Maine lobster is the most popular of this crustacean family. It is also referred to as American lobster. For those who have never seen one, a Maine lobster has five pairs of legs, the first pair being a huge set of claws, which is where a lot of the meat is. These lobsters are caught off the Atlantic coast of the northern USA and Canada. The American lobster is cousin to the Mediterranean, South African and Europe’s Atlantic coast species.
Spiny lobsters or Rock lobsters are found in the waters of Florida, Southern California, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. You can tell the difference between a Maine lobster and a Rock lobster because all of the legs of a rock lobster are the same size. And since the Rock lobster has no claws, almost all of the meat is in the tail. It is also firmer and stringier and not quite as sweet as Maine lobster. Usually Rock lobster is sold frozen, as in frozen lobster tails. Maine lobsters are sold live and turn a brilliant red when cooked.
Thanks to the miracle of overnight shipping and delivery, fresh Maine lobster is available year round to nearly every part of the continental United States. The best time to buy is in spring and summer. Some prize female lobsters for their eggs. Others consider the lobster liver to be a delicacy. The reason to buy lobster alive and keep it that way until you cook it, is that bacteria forms very, very quickly in a dead crustacean. When choosing a lobster, look at its tail. If the tail curls under the body when it’s picked up, then it’s alive. This is important because sometimes the lobster is stored on ice making it sluggish.
Big is not necessarily better when it comes to buying Maine lobster. A succulent one pound lobster is categorized as a “chicken.” “Quarters” weigh one and a quarter to just under one and a half pounds. “Halves” weigh one and a half to one and three quarter pounds. While “selects” weigh two pounds to two and a half pounds. Anything more than three pounds is considered “jumbo.” Jumbos tend to have chewy and stringy meat when cooked.
The rule of thumb is to cook Maine lobster the same day it arrives at your door. They die in fresh water so they are kept alive in seawater, wrapped in a wet clots or seaweed. They can only be stored for a few hours and no more on a bed of ice in the refrigerator. They have to be cooked live or killed just before cooking. Depending on how you plan to cook, you can clean before or after it is killed. Most people simply boil lobster in salt water or broil them. However Maine lobster can be cooked and served in a variety of ways. You are limited by your imagination and ability to create the perfect lobster dish.
Whole lobsters and chunk lobster meat are sold in grocery stores precooked. Just make sure when buying whole cooked lobster that the tail is curled. That is a sign that it was alive when cooked. Having trouble remembering all that information, then go online and do a search, you will turn up dozens of websites that sell Maine lobster, shipped fresh from their boat to your door.
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