8 Major Mistakes People Make When Cooking Lobster

It turns out, there's more than one way to experience an epic seafood fail.

To most out-of-state visitors, dining in coastal Maine has become synonymous with one thing ― lobster.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that being designated as Maine’s “Lobster Chef of the Year” is a highly respected achievement, and not just locally. Five renowned state chefs ― Josh Berry of Portland’s Union; Matt Ginn of Portland’s Evo; Sebasco Harbor Resort’s Isaac Aldrich; the Thistle Inn’s Nick Krunkkala; and Stephen Richards of Mine Oyster in Boothbay Harbor ― will face off for the coveted crustacean crown Oct. 23. The showdown is one of many highlights at Portland’s Harvest on the Harbor festival, a five-day celebration of the state’s best food and wine.

Though most lobster dishes are simply-dressed affairs, there’s more than one way to experience an epic preparation fail. We asked the five “Lobster Chef of the Year” contestants for their thoughts on the biggest mistakes people make when cooking lobster, and here’s what they had to say.

Mistake #1: Picking The Biggest Lobster Available
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"I think the biggest mistake people make when it comes to lobster happens before they even start cooking," Richards said. "For some reason, people seem to fall in love with two-pound plus lobsters. I guess they think bigger is better, but not in this case. The meat of a large lobster is always tougher and is just about impossible to prepare as tender and sweet as, say, a new shell lobster."

Added Krunkkala: "The larger they are, the older they are, and the tougher the meat will be." He suggests using a soft-shell lobster that weighs about 1.25 pounds if you're keeping to a standard recipe, because the meat will be sweeter and save you a little money.
Mistake #2: Undercooking
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"The second biggest mistake is undercooking these little critters," Richards said. "That's right, undercooking lobster is much more detrimental to the outcome of your dish then overcooking because undercooked lobster is gelatinous and basically uneatable, while overcooked would be tough but still eatable."
Mistake #3: Throwing Out The Shells
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"Steep some shells and chopped legs in a little oil on low heat to infuse the oil with a delicious lobster flavor," Berry said. "This oil is great for sautéing or stir frying. The oil will keep refrigerated for a month."
Mistake #4: Thinking The Tail Meat Has The Best Flavor
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"In my opinion, while the tail meat is the largest, the 'knuckles' or joints between the claw and body have the best flavor," Berry said. " If you can remove them in one piece from the lobster -- it is a little tricky -- they are the best single bite you can get. Cherish the process and you will reap the rewards!
Mistake #5: Overcooking
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"A lobster will take only 7-12 minutes to cook," Aldrich said.
Mistake #6: Piling On Too Many Ingredients
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"You have to really know food flavors and trust your skills not to hide the lobster flavor," Richards said. "If you are going to use a lot of ingredients in your lobster dish, you'd better make sure the goal is to complement the lobster and not hide it or else you will just have a confusing flavor mess."
Mistake #7: Not Using Salted Water
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"If you are boiling lobster, the best way I find to do it is to use heavily salted water," Krunkkala said. "Make the water taste like sea water."

Ginn added, "For a true lobster boil, you should cook the lobster in ocean water."
Mistake #8: Discarding "The Guts"
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"Actually the black gelatinous fluid is the 'roe' or 'coral,'" said Berry. "The tomalley, or liver/pancreas, is the green substance. If you are lucky enough to get some of the coral, remove it from the lobster and cook it separately in a little butter until it is bright red. This makes a wonderful sauce for the lobster or other fish, it lends a perfect 'ocean-like' flavor."

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