How do you keep fresh lobsters alive?  How do you pick up a live lobster? Are lobsters a healthy food, and how many calories does lobster meat contain?  And why do lobsters turn red when they are cooked?

People have a lot of questions about lobsters, and here are a few facts.

How do you handle live lobsters?  And how do you keep fresh lobsters alive?

Live lobsters are very perishable, and require a controlled salt water environment to remain alive.  They do not generally live much more than a day out of water, so ideally, you should cook your lobsters on the day you receive them.  (Cooked lobsters will stay fresh for at least three days in the refrigerator.)

Never place lobsters in tap water to try to keep them alive; lobsters are salt water creatures, and fresh will kill them.

The best way to keep lobsters alive at home is to refrigerate them; cover your lobsters with moist seaweed or a damp cloth (which you probably received with the lobsters when they were delivered), and leave them in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

How can you tell if your lobsters arrived alive?

If you ordered live lobsters, they will have been out of water for almost 24 hours when you receive them. Occasionally, one may appear weak or lifeless. This is a normal occurrence. In most cases, as long as the packaging material is in good condition, and the refrigerant is still cold, your lobsters will be fine. The best way to check is to boil the lobster. As long as the lobster’s tail curls when cooked, and the meat in the tail is firm, and in one piece, then the lobster was alive when it was cooked.

Because lobsters require careful packing and prompt shipping, you should only purchase lobsters from a company which offers a 100% guarantee if any lobsters arrive in poor condition.

How do you handle previously cooked lobsters?

If  purchased whole lobsters which have already been cooked (and several lobster delivery services offer lobsters boiled in sea water to lock in the “fresh taste of Maine”) you can keep them refrigerated for up to three days.  When you are ready to serve them, place them in a pot of rapidly boiling water. When the water returns to a boil, start timing. In just five minutes, your lobsters will be ready to enjoy.

What is the difference between Hard shell and Soft shell lobsters?

Lobsters grow by molting, or by shedding their shells each year.  Just after they molt, they are soft and fragile until their new shell has hardened, and they aew known as new shell or soft shell lobsters, sometimes called “shedders.”  After their new shell hardens, they are known as hard shell lobsters.

Soft shell are tender, sweet, and delicious, and represent about 90% of the catch during the summer months.  They are prized by maine natives, and are less expensive than hardshell lobsters as well, but they contain less meat than a hard shell lobster of the same size, because their body has not yet grown into its new shell, and so the lobster’s shell is larger than its body.

Soft shell (or new shell) shell lobsters do not travel well, and should not be purhcased for live delivery; most reputable companies will not even  try to ship live soft shell lobsters because they are unlikely to survive the journey.  Some companies do, however, offer precooked whole soft shell lobsters.

How does a lobster grow?

An adult female lobster will produce approximately 10,000 eggs when she is fertile. Each egg is the size of the head of a pin. As they grow, the eggs are held under the mothers tail with a special glue-like substance. The female will carry her eggs for almost a year. Then the eggs are released as larvae. It has been estimated that less than 1% of the eggs will survive to grow into an adult.

Lobsters grow by molting, or shedding their shells. Just after they molt, they are soft and fragile until their new shell has hardened. During this time, the lobster buries itself in the mud to hide from its natural enemies. When they are young, an immature lobster will molt several times each year. It takes approximately seven years for a lobster to grow to legal harvesting size (1-1 1/4 lb.). At this age, they molt just once a year, usually during the summer months. Each molt will increase their size by 1/4 lb. on average. When lobsters get older, they will often skip years, and molt less frequently.

What is a legal size lobster?

The State of Maine has special laws that are designed to protect our lobster fishery for years to come. We use a special gauge to measure the lobsters carapace (body). There are both minimum and maximum size measurements. The minimum size is designed to make sure that all lobsters are mature enough to breed at least once before they are harvested. The maximum size limit is designed to protect the breeding stock. A minimum size lobster will weigh around 1 lb., while a maximum size lobster will weigh between 3-4 lbs. The most plentiful, and most popular size of Maine Lobsters are 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 lb. each.  If you are offered a smaller or larger lobster than this, you can guarantee it is not a genuine Maine Lobster.

What color are lobsters?  Are live lobsters red?

Live lobsters are usually dark green or greenish-brown, but lobsters can be found in a range of colors including blue, white, orange, yellow, black, and sometimes even red.  “Calico” lobsters are multicolored, and some lobsters even have two distinct colors, separated by a line down their backs.  But whatever color they are when alive, all lobsters turn bright red when cooked.

How do you cook lobster?

There are several ways to cook lobster.  The most popular ways are to boil lobster and to steam lobster.

Why do lobsters turn red when they are cooked?

When a lobster is cooked, protein molecules in its shell bend into new shapes which reflect only the red wavelengths in light.

Are lobsters a healthy food?  What is the nutritional information for lobsters?

Lobsters are an incredibly healthy, low cholsterol food, which has fewer calories and saturated fats than both chicken and turkey.

Maine Lobster      72 mg           98            0.1 g

Skinless Chicken   85 mg          173            1.3 g
Skinless Turkey    86 mg          140            0.4 g

source: The National Institute of Health based on a 3.5 oz. Serving

What is the clump of little red balls in my lobsters tail?

Lobster eggs, or roe.  You have a female lobster that has immature eggs which she hasn’t yet released to her tail. It is called coral, and many people feel it is a delicacy; lobster caviar, if you will.

Lobster eggs turn red when cooked, but are naturally black, so if you are splitting a live lobster for stuffing, or if your lobster is undercooked, the coral will appear black.

How do you hold a lobster so you won’t get crunched by its claws?

Live lobsters should always be delivered with heavy rubber bands on their claws.  Lobster fisherman put strong rubber bands on its claws on as soon as a lobster is removed from its trap, to protect other lobsters from being damaged by the claws.  You can leave these rubbers bands on the claws until after the lobster is cooked, so you never need to worry about being injured by the claws.

How do you pick up a lobster?

To pick up a lobster, grab it by the back, just above where the tail connects to the carapace (body). The lobster won’t be able to bend his claws back enough to get you. Be careful not to let your fingers get below the tail; the shell on the underside of the tail has some sharp edges, and may cut you if the lobster flips it’s tail as if it was swimming.  (Lobsters swim backwards by flipping that powerful tail; you may have heard the old expression “crabs crawl sideways and lobsters swim back.”)

What is the white substance covering my lobsters meat?

Lobsters have a primitive circulatory system and blood. When they are alive, their blood appears clear, but once they have been cooked, the blood congeals and turns white.  You will often see it on the claws in particular.

The cooked blood has no taste and is harmless, but you can easily scrape it off if you wish. Sometimes you will see some blood in your pot as you boil your lobsters; this is quite normal and perfectly harmless.

What is the green substance I can find on my meat?

The “green stuff” that can be found in cooked lobster is tomalley, which serves as the pancreas and liver.  Some consider it a delicacy.  We have an article dedicated to lobster tomalley.

Are lobsters considered a delicacy?

Lobsters have long a symbol of gourmet indulgence for the wealthy, from the great Lobster Palaces of the Gilded Age to the dining rooms of the Hindenburg and Titanic.  But in the early days of English settlement in the New World, at places like Plymouth, Massachusetts, lobsters were so plentiful they were considered food for the poor and many colonial inhabitants probably complained, “Not lobster, again!”  Lobster tomalley is also considered a delicacy, although there have been concerns with the safety of eating this part of the lobster.

Where can I buy fresh lobster online?

There are several companies where you can buy Maine lobster online, usually within 24 hours and with free shipping.


  1. How long are you able to keep the lobster after you have cooked them
    before you have to pick them/

  2. “Maine is the only state to protect the resource like this.” Maine is NOT the only state to regulate lobster harvesting it is regulated in NJ.

  3. Thank you for pointing out my mistake. I was not aware of the New Jersey laws, and I have now corrected the page. I didn’t mean to slight any other state! Sorry about that!

  4. I steamed ( 6 ) 1 1/2 lb lobsters yesterday for 30 minutes and the claws were mushy but the tails were fine. I was told the lobsters were brought in that morning from Maine. Do you know why the claws were mushy?

    Thank you

  5. New Jersey has lobsters? I did not know that! I would really like to try a “Jersey lobster”, can you tell me where to get them? I was always under the impression that New Jersey lobsters are what we call “crawdads”!

  6. Hey thanks, your information is great, I maintain lobster tanks in the great state of Maryland……Been in the business for over 30 years,and I love LOBSTERS…Maine’s my choice..take care

  7. I have enjoyed Maine Lobster for years. It is unfortunate that I will no longer be able to enjoy it. After the passage of Proposition 1, taking away marriage equality in Maine, I will no longer be able to enjoy Maine Lobster or any product from the state of Maine. I will also be encouraging my friends and neighbors who believe in equal rights to boycott Maine lobster and all other products that come from Maine.


  8. I have a question rather than a comment. I would like to take some lobster to bring some lobster to my friends out of town,but rather than have to cook and freeze them, can i cook and bottle them?Will the meat stay good or will it spoil. I was hoping to bottle them as you would bottle moose or rabbit. Any advise would be helpful.
    Best ragards, Marion

  9. I have a 4lb Lobster with a large black spot running down the back. It is very soft. What is that

  10. From your page I gather it’s not illegal to harvest female lobsters? Or a female lobster with eggs?

    Is that correct?

  11. hi were about to set up a 5000 gallon lobster tank but theres a conflict in certain things i.e i think we should be keeping the temperature at 5.5 centergrade but others at work are sayin 9 centergrade and the ph i think should be 7.5 to 8 please could you answer it would be a great help!!!

  12. in ma. we have great lobster and you cant tell the difference from a maine lobster or one from ma , and we are all regulated to how small you can get them and how many ,, so please support all lobstering in new england

  13. There are 6 ounces of meat per pond of lobster, apparently.

    I cooked lobster last night and all was delicious but 1 of the 8 lobsters had very pale and very soupy claw meat. The tail was fine though. Any explanation?

  14. Good news for Robert, who “will not visit Maine or buy Maine products” because they do not allow homosexuals to marry. He can come out here to San Francisco. Oops! We do not allow homosexuals to marry here, either, Robert. However, we can buy that wonderful Maine Lobster here–and all of the other fine products from Maine. Thank God for Maine Lobsters! We enjoy them here several times a month.

    Richard in San Francisco

  15. Robert: Good luck with your boycott. (I don’t see how your point in any way affects lobstering.) Mmmm… I’m enjoying my Maine lobster!!!!

  16. I had a lobster at the muddy rudder in Freeport me and the tail meat was smaller than the lemon wedge is this legal? Return with email address and I will send you a picture

  17. Hi, I steamed 3 (1-1/4lb) lobsters for 15 minutes. They were definitely cooked all the way through but the roe from one lobster was still black. What does that mean?

    Also, just to let you know, they were canadian lobsters.

    Any thoughts?

    Thank you,

  18. Chris…
    Claw meat is much more tender than the tail meat,in cooking your lobster,you will always have a tougher tail the fullness of the lobster is another issue along with the age,best time for a good solid lobster is in the cold months Enjoy………Capt Seaweed

  19. A friend of mine tried to tell me restaurants sell something as “lobster tails” which are not lobsters because they have no head or claws. Is there anything that can possibly be passed off as lobster tails but are not really from a lobster. I lived in Maine for a few years and I never heard of such a thing. I asked him, “what planet he was from and what was he drinking at the time”.

  20. Cholesterol is found in all kinds of meats, including seafood. By comparison, 3 oz. of lobster has about 70mg of cholesterol vs. the same amount of shrimp which has 128mg of cholesterol and same amount of beef which has 78mg.

  21. Thank you for all the VERY useful info/advice! We have just finished another big lobster feed for the 2nd evening in a row and still have lots leftover. I have always wondered just how many days the cooked meat can be kept safely before consuming. Have always thought 2 days most likely, but am happy to find out 3 days are safe… I can have lobster rolls tomorrow!! 🙂 Thanks again!

  22. I bought a lobster tail from the seafood dept. in Publix. It was bright green inside the shell. Is this normal? The color did not wash off of the meat.

  23. i want to try lobster soo bad and i keep asking this girl to go to eat lobster with me but shes scared of them or something…. shes a real katniss. what can i do to change her mind?

  24. Hmm, not sure what a “katniss” is, but perhaps if you took her to a restaurant which served lobster among other things, you can order lobster and she can order whatever she wants. She can then try some of yours and determine whether she enjoys it or not. Good luck!

