RECEIVING AND HANDLING LIVE LOBSTER
Lobsters have the natural ability to live out of water for extended periods, under specific conditions, because they may at times be caught out of water during low tides. Naturally stranded lobsters will seek shelter under rocks that are covered by heavy growths of wet seaweed since lobsters must remain cold and wet to survive out of water.
Just remember these general lobster handling tips to keep your lobster in delicious condition.
Basic Lobster Handling Rules
- Handle with care and be gentle
- Keep refrigerated to keep the lobsters cold
- Keep wet, with damp sea water soaked newspaper. Do not store the lobster in water.
- Pick up by the body, not the claws or the tail
Lobsters have a limited ability to take in oxygen while in air, a fact that makes shipping live lobsters in air possible. However, for the lobster to be able to extract as much oxygen as is required to remain strong and healthy, they must be kept cool and their air moist at all times.
Live lobster must be dealt with promptly. Place the lobster in the refrigerator immediately upon arrival. Keep as cold as possible without freezing - lobsters weaken rapidly and die when exposed to warm or freezing temperatures. Exposure to warm air, for example, outside temperatures, for even a short duration will reduce the life of the lobsters.
Keep the carton right side up!
Handle the carton as gently as if it were a carton of eggs. The sharp spines and edges on the lobster shells can easily damage the other lobsters if the boxes are handled roughly. Any blood loss will reduce the life of lobsters. Soft internal organs can also be damaged by shock even when no external damage is evident. Never use excessive force when handling live lobster - this can cause enough stress to weaken or even kill the lobster. This means handling the lobsters not only with extreme care, but the box that they arrived in must not be moved or jostled about excessively.
Check the lobsters as soon as possible. Any very weak lobsters should be removed and promptly cooked. Weak lobsters have droopy claws and tails. They show little reaction or response when handled.
Upon arrival, examine the condition of the lobsters. The presence of coagulated lobster blood, a clear (or faintly blue, orange or green - tinged) gelled substance found in the bottom of the carton, is evidence of damaged lobsters. Lobsters should be handled by their body to avoid claw loss. Lobsters must be handled gently to avoid internal and external injuries. Lobsters must never be thrown, dropped, crushed or dumped. Keep handling to an absolute minimum. If you have a large refrigerator available, you can keep the lobsters right in the carton. Lobsters should be packed right-side-up, with their tail curled up underneath the body. Layers of lobsters should be alternated with layers of seawater-soaked newspaper. Always use the weakest lobsters first. The lobsters may be stored in this manner for up to 2 days. Check the condition of the lobster before cooking. Remember to keep lobsters damp. The ability of lobsters to obtain oxygen from air depends on their gills and the gill chamber walls remaining covered by a film of moisture. Lobsters weaken or die if allowed to dry out. Never seal live lobsters in any air-tight container. Always keep lobsters away from fresh water and do not allow lobsters to sit in stagnant water.
If you have a small quantity of lobsters to cook and eat within a day or two, all that is required is a refrigerator to keep the crustaceans cold and a way to keep them damp. There are just a few simple rules to follow to keep the lobster in top condition. Upon receipt, the lobsters should be removed from their container, carefully inspected, and any weak or damaged lobster should be cooked immediately. Keep water-soaked packaging material or newspaper spread on the bottom. Put all strong, healthy lobsters back into the container. Make sure that you do all of this quickly so that the lobsters do not warm up too much. Put the container in the refrigerator and remove the lobsters as required, always selecting any weak lobsters first. Lobsters that may die while in the cooler are perfectly safe to cook and consume for at least 24 hours. Very weak or freshly dead lobsters should be cooked promptly. The tail of a cooked lobster should be curled and should return to the curled position if it is straightened. If the tail of a cooked lobster is limp and has an ammonia odor, the lobster was dead for too long prior to cooking and the quality of the meat has deteriorated. Fresh cooked lobsters can be stored in the cooler to be served chilled or re-heated, or may be frozen for longer storage.
- Handle lobsters with care.
- Unpack in a cool, damp area
- Remove weak/dead lobsters and cook ASAP
- Replace paper on the bottom, with dry, crumpled paper, and top with slightly dampened paper
- Carefully repack lobsters in a container (remember, curl the tail) without forcing too many in the box.
- Cover the container and store it in the refrigerator.