For “Small is Beautiful” (season 2, episode 3), Weekends with Yankee visited McLoons Lobster Shack in South Thomaston, Maine, home of senior food editor Amy Traverso’s pick for the best lobster roll in the state. Here, the experts at McLoons share how to cook a lobster the right way, plus how to properly pick a lobster so you don’t waste a morsel .
How to Cook a Lobster the McLoons Way
1. You’ll need about 5 pounds of whole lobster to yield a pound of picked meat. “Any size of lobster will work, but I recommend buying four 1 1/4-pounders, so you get a good variety of tail, knuckle, and claw meat in each roll,” says McLoons general manager Bree Douty. “Keep in mind that soft-shell lobsters contain much less meat than hard-shells. The soft-shell meat is very delicate and sweet—perfect for rolls—but you may have to purchase an additional lobster to yield enough meat.”
2.Fill a large rimmed pan, such as a roasting pan, with ice.
3.Fill a large stockpot with an inch of seawater or generously salted tap water. Insert steamer basket. Heat to boiling.
4. Remove bands from lobster claws and quickly place lobsters into pot.
5.Cover pot and cook until lobsters are bright red and the antennae easily detach from the body, about 10 to 15 minutes. Do not overcook!
6.Carefully remove lobsters from pot and set in the ice to stop cooking. Let cool.
7. Pick lobster meat from the shells (see below) and chill until ready to serve. Lobster meat can stay fresh for several days if properly stored. McLoons recommends sealing it in a plastic bag and covering it in ice in the refrigerator.
How to Pick a Whole Lobster
Note: While there is meat in the legs and the body cavity, it’s not typically used in lobster rolls. You can dig for it if you prefer, but we’ll move on to the main parts: claw, knuckle, and tail.
1. When the lobster is cool enough to handle, pick up the body with one hand. Remove the tail by grabbing it with your other hand and giving it a good twist.
2. To remove the tail meat, you can lay the tail on its side on a cutting board and press down firmly until the shell cracks down the center, then pull it open at the break. Alternatively, you can twist off the flippers at the bottom of the shell, which will create a small hole. Insert your thumb into this hole and push the meat up and out of the top. For lobster rolls, cut the tail meat crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices, then chop these slices into bite-size morsels.
3. Remove the knuckles (“forearms”) and claws from the body by holding the lobster body in one hand and using the other to twist off the knuckles. Use your hands to separate each knuckle from the claw at the joint.
4. Use lobster crackers to break the shell on the knuckles in two places. Fish out the meat with a seafood pick, small fork, or toothpick. If needed, cut the knuckle meat into bite-size pieces.
5. To get clean pieces of claw meat, break open the claw near the base using a cracker or the back of a chef’s knife (give it a firm whack). Pull out the claw meat in one piece. For a pretty presentation, lay the claw meat on top of the roll.