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Raw Lobster Flesh


Chris Amirault
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Over in this topic about my Christmas menu, I've been planning a lobster tempura course that requires raw lobster meat for the tempura. I'm an old hand at removing lobster meat from the shell in pieces; it's a bit of a grim task because the flesh twitches even after you've killed the beastie, but such is the price for luxury, I suppose. I've also used a method Thomas Keller describes somewhere for removing larger pieces whole, which involves pouring boiling water over the parts you want to remove from the shells and waiting a minute before cooling, cracking, and getting out the meat.

I'm posting this topic in the hopes that I can find out two answers that I've had in my head the last few days. First, are there any other methods for removing raw lobster meat from the shells? I'd be interested to know my options.

Second -- and this one is more important -- do I need to treat the shelled raw lobster meat in any particular way? For example, do I need to use it within a particular period of time? I've always used raw lobster meat almost immediately, and certainly within an hour or two. If I do want to store it in the fridge for a day or two, will wrapping it tightly in plastic wrap and placing it on ice be acceptable?

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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First to answer your questions. When I worked in the restaurant, we would chuck the whole lobster in boiling water for about 5-10 seconds, then ice bath, and go from there, was pretty straight forward once you got the hang of it, just use the back of your knife for cracking...there are certain places to hit to allow a easy break, kind of tough to explain it to you here though.

Regarding storage, for me, I would use it ASAP - If its used in the next few hours, air tight cold storage is an option, if you want to keep overnight, I may decide to submerge it in some type of fat.

On a side note, is it actually called lobster meat, or rather lobster flesh...just something to think about :)

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Flesh it is -- thanks. I've changed the title to be more accurate.

So why do you want me to use it quickly? I have a vacuum sealer so I can use that to pack it overnight. Would you still recommend the fat? I've got plenty around, btw.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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if you vacuum seal it and put it on ice, it should be fine. I used to pull out lobster meat for bisque garnish and it holds OK on ice in saran, so a sealer would work that much better.

The boil/shock method works really well to get the meat out of the shell, you just need enough heat to release the meat from the inside of the shell. I've used skewers to get raw meat out of shells without first steaming them, but it's kind of tricky and can mess up the meat, which you need intact for tempura.

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Ive worked in several seafood restaurants . Anytime we needed to pre shell the flesh from the Lobsters we would drop em heavy salted boiling water for 10 -15 sec then imediatly into ice water . This allows the flesh to pull away quickly and inturn alows the flesh to just come right out with little effort . Then to store it we would put it plastic wrap {alot of it, wrap it well} and then pack it in ice (we always had crushed) then pour salt over the top of the ice to keep it real cold . Bacteria grows very easily on the flesh for some reason . we would only keep it this way for two days max . I hate the smell of clarified butter :biggrin:

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OK, let's get down to brass tacks, then. If I remove the flesh using the boil/ice shock method and then place it immediately into a clean vacuum-sealed bag on Sunday evening, then I should be ok for cooking and service Monday evening? The alternative, of course, is keeping the bugs alive overnight, which is risky to say the least.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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OK, let's get down to brass tacks, then. If I remove the flesh using the boil/ice shock method and then place it immediately into a clean vacuum-sealed bag on Sunday evening, then I should be ok for cooking and service Monday evening? The alternative, of course, is keeping the bugs alive overnight, which is risky to say the least.

yep , and you are very right do not let the bugs live the longer there out of the water the more of that toxic stuff starts to get into the flesh .

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I've kept lobster alive overnight by wrapping them in a couple of sheets of wet newspaper and making sure the newspaper stays damp. The bugs aren't as feisty as they were when first brought home, but they're very definitely alive.

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The concern with most shellfish is that they naturally play host to a lot of bacteria that, while they're alive, they keep pretty much in check. Once they're dead, the bacteria can grow rapidly on the flesh, which both degrades the flesh and creates a risk of foodborne illness. Shellfish are much more susceptible to this process than fin fish. That's why we are repeatedly cautioned never to cook a dead lobster.

Commercially, they use HPP (high-pressure process) to process, "cold pasteurize," and pack raw lobster meet for food service operators. I don't believe there's any equivalent process available to a home cook. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that restaurants that store raw lobster meat overnight are doing so contrary to regulations.

I'm not sure that vacuum sealing makes a difference from a safety perspective, since the concern is with bacteria that already live in the lobster's flesh (I believe they're mostly in the digestive tract, so you want to be particularly careful getting that black line out of the tail).

For storage, I'd think what you want to strive for is the coldest possible temperature -- just above freezing. It may make sense to use the vacuum sealer to create watertight packages, and then to place those under ice in a plastic bin in the refrigerator -- that would probably retard bacterial growth. Deep frying should also add a measure of protection.

Lobsters should be able to live for about two days after purchase if their gills are kept wet.

Oh, by the way, the Lobster Institute calls it "meat," as do other sources I've checked.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Nice Fat Guy :biggrin: Ive been the safety manager in a couple restaurants . The length of time is different from state to state on the amount of time and temp , uncooked or partially cooked lobster flesh can be held for and at . Thanks for the good info . Ive done alittle google research and it seems that some call it flesh and some call it meat . I ve always called it flesh . Maybe a potato po-ta-to thing :raz: . I do know through trial and error ,its better not risking that the lobster may or may not make it... then having to throw the poor guy out . I ve always just killed them the night before and stored them well wraped and very cold under ice . I have , through much lobster handling , never had a ploblem with taste or quality of the product . This has been an interesting post and has inspired me to learn as much as I can now about the handling of lobster flesh . :wink:

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I routinely poach for for about 3 min, chill in an ice bath, shell and refrigerate for a day with no problems and works well.

BTW in any recipe that calls for raw lobster, the writer is suspect because the writer doesn't understand about shelling a completely raw lobster.

I then use the shells to make lobster Americaine sauce immedialtely. Once i held the shells a day and when making the sauce, I got the odor of ammonia which is a decomposition product. As others have correctly noted, cooking a dead lobster is a no-no because of this problem.

When you purchase your lobster, ask the monger to hold the lobster and note its tail position. A lobster whose tail droops is farther along the way to expiring than a lobster whose tail is held extended. Don't purchae those whose tails are drooping. The best is when the lobster comes out of the tank with the tail furiously flapping, that's a fresh lobster.-Dick

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OK, I think that the elements are conspiring with me here.

According to this report by the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries, tonight's low of 34F may be perfect for storing these lobsters. I'm going to go with an overnight stay on the porch with plenty of wet newspapers to keep their gills moist. Sounds like I could get as many as three days with that set up.

Wish me luck.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I know that according o HACCP it is baaaaaad to cryovac raw seafood, I would guess that this is due to anaerobic bacteria. All they ever say thou is that it is bad. I am somewhat of a germaphobe, but I would suggest not vacuum sealing it, plastic or the wet sunday times. That is just my.02 and I am a germaphobe.

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I hope your porch is enclosed and you don't have racoons!

BTW the air temperature listed by your Weather Service is a guide. Usually atached garages and porches are much higher, the refrig is the only safe way other than on ice in a cooler.-Dick

Edited by budrichard (log)
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