm water lobster tails are highly regarded not just for their beautiful color and appearance, but for their taste and texture as well. These tails are from the Panulirus argus, a beautiful spiny lobster. Spiny lobsters, or rock lobsters (the terms are interchangeable and do not indicate any differences), are different from the northern lobster. The most striking difference is the lack of claws with the spiny lobster, and the antennae are noticeably different as well. The spiny lobster has very long, thick, spiny antennae compared to the shorter, thinner antennae of the “regular” lobster. Another obvious difference is the color. Spiny lobsters tend to be more colorful than their northern counterparts. While the northern lobster is typically dark brownish green, the rock lobster has a beautiful paint job. It’s a reddish brown with white spots outlined in black, and their tails have black, yellow and tan stripes. The underside is white and reddish tan. The closer you look the more beautiful the colors are. But, most important is the taste. The answer to the question “Which is better, spiny lobster or northern lobster?” really depends on where you’re from and what you grew up with.
But whether you’re from New York or the Florida Keys, lobster tails will be a delicious, memorable meal.
Warm water lobster tails have snow white meat, a sweet taste, and tender texture. They are packed with meat - fans say there is more meat in the tail pound-for-pound than Maine lobsters, and they’re easier to eat. If you’re like a lot of people and don’t look forward to wrestling with a whole lobster, lobster tails are a great way to go.
Also called Norway Lobster and Dublin Bay Prawn, langoustines are orange-pinkish lobster-looking creatures, about 10” long, with very long slender bodies and long slender pincers. They are found in the Northeastern Atlantic and North Sea, as far north as Iceland and northern Norway, and south to Portugal. There is a smaller population in the northern Adriatic, and a very similar species is found down under in Australia and New Zealand. They are related to lobsters and have a very lobster-like taste, but even sweeter. Langoustines have been gaining popularity in recent years with chefs and home cooks alike. The flavor is sweet, elegant, complex and delicate all at the same time.
One other thing about langoustines. They are not langostinos. Langostinos are a type of squat lobster, which is an animal not related to lobsters but to crabs. Most langostino production is from Chile and Central America, not the North Sea or northeastern Atlantic. Usually only the tail meat is offered, and looks similar to small cooked shrimp. They are considered a step down, to be kind, from langoustines. I’m not disparaging langostinos. They certainly have their fans. But they are not langoustines. I offer this information only to share the differences. The names are very similar, after all, and we believe that educated consumers make better customers.
How Long Can a Lobster Live?
Their slow growth rate and the fact that they shed their shells periodically makes it a challenge for scientists to estimate their age. A 3-pound lobster is estimated to be 15-20 years old. The current record for a lobster is 44 lbs 6 oz, whose age can only be speculated! Caught in 1977, I sincerely doubt we caught the biggest lobster in the world that day. Somewhere out there, in that huge ocean, is a bigger one. Science doesn’t even know how big they can grow, it’s believed now that they never stop growing, and can reproduce until they die.
I hope they do, because they are delicious. The meat is clean and salty-sweet, and is almost crisp in texture, what chefs call “a good chew.” I urge you to try the tomalley, the green part commonly called the liver, and the coral, the reddish orange roe found in the females. Both are considered delicacies. Lobsters are so delicious even their shells are flavorful. They can be used for stock, or cooked in the oven to an almost ceramic state, then finely ground and used as the base for a true lobster bisque. They are truly extraordinary. If you have a special occasion coming up and want to make it even more special, nothing does that better than lobster.
Is Lobster Good for Your Health?
Lobsters are a high-protein, low calorie seafood, making it a smart choice for anyone following a keto, paleo or whole30 diet. Lobster is also a good source of calcium, Vitamin A, iron, copper, zinc, phosphorus, selenium and B1.
Our Favorite Lobster Recipes
Easy Broiled Lobster Tails Recipe
Treat yourself to the best broiled lobster tails - ready in 20 minutes! They couldn't be easier to make and once you've mastered our easy lobster tail recipe, you'll love trying it with other seasonings and flavored oils (we love lemon or chili infused olive oil). Serve with roasted asparagus and baked potatoes for a restaurant-quality meal at home.
Slow Cooker Lobster Mac and Cheese Recipe
Here’s an instant classic easily prepared in a slow cooker with our cooked lobster meat. Tender pasta, sweet claw meat, and three (yes, three!) cheeses meld into an indulgent “heaven in a bowl.”
BLT Lobster Recipe
What’s better than lobster rolls? Could it be lobster rolls with a whole lotta bacon? Yes! This over-the-top recipe starts with a lemony mayonnaise that brings out the sweet flavor of the lobster, which you add to the rolls after tossing the lobster with butter and adding crumbled bacon. Lining the rolls with lettuce adds additional crunch to this drool-worthy sandwich.