Lobster is a delicacy that many people enjoy, but it can be frustrating when the meat sticks to the shell.
Whether you’re boiling, steaming, grilling, or broiling your lobster, there are a few things you can do to prevent this from happening.
In this article, we’ll explore why lobster sticks to the shell and provide some tips and tricks for getting perfectly cooked and easily shelled lobster every time.
So, grab your bib and let’s dive in!
Why Does Lobster Stick To The Shell?
The main reason why lobster meat sticks to the shell is due to the chemical bonding that occurs between the proteins in the meat and the interior of the shell. When lobster is roasted, the proteins slowly heat up and bond with the shell, making it harder to remove the meat.
On the other hand, rapid heating, such as steaming or boiling, causes the proteins to shrink too fast for them to form these bonds. However, if you cook too fast by steaming, some of the meat can become rubbery. If you cook too slowly by roasting, the meat will stick to the shell.
The solution is to steam or boil the lobsters just until the very exterior of their meat sets – about one minute – then remove them from the steamer and finish them off in the oven. This method ensures that you have easily shelled, evenly cooked, and intensely flavored meat.
Another factor that can cause lobster meat to stick to the shell is enzymes located in the dark liver in the central carapace. These enzymes break down the protein structure of the lobster’s muscles and become highly active after the lobster’s death. If you cook too slowly, these enzymes have too much time to work, resulting in tail meat that borders on mushy near the carapace end.
To prevent this from happening, you can either cook it all the way through very rapidly (which is not recommended), or completely remove the tail and claws from the carapace before cooking. The latter seems like a more sensible option, and you can always cook the liver separately if you enjoy eating it.
The Science Behind Lobster Meat Sticking To The Shell
The chemical bonding between the proteins in the lobster meat and the interior of the shell is due to a process called Maillard reaction. This reaction occurs when heat is applied to proteins and sugars, causing them to react and form new compounds. The compounds that are formed during this reaction are responsible for the brown color and intense flavor of roasted lobster meat.
When lobster is roasted, the proteins in the meat slowly heat up, causing them to undergo Maillard reaction and bond with the shell. This bonding occurs because the shell is made up of chitin, which is a polysaccharide that contains nitrogen. The amino acids in the lobster meat react with the nitrogen in chitin, forming covalent bonds that make it harder to remove the meat from the shell.
In contrast, when lobster is steamed or boiled, the proteins in the meat do not have enough time to undergo Maillard reaction and bond with the shell. As a result, the meat does not stick to the shell and can be easily removed.
However, cooking lobster too slowly can also cause problems. Enzymes located in the dark liver in the central carapace can break down the protein structure of the lobster’s muscles and become highly active after the lobster’s death. If you cook too slowly, these enzymes have too much time to work, resulting in tail meat that borders on mushy near the carapace end.
Therefore, it is important to find a balance between cooking lobster fast enough to prevent enzyme breakdown but not so fast that it becomes rubbery or sticks to the shell. Steaming or boiling the lobsters for just one minute before finishing them off in the oven can help achieve this balance and result in easily shelled, evenly cooked, and intensely flavored lobster meat.
How To Properly Cook Lobster To Avoid Sticking
To properly cook lobster and avoid the meat sticking to the shell, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, when boiling lobster, it’s important to add salt to the water to boost the flavor. However, too much salt can overwhelm the meat’s natural sweetness. A good rule of thumb is 2 or 3 tablespoons of salt for every gallon of water.
For steaming lobsters, plain water can be used since the lobster isn’t submerged in the water, and its natural flavor isn’t diluted. When cooking lobster at high altitude, the cooking time must be increased since water boils at a much lower temperature and evaporates faster. Try adding about 2 minutes to our lobster cooking times and cover the pot tightly when cooking.
When grilling or BBQing lobster, it’s important to twist off the tail carefully and remove the tomalley (the green substance) or remove the carapace (the upper section of the body) if desired. Brush a mix of butter, salt, and lemon on the lobster meat in the tails and crack the large claw shells. To avoid overcooking and undercooking your lobsters, use an instant-read food thermometer to check internal temperature.
When cooking lobster tails, boiling them is recommended since it’s the best way to avoid them sticking to the shell. Twist off the tail carefully and be sure not to stick your fingers into the underside as it can still contract quite forcefully through reflex reactions even when completely separated from the body.
