Ingredient Guide: Lobster
The ultimate guide to buying, preparing, and cooking with lobster, plus recipes from lobster mac and cheese to lobster rolls to lobster thermidor.
This luxurious favorite, revered for its slightly sweet flavor, has long been touted as the "king of seafood"—yet it was once thought of as little more than an underwater menace. Because of its abundance, lobster used to be a common meal among New England's less wealthy; by the 1840s, though, the shellfish had gained status and appreciation, and it has since become standard fare at upscale restaurants. Lobster can be served simply steamed, broiled, or baked, with its meat dipped in melted butter. To add a note of class, blend its delicately sweet meat into everything from macaroni and cheese to a lobster and corn chowder. Even its shells can be parlayed into a delectable treat: boil them with onions, celery, leeks and white wine for a phenomenal, delicate stock.
HOW TO BUY
Look for lobsters at your local seafood purveyor, or at the seafood counter in some supermarkets. They're sold alive, or sometimes frozen or pre-cooked. As with any crustacean that's sold alive, look for one that's still feisty and energetic. Avoid any with sagging tails or claws or with foam spouting from the head.
HOW TO PREPARE
Although you can cook a lobster by plunging it into boiling water, killing it first with a quick cut through its head is most humane. Put the lobster in the freezer for a few minutes first to make it easier to work with, then make a single cut with a sharp knife, lining up the tip of the knife with the cross on its head.
HOW TO COOK
Higher-heat methods are best for lobsters, whose meat can turn mushy if enzymes in the muscle aren't quickly deactivated by cooking. Cook them in salted boiling water for an average of five minutes per pound; they can also be broiled, steamed, grilled, or pan-seared.