In June 1979 we brought you the story of Bertha Nunan, owner of the Lobster Hut in Cape Porpoise, Maine, and arguably America's most famous lobster cook. We stepped inside the Hut's cramped kitchen, where Nunan shared with us her secrets for how to cook lobster that's perfect every time. The lobster was great then, and it's great today. 2002 marked the Hut's 49th season, and neither the restaurant nor the 75-year-old Nunan has slowed down. During summer, the Hut serves as much as 700 pounds of lobster a night. It seems a Nunan lobster is something no one's taste buds can forget. To make your own great-tasting crustacean, here again are Nunan's tips on how to cook lobster.
"When you buy lobsters," she says, "you should know that from winter to summer the lobsters are hard-shelled. They're packed full of meat then, and you need fewer lobsters for a pound of meat if you're making stew. But I prefer them when they're soft-shelled. They're sweeter then."
"The secret to cooking lobsters is not to murder them. Give them a nice, slow, respectable way out. Don't put them in boiling water, and don't drown them in too much water.
"Boiling them in a lot of water just boils their flavor out, and too much water waterlogs them. I put in two inches of water, whether I'm cooking two lobsters or 14. I take a salt container and with the spout open I pour it three times around the pot, then, plop! at the end (about three teaspoons). When the water is boiling, put in the lobsters, put the lid on, and steam them for 20 minutes. Not a minute less or a minute more.
"When they're done, draw up your butter and serve the lobster with a dish of vinegar as well. Now the next step is what a lot of people, and practically all restaurants, ignore. It's why people tell me our lobsters taste the best of any they ever had.
"I always wash the pot after cooking each lobster. Lobsters are scavengers, and they can get pretty greasy from the bait. Look in the pot the next time you cook them and you'll see a sediment from the shell. So I always put in fresh salted water for every batch of lobsters.
"I'll never stop being surprised at what some people will do to a lobster. Some folks, to save time, precook their lobsters. When people arrive, they throw them in boiling water for a minute. That's the worst thing you can do. The lobster just fills with water. If you're eating lobster in a restaurant and when you crack it open water spurts everywhere, you can bet they just threw a precooked lobster in boiling water.
Editor's Note: Bertha Nunan passed away in January 2009, and Nunan's Lobster Hut is now run by younger members of the family.