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How best to kill a lobster?


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Hi Brooke,

What do you believe is the best way to kill a lobster? In humane and culinary terms?

My mom just chops off their heads with a giant cleaver - which is what I used to do.

Until I read that it's most humane to chill them immobile first then quickly plunge the tip of a chef's knife down into the cross mark behind the head/between the body and head, then split the head. And that that's supposed to keep the meat from seizing and getting rubbery.

A chef of mine who worked at Le Dome in Paris - reknown for their seafood - claims it's most humane to plunge just their heads into boiling water until they turn red before proceeding with any other preparation.

What's your opinion please?

Thank you!

Louisa

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I'm not by any means an expert on dispatching lobsters! I mostly follow Jasper White's advice, in his excellent book called Lobster At Home. The one thing I've tried that makes it a little easier on the killer (I mean cook) is trowing them in the freezer for about 15 minutes before cooking. That numbs them just enough so the critters don't thrash around nearly so much when you put them in the pot. Although in truth, I used to really mind the thrashing but have gotten so callous that now it doesn't seem to bother me so much! (I suppose we'll hear from PETA now...)

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Although in truth, I used to really mind the thrashing but have gotten so callous that now it doesn't seem to bother me so much! (I suppose we'll hear from PETA now...)

Oh, Brooke. There's no "we"! You're on your own with the PETA people! :biggrin:

But seriously, thanks very much for sharing your tips and personal insight into the matter!

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There are two ways that work for me:

Keller way- Pour boiling water over them and let them steep for ten to fifteen minutes, remove from shells or roast, beurre monte to poach, what have you.

The Le Bernardin way- Live, spear them behind and between the eyes with your Chef's knife, skewer the tail quickly with a bamboo rod, twist off. Twist off claws, open body, reserving tomalley and coral, cleaning and removing lungs and undesirable organs, and reserving shells and bodies for stock.

The Keller way is more uniform, but to me, the Ripert way is much better, and you can get a more specialized use out of each part of the lobster itself. We used Keller's method in school, and I worked with Lobsters last summer at LB. Both are good. I prefer LB's.

Don't chill them. This tenses their muscles and yields unappealing textures for the finished product. The sugar content changes, and the secretion of panic endorphins may change the flavor of the meat. Plus, using pre-chilled lobster is how they do it at Red Lobster. You don't want to be like them, do you?

(Apologies to Red Lobster. I've seen how you cook your stuff)

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Plus, using pre-chilled lobster is how they do it at Red Lobster. You don't want to be like them, do you?

(Apologies to Red Lobster. I've seen how you cook your stuff)

How do they cook their stuff?

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The Le Bernardin way- Live, spear them behind and between the eyes with your Chef's knife, skewer the tail quickly with a bamboo rod, twist off. Twist off claws, open body, reserving tomalley and coral, cleaning and removing lungs and undesirable organs, and reserving shells and bodies for stock.

Gee, that's not what I remember (5-month externship, 1996). No knife. All we did was twist them apart -- first the claws, then the tail from the body. Tail got skewered with a cheap fork after removal, to keep it straight. And of course the tomalley and coral were carefully poured out and saved.

It was fun to have to do it during service, since people would walk past a window into the kitchen on their way to the restrooms. Right past the garde manger area with the storage for portioned fish. (I'm sorry if anyone thinks I'm a monster for saying that, but it WAS fun to see the look of horror on ladies' faces as they saw Sonia [the tournant] and me tearing those babies apart.)

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Gee, that's not what I remember (5-month externship, 1996).  No knife.  All we did was twist them apart -- first the claws, then the tail from the body.  Tail got skewered with a cheap fork after removal, to keep it straight.  And of course the tomalley and coral were carefully poured out and saved.

It was fun to have to do it during service, since people would walk past a window into the kitchen on their way to the restrooms.  Right past the garde manger area with the storage for portioned fish.  (I'm sorry if anyone thinks I'm a monster for saying that, but it WAS fun to see the look of horror on ladies' faces as they saw Sonia [the tournant] and me tearing those babies apart.)

