How to De-Shell a Lobster the Right Way

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Photo by H. Alexander Talbot licensed CC BY 2.0

Sure, you can order lobster meat from the grocery store or a de-shelled lobster at your favorite seafood restaurant. But if you’re going to enjoy fresh lobster from Maine Lobster House at home, you’ll need to know how to complete the task of de-shelling a lobster yourself. It takes some practice to perfect, but we promise it’s not as complicated as it seems!

Lobster Anatomy

First, you should learn about the main parts of the lobster that you’ll be working with:

  • Claws: The “hands” of the lobster. The two claws contain some of the yummiest meat!
  • Head and abdomen: The head attaches to the abdomen, which is where the claws and legs attach. Don’t discard these when you’re de-shelling, as they do contain some meat.
  • Legs: Lobsters have two pairs of legs, eight in total. They do contain some meat, but usually not enough for most people to bother opening.
  • Tail: Probably the most coveted part of the lobster, the tail includes a large, tender chunk of meat.

How to De-Shell a Lobster

Grab the following tools to get started cracking open your lobster:

  • Lobster scissors
  • Lobster shell cracker (sometimes, nutcrackers can work)
  • Towel or old tablecloth to work over
  • Trashcan nearby for discarding shells
  • Bowl of melted butter, if desired

Your lobster should already be cooked before you start de-shelling. Make sure you allow it to cool for several minutes until it’s cool enough to touch comfortably. If you like your lobster meat in butter, have a bowl of melted butter ready to place the meat in as soon as you remove it.

  1. First, separate the claws and legs from the abdomen. The legs usually come off easily with a little twist, but you may need to add some more force while twisting off the claws. If you want to eat the meat inside the legs, you can place your mouth around the open end and suck out the meat and juice.
  2. Crack each claw using the shell cracker. You’ll want to place the cracker on the thickest part of the claw. Once the shell opens, you can pull out the claw meat. You can also crack off the small and large pointed pieces of the claw and pull out the meat.
  3. Hold the abdomen in one hand and the tail in the other, with the top shell facing toward you. Gently pull the ends back toward, you. The tail and abdomen should separate where they connect.
  4. Take the top shell off the abdomen and head. You’ll find meat inside the cavity that’s edible. The tomalley (green slimy-looking stuff) will be on it, but you can easily wipe it off with your finger or paper towel and discard it. Female lobsters will have eggs that are either black or red. Black eggs are uncooked and need to be cooked until they turn red to be safe to eat. Or, simply remove them and enjoy the meat by itself.
  5. Remove the swimmerets (the fin-like pieces on the underside and end) from the tail. You should be able to push a small fork through the narrow end of the tail, forcing the meat out the wider end.

Conclusion: De-Shelling a Lobster
Congratulations! You’ve cracked open your first lobster and are on your way to becoming an at-home lobster connoisseur. Now, you can order live lobsters straight from Maine and to your door from Maine Lobster House and practice your skills! Don’t forget to check out our catalog of articles, too, for more tricks and tips for enjoying your Maine lobster.