Learn how to handle and care for live lobsters at home with tips from the lobster experts — LobsterAnywhere.com.
Note our tips for storing lobsters apply mostly to hard-shell lobsters. Although soft-shell lobsters (lobsters that have shed their old shells) can be purchased locally, they are generally weak and fragile and do not store or ship well.
Live Lobsters Packed and Shipped
Your hand-selected lobsters are packed live with seawater-soaked newsprint or fresh seaweed to keep them moist, and frozen ice gels to keep them cold. Lobsters are shipped in extra thick insulated cooler. Learn more about how lobsters are shipped to you, plus our delivery costs.
DO NOT freeze live seafood: live lobster, mussels, oysters, steamers.
Recycle Your Seafood Cooler
The packing container (shipping cooler) and frozen gel packs are completely reusable! Save them for the beach!
My Maine Lobsters Just Arrived at My Doorstep — Now What?
Do not store live lobsters in a sealed plastic bag (lobsters need to breath).Do NOT store live lobsters in fresh or salt water, your freezer, in plastic bags (lobsters need to breath), or let them sit in melted ice. Packing them in ice creates a buildup of fresh water which can suffocate them (use bags of ice or frozen gel packs instead.) Do not put lobsters in your aquarium or see if he can swim in the pool. Seriously!
Were you lucky enough to receive a special delivery from LobsterAnywhere? Here’s what to do:
- Refrigerate lobsters immediately, and keep them cold until you’re ready to cook them (best around 40 degrees F). The colder the lobster is, the lobster will become sluggish and won’t move around a lot. Don’t put them in your freezer.
- Keep lobsters moist with wet newspaper or seaweed that it was packed in. A dry lobster is an unhappy lobster.
- It’s best to cook lobsters the day they’re delivered. See below if you cannot cook your lobsters right away.
- Store lobsters in a strong paper bag or right in the lobster pot if you were lucky to receive one.
- When transferring lobsters, pick them up by the body, not the claws or the tail. To handle a live lobster, pick it up by the large shell just behind its head (the carapace shell). The lobster may wave its claws, flex its tail, or display only the slightest movement.
- If the lobsters are warm to the touch and there is a foul odor, contact LobsterAnywhere.com the day of delivery. Please see our Happy Cracking Guarantee.
How to Hold a Lobster without Getting Pinched!
Lobsters will come to you with heavy rubber bands on their claws. The fisherman put those on as soon as the lobsters are removed from their traps. These bands are to protect the lobsters from damaging each other.
First things first, keep the bands on the claws! Both claws should be banded. (It’s up for debate of whether to take the bands off the lobster before cooking.)
To hold live lobsters without getting pinched by the claws, hold the lobster by the lower end of the bigger body shell (called the carapace) while letting the lobster head and claws hang down.
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Be careful not to let your fingers go below the tail. The shell on the underside of the tail has some sharp edges, and may cut you if the lobster flips its tail as if it was swimming. That’s right, lobsters swim backwards by flipping that powerful tail. You have probably heard the old adage “crabs crawl sideways and lobsters swim back.”
Only pick up one lobster at at a time. Follow the rule: one hand, one lobster. Do not attempt to pick up several lobsters at a time. Also set lobsters down with care. Do not drop or toss them as you can easily damage them.
Lobster Rules – Dos and Don’ts of Handling Live Lobsters
DO — Refrigerate me when I arrive.DO — Cook me as soon as possible, the fresher the better.DO — Cook me even if I appear motionless. After cooking, my tail should curl under me and my meat should be firmDO — Pick me up by the body, not the claws or tail.DON’T — Remove my rubber bands around my claws until after cooking (unless you know what you’re doing!).DON’T — Put me in fresh or salt water, your freezer, in plastic bags (I need to breathe), or let me sit in melted ice.
My Lobsters are not Moving or are Damaged?
Lobsters are packed to order, live and kicking and shipped overnight. Since they have traveled a long way they may have tired. (Note that cold temperatures make lobsters sluggish.) Live lobsters will move very slowly while cold, but come to life once it starts to warm up on your kitchen counter.
Cook lobsters even if they appear motionless. This is also true if a lobster is damaged or drops a claw in transport.
In the unlikely event that a lobster has died, it is usually acceptable to cook if it is still cold to the touch and if the other lobsters in the shipment are still alive. Cook them up! The tail of the lobster is the best indicator of its freshness: it should curl under the body and be somewhat firm not watery or mushy when cooked.
How long Can You Store and Keep Live Lobsters Before Cooking?
Once your live lobster arrives how long can you keep it before it needs to be cooked? What if you cannot cook your lobsters the same day?
Our lobsters are very hardy and have been know to last up to 36 hours out of sea water, but we cannot guarantee it. We always suggest cooking your lobsters the day they are delivered.
You can store live lobsters overnight, one night, in your refrigerator. Keep them upright, moist, and cold and you’re good to go!
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The best way to keep lobsters alive for up to 24 hours is to store them with damp newspaper (or fresh seaweed) in the coldest part of the refrigerator (usually the lowest shelf at the back or in the meat keeper). Keep lobsters in a loose paper bag or in the shipping container. Don’t even think about the freezer!
Periodically check up on your lobsters, If the lobsters are still moving, you may delay cooking, but if they begin to show little or no movement they need to go right into the pot! Follow instructions below.
Packing and Keeping Lobsters in a Cooler to Go
Pack and surround the lobsters with sea-water soaked newsprint and/or seaweed and frozen gel packs. Try to pack for a snug fit as you do not want the lobsters smashing up against each other in transport.
If you do not have frozen gels packs you can use bags of ice. Double bag the ice to keep it from leaking. Never let live lobsters rest in fresh water from melted ice as this can cause osmotic shock, suffocation and death.
Cooking Lobsters and Eating Later
If for some reason you find that you cannot cook the lobsters for more than a day, you may partially cook them. After you have par-cooked them, submerge in cold water for 3 minutes, drain, and refrigerate. You can finish cooking them any time up to 48 hours later.
Alternatively, you can cook lobsters and pick the meat. Cooked lobster meat may be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2-3 days, or for months if frozen.
Break Down Fresh Killed Lobster Before Storing
It is important to break down a fresh dispatched lobster before storing in the refrigerator. Separate the tail and claws from the body to prevent the tail from becoming mushy. As Cooks Science notes the digestive enzymes found in the lobster‘s body (hepto-pancreas) will break down the proteins in the tail turning it mushy.
Need Help Cooking Live Lobster?
Check out our Guide for Cooking Live Lobster at Home.
Quick FAQs on How to Handle Live Lobsters.
Crosby, Guy. Cooks Science: How to Unlock Flavor in 50 of Our Favorite Ingredients. Americas Test Kitchen, 2016.
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