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Lobster 101

Harbor Seafood welcomes you back to our “101” series with our guide to one of the more romantic crustaceans of the sea – the Lobster!  Did you know that the lobster “crusher” claw can exert pressure of up to 100 pounds per square inch? Ouch – But, don’t let the fear of being pinched deter you from learning more about this versatile seafood option.

There are two main types of lobster species – clawed and spiny lobsters. Clawed lobsters are harvested in North American cold waters such as Canada and Maine, where spiny lobsters are harvested in South American warm waters, such as Nicaragua and Belize.  The easiest way to tell the difference between cold water and warm water lobsters is to look for claws – cold water lobsters have a pincer and a crusher claw, whereas warm water lobsters do not have claws at all, but instead have very large antennas!

North American (cold water) Lobster – Homarus americanus

The North American cold water lobster season out of Canada typically runs from May through July, with the Maine season running from July through November. Lobster is sold as either canners or markets, in accordance with their size.  Canners weigh between 8oz-15oz and produce 2oz-6oz lobster tails, while Markets weigh over 1 pound and produce 6oz and larger tails.  In nature, lobsters can be green, yellow, or even blue – they actually don’t turn red until they are cooked.  And, no matter what anyone says, it’s a myth that lobsters scream when you put them in hot water – they actually don’t have lungs or vocal chords!

The North American lobster comes in a variety of raw and cooked options to suit your needs for any recipe you are looking to experiment with.

  • Whole Raw or Cooked – Best option if you’re looking for that WOW factor in plate presentation, the whole lobster contains everything from the claws to the tail – the meat removal is all up to you!
  • Raw Tails – One of the more popular and well known options, a lobster tail pairs perfectly with melted butter, or serve it with your favorite cut of steak for a fun surf-n-turf dish! Lobster tail sizes range from a 2-3 ounce all the way to a 20/up ounce.
  • Cooked Meat – Often processed into Tail (T), Claw meat (C), Knuckle (K), Leg (L), and body meat. Lobster meat is also available in various combinations, so you’ll be sure to find the right mix for your favorite recipes:
    • Claw/Knuckle – Elevate your crab cakes using Claw and Knuckle Lobster meat for that white table cloth restaurant feel.
    • Claw/Knuckle/Leg – Upgrade your traditional Mac and Cheese with CKL – the addition of leg meat also helps to lower cost.
    • Tail/Claw/Knuckle – Perfect for a tasty, high-end lobster roll full of large chunks of meat.
    • Broken Meat (tail, claw, knuckle, body and/or leg) – Perfect for any application where you are looking for that strong lobster taste, but don’t necessarily need the large visible pieces, like Lobster Poutine, or Lobster Chowder.
    • Salad (body and leg meat) – Great for applications where something is to be stuffed, like a lobster stuffed flounder filet, or a lobster ravioli.
    • Minced – Often used to make soups, stews, and lobster bisques.

South American (warm water) Lobster – Panulirus argus

The South American warm water lobster season typically runs from May through November, while the Central American season runs from July through February.  Due to the lack of claws and body meat, warm water lobster is almost always sold in whole or tail form only.  Tail sizes typically range from 5 ounces up to 20 ounces.  An easy way to spot a warm water tail is by looking for two large, cream-colored spots on the top of the second segment of the tail – this is something distinct to this species of lobster.

Here are a few of our favorite recipe ideas and which lobster product is the best to use: