The most important etiquette rules on how to serve and eat lobster with grace. Tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest at the dining table.
What lobster etiquette is
lobster etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and eat lobster. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect your hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.
If you are hosting, follow lobster etiquette to serve it to your guests appropriately.
If you are a guest, respect lobster etiquette rules to properly eat and enjoy it.
What you should know about lobster
Lobsters are a family of crustaceans.
Lobsters have a dark-colored shell, which turns red when it is cooked. Their flesh is firm, white in color, and sweet in flavor. The delicate flavor of their meat makes them one of the most prized seafood.
Etiquette rules to serve and eat lobster
1) How to store lobster
Do not store lobsters. Eat them right away.
You can put lobsters in the freezer. However, freezing will spoil the flavor and texture of the meat. Thus, it is not recommended.
Store cooked lobster in the fridge. Eat it as soon as possible. Do not keep it longer than 2 days.
2) How to clean lobster
If you do not serve the lobster whole, remove its inedible parts. Remove its intestinal tract, a thin dark thread that runs along its tail. Keep the rest of the tail and the meat in the two largest claws.
Do not place the lobster in freshwater. It will kill the lobster. It also causes distress to the animal, so it qualifies as animal cruelty.
3) How to cook lobster
There are several ways to cook lobster. Boiling and steaming are the most common. Baking and grilling are other options.
Be aware that guests may refuse to eat lobster for ethical reasons. Several ways to kill lobsters qualify as animal cruelty. One of them is the traditional method of placing the lobster into boiling water. Such methods may be illegal in some countries or regions.
Acceptable method to kill a lobster
The most humane way to kill a lobster is to freeze it, then kill it instantly.
- Put the live lobster in the freezer for at least 2 hours. Freezing does not kill the lobster, but it makes it unconscious.
- After freezing the lobster, take it out of the freezer and make sure it does not move.
- Push the tip of a large and sharp kitchen knife through the head of the lobster, from its top.
Prepare the lobster meat to be served
If you are not serving a cooked lobster whole, you need to extract the meat.
First, extract the meat from the claws and legs.
- Twist off the claws and legs from the body.
- Break them into sections.
- Crack the claws with a hammer or a lobster cracker. Then, remove the flesh with a pick or a fork.
- Flatten the legs with a spoon or a fork. Then, remove the flesh with a pick or a teaspoon.
Then, extract the meat from the body.
- Split the lobster into halves. Cut the head and the body along its length with a sharp knife.
- Remove and discard the pale and the dark interiors. Do not discard the green tomalley (intestinal tract), which is edible.
- Remove the flesh from the shell.
4) How to serve & present lobster
You can serve lobster with or without its shell. When you serve lobster in its shell, it is best to cut it into halves. Serve it with lemon wedges or juice, and melted butter for dipping.
If you serve lobster whole, provide your guests with the appropriate utensils and tableware to eat it.
- Lobster crackers to crack the claws.
- Picks for shellfish to extract the meat.
- Small bowls of water and lemon to wash the fingers.
You can serve the lobster claws intact or already cracked.
5) Foods and beverages to pair lobster with
Lobster is valuable for its delicate flavor. Avoid any pairing with flavors that may overshadow it.
Lobsters go well with spinach, potatoes, or steamed vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli.
Avoid pairing lobster with other fish or seafood. Never pair lobster with meat. It is considered distasteful.
Pair lobster with white wine. Unoaked Chardonnay wines such as Chablis, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Ribolla Gialla, Riesling, or Sauvignon Blanc. Other options are Champagne or rosé wine. Avoid red wines.
6) How to eat lobster
Eat a whole lobster with a fork and knife. Place the knife between the flesh and the shell to hold the lobster still. Use the fork to remove the meat.
The big claws can be served cracked or intact. When the claw is intact, hold it with your hand. Crack it with a dedicated cracker. Then, pull out and eat the meat with your fork or with a special small pick for shellfish.
Do not discard a whole claw. Try to eat at least part of it. Do not put too much effort, as you may make a mess or look greedy. Aim for a middle ground.
On formal occasions, do not suck the meat and juice from the head or claws. In informal venues, this may be allowed.
Lobster etiquette: the worst mistakes
The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors.
A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.
Avoid the worst lobster etiquette mistakes.
- 10/10. Killing a lobster in an unethical way.
- 7/10. Pairing lobster with strong flavors
- 7/10. Pairing lobster with red wine.
- 6/10. Making a mess while eating lobster.
- 4/10. Discarding a whole claw.
Additional information for properly serving lobster
How many calories per serving?
Counting calories is important to stay healthy and to correctly plan a menu.
Lobster contains 90 calories per 100 grams. The average serving depends on the size of the lobster and the season. Normally, a lobster is between 550 and 700 grams (1 ¼ and 1 ½ pound). Its meat weighs about 150 grams (5.5 oz). So, on average, a whole lobster contains 135 calories.
How to buy the best lobster
A crucial factor in lobster etiquette is to serve the best product possible to your guests.
Season and availability
Lobsters are available all year round. However, their peak season is between late summer and fall.
Choose the best
The best lobsters usually come from cold waters. If available, choose lobster from:
- The Atlantic coast of Canada or New England.
- The North Sea, around Scotland, Ireland, or Norway.
Alternatives to lobster
A substitute for lobster must have comparable firm flesh and delicate flavor. The most popular options are crab, crayfish, scampi, or langoustines.
Can you eat the entire lobster? The majority of the meat is in the tail and in the two largest claws. You can find meat and juice in the smaller legs, the body, and the head.
What part of a lobster can’t you eat? Do not eat the shell.
What’s the green in lobster? It is the lobster tomalley, the equivalent of the liver and pancreas.
Can you eat the green stuff in lobster? Yes. You can either remove it or eat it.