Lobster eating is not for the dainty; you’re going to get your hands deliciously dirty. Here’s how to eat a lobster from a family of Maine lobster experts.
By Ian Aldrich
May 27 2014
Terri NunanPhoto Credit : Michael Piazza
Terri Nunan and her family own Nunan’s Lobster Hut in Kennebunkport, Maine, so they know a thing or two about lobster etiquette. Here are Terri Nunan’s expert’s tips on how to eat a lobster.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Nunan’s Lobster Hut. 9 Mills Road, Kennebunkport, ME. 207-967-4362; nunanslobsterhut.com