Lobster Tales and Tails

How would you like to hear a true tale about two false tales? Yes? OK, here it is: lobster tails are not really lobster tails. Both "lobster" and "tail" are false tales!

"How dare you tell such a tall tale" you may wail. "His tale of the tail turns me pale, like a snail" wails another.

Nonetheless, it is true. What is commonly described as a lobster "tail" is actually the abdomen, not the tail. That's the first false tale. And the vast majority of "lobster" tail sold in the United States comes from the "spiny lobster" which isn't a lobster at all! It's actually from the crayfish family and isn't even closely related to "true" American lobsters. That's the second false tale.

Check the facts in Wikipedia and this lobster fact sheet from Noaa.gov if you are skeptical. It's the plain, black and white truth. If you want to truthfully describe the product, please call "lobster tail" the accurate name of "crayfish abdomen" instead. Unfortunately for the southern fishermen and seafood markets, crayfish abdomen would not sell nearly as well as lobster tail.

The "spiny lobster" doesn't have claws. The pictures on the Noaa webpage illustrate that fact nicely. Most people who are familiar with lobster expect to see two nice large, meaty claws on the lobsters they purchase. They would intuitively know that something is missing if served a "spiny lobster." Therefore clever people decided to market just the tail, and thus, the "lobster tail" industry was born.

The difference in taste between the crayfish (Palinuridae), also know as "spiny lobster" and the true American Lobster is significant. The crayfish has a much more bland taste, being described by many as almost tasteless. Whereas the American Lobster has a very pronounced, succulent taste that has earned it the well-deserved reputation as a delicacy.

Maine lobster is the "true" American lobster, and is actually found in the Atlantic Ocean from Maryland to Nova Scotia, although the majority of the lobster population is located in the Gulf of Maine. Maine lobsters are easily distinguished from spiny lobster by the fact that Maine lobsters have claws that are very large and pronounced. Spiny lobsters are clawless.

Lobster, lobster tails, Maine lobster, fresh lobster, live lobster, soft shelled lobsters, green lobsters, and red lobsters. The choices seem overwhelming when it comes to lobsters. Serious lobster aficionados know that all it takes is some insider know-how and the most easy and practical solutions to fully enjoy this king crustacean. Listed below is a simple guide for choosing the best lobsters for your palate.

Size, shell hardness, age, sex, and choice between the two lobster varieties are the basic choices lobster fans and cooks alike face when picking their lobsters. We will review the general rules of thumb for each.

Lobsters in Maine cannot be legally caught and sold unless they meet specific sizes that are a matter of law. While the law states specific minimum and maximum measurements of the carapace, in general the smallest lobster that can be caught will weigh just over a pound. The largest will weigh nearly five pounds.

The differences between the two are that the meat will be a little tougher in the tails (abdomen!) of the large lobsters. Nor will the flavor be quite as sweet. But the difference in flavor will be very, very minor. However, the meat in the claws of the large lobsters will be a little more stringy, and the flavor in the meat of the claws of the large lobsters will be more pronounced. In general, size will not make much difference in taste.

If you have several people who will be partaking of the lobsters, it would be best to order more of the smaller lobsters to provide each person their own. If you simply want a lot of meat with the least amount of work, order the larger lobsters.

Shell hardness is not a decision that most lobster consumers will have to make. Only hard shell lobsters can survive the shipping process. Soft-shell lobsters have much less meat in them and will not survive shipping. They are sold locally in Maine, and are not shipped.

The benefit of soft shell lobsters is that they cost less and can be eaten without using lobster crackers to break the shell. Even though they cost less, they yield so much less meat that the slightly reduced price does not make them a better value.
Age of the lobster is closely related to size. Lobsters continue to grow as they age. All of the same rules of thumb apply to age as they do to size.

The sex of the lobster is not a big factor in choice. The primary difference is that the tail of the female is slightly wider to accommodate for carrying the eggs. This wider tail will have slightly more meat. The difference, though is negligible. Some consider the eggs to be a delicacy. However, it is illegal in Maine for lobstermen to keep a female that is carrying eggs. They must be immediately returned to the ocean. Therefore you will not be able to order a female Maine Lobster bearing eggs.

The choice between spiny lobster and Maine lobster is simply a choice between taste, such as the choice between tap water and fine wine. If you want a total flavor explosion, and want to dine on one of the most succulent meals on Earth, then Maine lobster is the only option available.

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About The Author, Greg Roy
G. Roy is a former recreational Maine lobster fisherman and owner of the site http://Lobster-s.com. For everything you ever wanted to know about the king of crustaceans, please stop by for a visit.