Hm. I was there for a summer stage last year. They had just remodeled the dining room, but are you sure there was a window running past the kitchen? I was 16 in 96, so I wouldn't have the strength of character to have spent my hard earned paper route money at the time, but I'm scratching my head trying to figure out how that would work. The kitchen now is just a continuation back from the dining room, running a line parallel to the street. Hot service line, small pastry room, and an all purpose room that they used mostly for oysters and storing the ice cream maker.

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Oh, there was definitely a window onto the corridor. Around where garde manger was, maybe a little further back. Maybe it got wiped out in a kitchen renovation, which I think happened since I was there. I haven't been back in a couple of years.

And I can concede that you could be right about the knife, NOW. It's just that when we had to prep the lobsters during service because we had run out (think 2 complete full-house turns on a Saturday night :shock: ), there was no time for niceties. Just rip 'em apart and get them ready to go! Although I don't remember doing it during normal prep, either. But anything is possible. I mean, who ever expected Chef to get married, such a gorgeous man :drool:!

Anyway, I just wanted to make the point that lobsters are nothing to be squeamish about. :biggrin: Although I did think if was awfully sweet when the sushi assistant at Match Uptown used to apologize to his lobsters before he plunged them into the pot.

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I cook lobsters about a dozen times a year, and have been doing so for more than 30 years. Assuming you plan to steam them (boiling is a sin), then it is easy. Get a covered pot with an inch or so of water boiling so that steam is escaping rapidly around the cover, throw in the lobsters, and quickly recover the pot. The lobsters will be dead before the pot is steaming again. This works for large (4+ lb) lobsters as well as puny ones, and allows one to cook a variety of sizes at the same time by adding them to the pot at different times.

Pat G.

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I find it interesting that folks here are concerned about the most humane way to kill (is that an oxymoron?) a big damn bug will turn around at the same meal and with no compunction suck down clams and oysters alive... :shock:

Where you gonna draw the line?

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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I know, deep in my heart, that when it comes time to wait in that long line in heaven that every lobster I've ever killed will be waiting ahead for me with God at the gates. When I lie to HIM about all my fuck ups, and misfortunes those 8000 lobsters are going to rise up and thump my ass down to the netherworld. That's the only reason I feel sorry for those lobsters. It's a selfish thing.

Like I said in a long-since deleted post my lobster killer Rob summarily dead pans "Dead lobster walking" every tiime he pulls them from the box. He also has a cruel little affinity for recounting the steps he's is about to take to the squirming crate. They'll get the last word, trust me. But until then, kill em how ever you like.

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T, I don't want to be like Red Lobster? In what way? I like their volume. :biggrin:

awbrig, yeah, I want to know too - how do they cook their stuff? Remember their all you can eat Alaskan king crab leg specials? I think my immediate family alone must have created losses so big that they stopped this deal.

Suzanne, I like that Match sushi assistant's style. I thank everything I kill before killing them.

Pat, what's your rule for size and cooking time?

Mark, I draw the line where I draw it. Some people don't need a line. How about you?

Spencer, thanks. I like to kill without cruelty.

There's actually a law in New Zealand against killing lobsters inhumanely.

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T, I don't want to be like Red Lobster? In what way? I like their volume.  :biggrin:

awbrig, yeah, I want to know too - how do they cook their stuff? Remember their all you can eat Alaskan king crab leg specials? I think my immediate family alone must have created losses so big that they stopped this deal.

Suzanne, I like that Match sushi assistant's style. I thank everything I kill before killing them.

Pat, what's your rule for size and cooking time?

Mark, I draw the line where I draw it. Some people don't need a line. How about you?

Spencer, thanks. I like to kill without cruelty.

There's actually a law in New Zealand against killing lobsters inhumanely.

Red Lobster live freezes their lobsters, ships them in cryovac'd containers, and then thaws them out at the beginning of service. Nasty, nasty stuff.

They may do it differently closer to water, but as long as I know that there's no Crustaceous equivalent to Col. Sanders that'll come after me, I'm all good.

Watch your back. Here comes "Larry Lobster."

Oooooh. ::trembles w/fear::

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