  25. Am looking at a page from an old Country Living magazine, of a hand embroidered place mat or napkin. Stitched on top across, is “Hold” Under the D in Hold, all i can see is an “e”, and there may be 2 more letters…any idea what the word should spell? It is a cross word puzzle to me because there are plates covering the letters. I can’t figure it out. If you can, please shed light, no pun intended. Thanks!

  26. Hello,
    I am having a hard time finding information on the following:
    I was in the process of breaking up and eating a lobster the other night when I found a LARGE mass of what resembled dark red guava paste in the HEAD of the lobster, not the tail. It was a dark red chunk about the size of man’s thumb. I have never seen this before, not in a cooked or dead uncooked lobster. Can you assist? I got scared to finish my lobster after that, but I had already eaten all the meat from the claws and lower tail.
    thank you, Sara

  27. Can lobster be frozen instead of refrigerated to keep it longer ?? And does it have to be frozen before cooked of after being cooked ?

  28. I saw that there was an answer for how long lobster can remain fresh in the freezer and refrigerator, but how long can it stay fresh out of the refrigerator once it is cooked? I went to a lobster festival and bought 2 cooked lobster tails to go and they were not refrigerated for approximately 4 hours. I purchased them at around 6pm and put them in the refrigerator at about 10pm, so they were not in the heat of the day. Thank you.


  30. Why can’t MA restaurants sell just a lobster tail as part of their entree? I work for a chain that sells a surf and turf, but in our Massachusetts locations we can only sell chunk lobster meat with the steak, we aren’t allowed to sell the tail.

  31. Hello. I’m on a diet just salads and silk milk and water. My daughter brought me home two lobster tails.about 2 or three ounces a peace.I feel like I cheated something terrible.but they were so good.I will eat nothing tomorrow.

  32. A lot of times the eggs extend up into the body of the lobster, that may be what you were seeing, many consider this a delicacy. Also to Maine lobster…the pound down the street sells 1 1/8 pound lobsters. They claim they catch their own. I was
    reading in facts that the legal Maine size minimum is 1 & 1/4 lb. Is this guy selling Canadian lobsters?

  33. I don’t recommend leaving the rubber bands on during the steaming process, as it will affect the taste.

  34. What typically happens to the rest of the lobster when someone buys a lobster tail?
    Is the body removed in Maine or at the restaurant?

  35. I boiled lobsters the other night, 6 of them, and the claws looked like they had a white powder ont hem when they were done. It did not rub off it was into the shell. could too much lemon in the water cause this? Please help

  36. I’m posting this on behalf of chef friend who is a charter chef: She is talking about Caribbean lobster here, but suppose this could also happen to lobster from other areas

    Lobster question. Why do they turn black (especially on the skin) and how do I keep it from happening? I only have this problem when I buy tails either fresh or frozen, never when I buy whole and put them to “sleep” in the freezer. I’ve also had the problem when I guests want to keep their leftovers from Anegada for salad the next day. They look fine going into the fridge/ freezer but when they come out they are spotted with black. Any advice or guess? I

  37. dont have a comment,but a question.i bought two three pound lobsters,after cooking them i opened the claws on one and the meat was a grayish/black and it safe to eat?

  38. I found a pound of raw lobster chunks, pieces in my freezer. I had sealed it with a “food saver” bag- no air in it.
    Dated September 2011. Is it safe to eat ? I can’t see any freezer burn or ice in the package.

  39. I’m not really good at determining what is the good lobster from bad ones. Thanks for the useful information about this tasty dish, I guess I just love to eat not to cook.

  40. Having fished for Maine lobster as a kid with my uncle on his trawler I found out that you can tell how fresh a lobster is by holding them by their backs, their claws should go up rather than droop, and if their claws droop, there almost dead, their meat has shrunk in the claws, and hardly has any taste & tough. This is why you have a live lobster brought to your table at a restaurant to check out the claws.
    Now you will really enjoy a Maine lobster.

  41. I would like a answer to Marions question ! can you bottle lobster after cooking and if yes how long should i boil them for ?(with shells removed )

  42. I prefer to steam lobsters in beer, about half a bottle and and half that amount of water is enough, then you drink the other half of the beer as you are waiting for them to cook. I think the alcohol fumes from the beer anesthetizes the lobster and the beer makes the lobsters taste better. I would never consider boiling a lobster!