Properly storing lobsters is also important since they must be alive when cooked. Keep them in a box with some seaweed in the fridge or soak newspaper and lay it on top of them for added moisture. Do not lay ice on top of them as they are saltwater creatures and freshwater kills them. By following these tips, you can ensure that your lobster is cooked perfectly and easily shelled for a delicious meal.
Tips For Preparing Lobster For Cooking
Before cooking your lobster, there are a few tips you should keep in mind to ensure the best possible outcome. First and foremost, it’s important to remove any rubber bands or ties that may be around the lobster’s claws. These can release chemicals and affect the flavor of the meat.
Next, choose a pot that is large enough to accommodate the lobsters without crowding them. This will ensure even cooking and prevent the lobsters from sticking to each other. A 4-5 quart pot is sufficient for 1-2 small lobsters, while a 5-gallon pot is needed for 5-6 lobsters.
Fill the pot with enough water to cover the lobsters completely, and add salt to taste. A tablespoon of salt per quart of water is a good starting point, but you can adjust this based on your personal preference.
When adding the lobsters to the pot, do so one at a time to avoid splashing hot water. Use tongs or gloves to handle the lobsters, as they can be quite slippery.
Finally, be sure to time your cooking carefully based on the size of your lobsters. Overcooking can result in rubbery meat, while undercooking can lead to raw or translucent meat that doesn’t taste good. Follow the guidelines provided in the recipe you’re using or consult a trusted source for cooking times based on lobster size.
Techniques For Shelling Lobster Meat
Shelling lobster meat can be a messy and painstaking task, but with the right techniques, it can be done easily and efficiently. Here are some tips:
1. Start with the tail: Squeeze the tail firmly from the sides, pushing the edges of the shell together underneath the tail until you hear a series of cracks. This should break or crease most of the cartilaginous material under the tail. Next, pull apart the edge of the shell. It should separate quite easily. If not, use kitchen shears to carefully snip through the cartilage, then try pulling it apart again.
2. Claws: With a soft-shell (new-shell) lobster, you can usually get through them with kitchen shears. Start by breaking off the small claw (carefully, so as not to remove the meat inside with it!), then cutting the bottom of the claw open with a pair of kitchen shears. The goal is to cut just enough that you can extract the meat by jerking the claw downwards.
3. Hard-shell lobsters: For very hard-shell lobsters, some more force is required. Wrap them in a clean dish towel and whack them sharply all over with the back of a heavy cleaver. The goal here is to crack them like eggshells, not smash them into smithereens. Once they’re good and crackly, break off the knuckles (protecting your hands with more clean dish towels), then gently break off the small pincer.
4. Removing meat: To get as much meat as possible from the tail, slide the backside of a regular fork right under the top of the shell and gently pull and twist it until the meat comes out in one piece. For claws, start by gently twisting the upper knuckle of the claw until it snaps off; using an old-fashioned nutcracker, crack open the knuckle and remove the meat with a small fork after that. Next, remove the thumb from the claw and use the same nutcracker to crack open the claw itself; inside, you will find a beautiful piece of claw meat.
By following these techniques, you can easily shell lobster meat and enjoy it without any hassle or mess.
Delicious Lobster Recipes To Try At Home
If you’re looking for some delicious lobster recipes to try at home, we’ve got you covered. Here are some of our favorite recipes that are sure to impress your family and friends:
1. Lobster Rolls: This classic New England dish is a must-try. Boil the lobsters, then poach the meat in butter for a rich and indulgent flavor. Top with a spicy mustard mayo for a perfect balance of flavors.
2. Lobster Mac and Cheese: Take your mac and cheese game to the next level with the addition of succulent lobster meat. The result is a creamy and cheesy dish that’s sure to satisfy your cravings.
3. Lobster Tail with Garlic Herb Butter: This recipe is perfect for a special occasion or a romantic dinner for two. Large lobster tails are smothered in a buttery garlic herb sauce, then broiled for a tender and juicy finish.
4. Lobster Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce: These fresh spring rolls are filled with crispy fried onions and succulent lobster meat, then served with an easy peanut dipping sauce that’s packed with flavor.
5. Lobster-Shrimp Cakes: These easy and simple cakes are perfect for a quick weeknight dinner or a party appetizer. They’re made with tender lobster and shrimp meat, then pan-fried until crispy on the outside.
No matter which recipe you choose, these delicious lobster dishes are sure to impress your taste buds and leave you feeling satisfied. So why not give them a try at home?