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How to Eat a Lobster | Expert Advice

How to Eat a Lobster | Expert Advice
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Terri Nunan and her family own Nunan’s Lobster Hut in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Terri Nunan
Photo/Art by Michael Piazza
Terri Nunan

Much of Terri Nunan’s life has revolved around lobster. Her father was a lobsterman, she married a lobsterman, and in between, in 1974 at age 14 she took a job at Nunan’s Lobster Hut in her hometown of Kennebunkport, Maine, where she worked under Bertha Nunan, her future mother-in-law and one of Maine’s most beloved lobster cooks. Today, Terri owns Nunan’s Lobster Hut with her husband, Richard, and in-laws Keith and Kim Nunan. She also still loves lobster. “I could eat it every day,” she says. “It’s just got such a nice taste to it. If you’re in Maine, you have to try it.”



Lobster_ToolsTools of the Trade

Lobster eating is not for the dainty; you’re going to get your hands deliciously dirty. But it helps to have a few tools at your side. Actually, just two: a picker and a cracker. One retrieves the meat from those hard-to-get-to spots—legs and knuckles—while the other breaks the shell, especially for the tougher hardshell lobsters. Inexpensive kits that include a picker and a cracker can be picked up at a grocery or department store for under $10.

Lobster_BodyworkThe Tail

Your biggest and sweetest reward comes with the tail. Get at the meat by first grabbing hold of the body with one hand, the tail with the other, and then twisting in opposite directions to break the two sections apart. Next, stick your thumb under the bottom of the tail and push out. A long column of white meat should emerge at the other end. Peel back the vein that runs along its back side, dip the meat in butter, and enjoy.

Lobster_ClawsClaws & Knuckles

Nunan says that for many lobster newbies, the meat in the claws and the knuckles, in particular, often goes undiscovered. “I find that Southerners almost never look for it,” she says. “They’re used to crawfish, and crawfish don’t have knuckles.” A lobster has two different claws: a pincher and a crusher. Both have meat inside them. You can get at it by breaking open the claw with your cracker, then pulling the meat out. At each of the claw’s two knuckles, crack open the shell, then pull the meat out with a picker or a fork.

Body Work

Perhaps the most time- consuming part of picking a lobster involves the body. In fact, Nunan says, most people just forgo it; even some experienced lobster eaters set it aside. Begin by snapping off the legs from the body and then snapping each one—there are usually six—in half. You can either suck the meat out or follow Nunan’s preferred method of using a pick. As for the body, split it open with your thumbs, and then begin picking the areas where the legs were attached. It takes some patience, but Nunan says it’s some of the best meat found on the lobster.

Roe & Tomally

Ask a hard-core lobster fanatic what he or she eats, and invariably the conversation turns to the tomally, a soft green substance that serves as the lobster’s liver and pancreas. It may sound unsettling, but lobster veterans swear that its rich flavor is not to be missed. Others enjoy the roe (unfertilized eggs) found in a female lobster’s body, which turn red on a fully cooked crustacean. “I never eat the stuff, but my husband loves it,” Nunan says. “He’ll spread it on a cracker or a piece of toast. Not me. I couldn’t even tell you what it tastes like.”

Ian Aldrich


Ian Aldrich


Senior editor of Yankee Magazine: Ian, a native New Englander who has worked and freelanced for Yankee for the past decade, writes feature stories, home pieces, and helps manage the magazine's up-front section, First Light. His stories have ranged from exploring the community impact from a church poisoning in a small town in northern Maine to dissecting the difficulties facing Nantucket around its problems with erosion. In addition to his connection to Yankee, Ian worked as a senior editor of Cincinnati Magazine for several years.

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11 Responses to How to Eat a Lobster | Expert Advice

  1. Deb June 3, 2014 at 9:56 am #

    Well, this may all be well and true, but for some people (especially ME!). I start with the little legs and squeeze out as much of the meat as possible. And where the legs are attached right there is quite a bit on meat that people tend to forget. It’s not for the faint of heart, I personally don’t mind digging for such a delicacy. Then Comes the cavity and the tamale` with crackers of course. Next come the arms from the body to the claw, as you can see I am saving the best for last, The claws are next, of course the drawn butter, is always a must. Then comes the little flippers on the tail, I go for every space that I can find the meat, and Then the Delicious TAIL MEAT.

    • Bob Harmon June 19, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

      Take the little legs, (Swimerettes) and roll them from side to front with a rolling pin, or wine bottle, and you will extrude some really delicious and sweet little pieces of meat. Waste nothing..


  2. Tina Holden Shea June 4, 2014 at 8:33 am #

    I find utility scissors are my tool of choice if it is a lobster with a softer shell. With a hard shelled lobster the aforementioned utility scissors work for the tail. But for the more difficult claws of the larger lobster, I use a hammer with a towel covering to catch the stuff that spews.

  3. Walt June 19, 2014 at 9:52 pm #

    I’m from NE and have fished lobsters for many years…. Most all have 8 legs on each side… As with most tender meat it is definately the body meat, as in most animals.. The tail being a mussle which is used to propell it Backwards is very good but tougher in texture… The Claws, Pincher and crusher along with the Knuckles are in between… First remove all the 8 legs and start breaking them apart and mostly sucking the meat out… This time consuming process allows the rest of the lobster to cool a bit, then pull the claws off and seperate the knuckles.. with the cracker seperate the parts of the knuckles and then crack the claws themselves if done right you will get the whole claw meat out in one piece.. For the tail which is last, face the bottom toward you and with one hand on each side of the tail squeeze the sides togeather until you hear it crack… The take a fork and with the tines on the underside of the tail push it into the meat and peal it out of the shell… remove the top strip and clean the black (most of the time) strip, Cut it in chunks, dip in melted butter and enjoy….

  4. Brian Roberge July 3, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    As far as I’m concerned there’s only one kind of lobster to eat and that is the “lazy man’s” lobster. No mess, no hard work cracking shells and deciding what or what not to eat! :-)

  5. Ernie Carver June 18, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

    the best way to eat lobster is to buy it by the pound already picked out,unless your from away and want to spend more money,consider what you throw away in shells and such after you eat one at 5 or 6 dollars a lb. il bet you dont get your moneys worth ,but boy what fun.I ate a Maine lobster…

  6. Christiana Dean (Home) June 18, 2015 at 5:14 pm #

    No no donot eat the green stuff. This is where the lobster detoxifies his used food. If you eat it you could get sick from what the lobster ate.

  7. Kathy June 18, 2015 at 9:39 pm #

    i always eat the green stuff

    What’s the problem? A real NE !

  8. Christine French June 19, 2015 at 2:51 am #

    I eat every thing the green and the eggs too The only difference is i don’t eat lobster with butter bjut with home made mayonnaise this is the way we eat lobster , crabs ect

  9. Karen Rand June 21, 2015 at 11:40 pm #

    Like you Terri Nunan, I could eat lobster every day! I love the texture and sweetness of the claw meat best of all. If, by chance, there is any left over lobster, it becomes breakfast for me the following morning. There is nothing like drinking in the cold juice from the claws just before you crack open the shell and pop a delicious piece of lobster into your mouth. Aaah … Nectar of the gods!

  10. Henry Verbsky III August 19, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

    You eat everything (Period) with a lot of beer and garlic bread. Sometimes butter or cocktail sauce but really just great on it’s own.

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