Seven Lobster-Buying Tips

What you need to know before you go shopping for lobsters.

1. Buy lobsters the day you cook them, and transport and store them carefully.

Make seafood shopping your last stop. If possible, have a cooler ready to store the lobsters in for the trip home. Refrigerate immediately upon returning. Keep lobsters moist, but never on ice. If you cannot avoid an extended moisture shortage, wrap lobsters in a damp sheet of newspaper. Do not store for more than thirty-six hours.

2. Locate the best source for the most recently caught lobsters.

If you live near the coast of eastern Canada or New England, find a lobsterman or lobster company to supply you with local lobsters. Otherwise, choose the best seafood market in your area. If you do not live in lobster territory, consider purchasing by mail order.

3. Determine the right size of lobster for you.

But remember to be flexible at the market. It is better to buy the best lobsters than to be stubborn about the size you want.

4. Choose a healthy, lively, freshly caught lobster.

Look at the length of the antennae. If they are short or show signs of algal growth, the lobster has probably been stored in a pound for a long time and may taste bland. Hold the lobster up. If its claws droop, do not buy it. If the lobster shows a frisky disposition by flapping its tail and swinging its claws, buy it.

5. Always buy the hardest-shelled lobsters you can find.

Give a gentle squeeze to the carapace. Shake the lobster gently. If it “rattles,” it may be extremely soft. Check for comparative weight. If the lobster feels heavy compared to a similar-size lobster, it is meaty—an extremely desirable quality.

6. Never stick your hand into a bag of lobsters.

It is dangerous. Cuts and stabs from lobsters can produce bad infections. A large lobster can crush or rip open your hand or fingers.

7. Be environmentally responsible.

Never buy shorts (lobsters under one pound), an action that is both illegal and immoral. Avoid canned or frozen meat imported from Canada, where the regulations against using baby lobsters are much less stringent than in the U.S. Avoid jumbo lobsters, over five pounds—let us keep them as breeding stock. If you want a female lobster for a certain dish, check the sex, but do not be greedy. If half your lobsters are female, you will have more than enough roe to go around.