  43. At a restaurant last night my lobster claw meat was black in colour. I sent the claw meat back for the chef to come and tell me this is normal for some lobsters. In all my years of eating lobster have never come across this before. Is this something new?

  44. Wowza people I stumbled upon this site searching something else….. Not many of you know much about Maine Lobsters aye? I live in New Hampshire and camp in Maine during the summer near (Rockland) there are huge fisheries up there and you can get lobster off the dock for 1-3 dollars a pound. There is so much great seafood off the coast its crazy! Squid and everything, Every eating place has fresh seafood. In any case Boiling a Lobster is totally fine and I don’t notice any difference in taste or quality as opposed to Steaming. I Steam them now just because I’m usually eating steamers or muscles with it. You can put wine, beer, or just water to steam them. If boiling bring the water to a complete boil and enough to submerge the lobsters. if your cooking 3 chik lobsters it should only take 7-9 minutes. when I cook 2 i put both in *head first* for 7 minutes. Steaming is roughly the same time actually you can do up to 12 in a big steamer in about 14-20 minutes.

  45. No that’s disgusting and you should never eat that. the Claw SHELL can be a little black maybe from burning but fresh good lobster meat should be firm, white and red.

  46. tail you mean? I’m not sure…. but probably at least 2 feet long? their tails are usually pretty close to the length of the rest of its body. Which would mean that Lobster would probably weigh 10 lbs or more.

  47. there is no difference in Steam over Boil – the difference lies in the freshness of the lobster. And weather its hard shell or soft shell. (hard shell is very hard to break) Soft Shell is easy… basically Soft shell means that the lobster is growing into its new shell, Hard shell means its fully grown at that stage and sooner than alter will moult it’s shell again.

  48. Naw, I think that loses too much of its taste. I bet you put Cajun spices on it? Save that for the Shrimp kabobs.

  49. Bottle lobster? What? nonononon only cook Live lobster than eat it. 1 small lobster should cook live for about 7 minutes in boiling water or steamer. I guess if you really need to preserve it you could freeze it… but I wouldn’t say the shelf life is good for lobster in any case. Don’t open the lobster to remove the meat and then boil? man you need a lot of work.

  50. black usually means not good… when in nature (for the most part) is anything black that is good to eat when normally it never is? Don’t put them in the freezer…. buy the damn Lobsters and cook them that day. YOU CAN put them in the fridge over night and I have done this but just eat these guys fresh don’t preserve it especially if you don’t know much about them your probably going to get sick. Also if the freezer makes them black usually thats blood rotting correct? I don’t think your being humane… adversely it sounds more horrible way to die.

  51. the claws and tail or used, obviously the lobster has been cooked and the body is discarded.

  52. the size depends on the age… of course there are different types of lobsters but just look up “largest lobster” without looking I would bet it’s from Maine which is cold water.

  53. ahahhaha it’s not recommended to eat anything but the tail or claws…. the little claws have some meat in them but not worth the effort… in the end of the tail in those little “fins” you can crack them open and meat is in there. Some people enjoy eating the torso/head ….. which I find repulsive.

  54. haahhahaha you must live on the west coast? Do you realize how popular Maine Seafood is? basically it’s the best in the world, from fish to lobster, steamers and muscles…. Oysters…. all the fancy places in America get their seafood from the Northeast. Your post is as ignorant as not allowing gays to marry, fishermen are hard workers that work under dangerous conditions and you blame them for gay rights? How many other problems do you have?

  55. We trap our own lobsters and check for females with eggs to throw them back. When I get home one had eggs! Can they release them that quickly? This happened once before….

  56. we were given fresh lobsters live from Maine and one of them before cooking and a red liquid came out when I cut it open. Is it safe to eat?

  57. Good info. However, the site LobsterAnywhere does sell 5-6 pound lobsters, so are any of their lobsters actually from Maine? The site LobsterGram has a max of 2 pounds, so are they more genuine?

  58. I just boiled a lobster. It was black all over before but now has black raised spots all over it. What is wrong?

  59. I just watched a programme where they had live lobster on the boat they cut tail connection to body half then put a whole in top of the tsil and proceeded to twist to remove tail so it was in two parts the body still moving with guts hanging out undamaged threw back in does this kill the lobster now? Or can it grow without its tail?

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