If you’re eating food in a high-end restaurant, then there is one thing that is going to be the most expensive option on the menu. That is, of course, lobster. Lobster is a decadent dish, one that screams luxury, but also tastes absolutely scrumptious. Due to this, lobster has always seemed unattainable to those who don’t have a lot of money, but this doesn’t have to be the case.
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Lobster might be very expensive on most restaurant menus, but there are lots of places that offer lobster at an affordable price. One of the easiest ways to try lobster without paying a fortune in a restaurant is to cook it yourself. It isn’t the most simple of dishes to cook, but if you can learn how, then you will always be able to get delicious lobster at a fraction of the cost.
But, if you don’t know much about lobster, then it can be difficult to know which type of lobster to choose. In this guide, we’re looking at more than 12 different types of lobster to find which is the most delicious, and the best for cooking at home yourself.
What is a Lobster?
But, before we take a look at some different types of lobster that exist, let’s establish exactly what a lobster is. Lobsters are decapods, which means they have 5 sets of legs (10 legs in total).
They are neither carnivorous nor herbivores, instead they are omnivores, feeding on a mixture of sea plants, crustaceans, and other fish. However, while they do eat a lot of plants, lobsters can also be cannibalistic.
Throughout their lifetime, lobsters shed their skin multiple times, just like snakes and spiders do. This helps them grow larger and stronger, and happens very slowly, so you generally do not notice. This process is known as molting, and while this is happening, lobsters will go through different stages.
These stages include a soft and hard shell season, which might seem like pretty irrelevant information. But, depending on the stage of their shell and skin, the taste and quality of the lobster will differ. So, let’s take a further look at hard and soft shelled lobster.
Hard and Soft Shelled Lobster
As we have said, when lobsters are going through their molting period, the quality of their shell will change. Their shell, which was once hard, might now become soft as they shed their old skin, so you need to bear this in mind when choosing lobsters to cook.
The firmness of the lobster’s skin has a direct impact on the texture of the meal, which in turn has a direct impact on the taste. So, if you want to enjoy your lobster, you have to check whether it is hard or soft shelled before choosing one.
During soft shell season, lobsters shed their skin and begin to molt. While this is happening, the lobster is actively stretching their skin to create a shell that is larger and has more room.
At this stage in the molting period, there is a massive amount of water inside the shell of the lobster, and this makes the flavor of the lobster unique. By unique, we mean that this flavor really isn’t for everyone. That is why most people opt for a hard shelled lobster.
In hard shell season, the lobster is not actively molting its skin, so the shell is hard. The best time to get a lobster in hard shell season is immediately after they have molted their old skin, and have regained a hard shell.
During this period they are easier to handle, and have the classic taste of lobster. This is why most areas will only allow lobsters to be caught in hard shell season, protecting these creatures during the soft season.
Cold Water Lobster
Let’s kick off this list by looking at cold water lobster. These lobsters are also often called “true” or “clawed” lobsters, and they are the most common type of lobster that you can buy. Cold water lobsters are harvested from a few different places. So, let’s take a look at some main types of cold water lobster that you might find.
Maine Lobster — These are one of the most common types of cold water lobster, with the official species name of ‘Homarus Americanus’. You might hear the Maine lobster often interchanged with the Canadian lobster, which is common because these two types of lobster are the same species. They are simply harvested in different places.
A lot of people believe that the Maine lobster is the best that money can buy as it is packed with luxurious flavor, and has incredibly juicy claws. So, if you want to treat yourself to the best, then a Maine lobster could be the right choice for you.
Canadian Lobster — Before we move onto any other types of cold water lobster, let’s talk about the Canadian lobster. As we have just said, they are the same species as the Maine lobster, with the official name ‘Homarus Americanus’. So, if you choose a Canadian lobster, you should expect a similar flavor to a Maine lobster.
However, you will notice one main difference between Maine and Canadian lobster, and that is the firmness of the shell. Canadian waters are much colder than the water in Maine, so as a result, Canadian lobsters tend to have a harder shell than Maine lobsters. But, this aside, you will find that both of these lobsters are very similar to one another.
New Zealand Lobster — Moving across the Earth a little, you have New Zealand lobsters, which are found in the deep water along the South Pacific coast. These lobsters are very different to Maine/Canadian lobsters, and this is noticeable almost immediately, just by looking at the shell of the lobster. Due to the climate in which they live, New Zealand lobsters have a deep scarlet-colored shell.
This is also influenced by the two species of lobster that are found in this area: the pack horse red lobster, and the red/spiny rock lobster. Both types have a glowing red shell, which is comparable to the cartoon drawings of lobster that you may have seen online. With sweet and smooth meat, and a solid shell, New Zealand lobster are another great choice.
Squat Lobster — If you want to try something rather different to the traditional image of a lobster, then the squat lobster might be for you. This species of lobster is actually more closely related to a crab than a lobster. They are small, and spend a lot of their time digging in the sand, looking for food.
They are pretty much the opposite of what you look for in a lobster to eat. This is why this type of lobster is not commercially fished. However, if you did want to try it, there are some companies which fish for them. But, they are nowhere near as nice as some other types of lobster.
Furry Lobster — Despite what their name suggests, this type of lobster isn’t actually covered in fur. It just looks like it is. Just like squat lobsters, these are another type of cold water lobster that are not commercially fished, so they are very difficult to get your hands on.
They are small with large antennas which can make them look a little strange. This isn’t helped by the fact that their shell tends to be dark, usually featuring brown, blue, purple, and other similar colors. They can be eaten, but, again, it really isn’t recommended. You would be much better off sticking with a Maine or Canadian lobster.
Slipper Lobster — The final cold water lobster that you might encounter is the slipper lobster. When you first see this lobster, you might expect that they have been given their name because they look like they have been smacked in the face with a slipper. But this isn’t why.
Despite this, they do very much look like they have been hit in the face with their enlarged antenna, flat faces, and missing front claws. All slipper lobster are safe to eat, but they aren’t really commercially fished as some species are considered endangered. If you want to try this type of lobster, you will only be able to find it in Asia, where it is often used in some cuisines.
Warm Water Lobster
Now that we’ve covered all the types of cold water lobster that you will most likely encounter on your search for the perfect lobster, let’s move onto the warm water lobster. Warm water lobsters are known by lots of different names, including ‘false’, ‘rock lobsters’, and ‘spiny lobsters’. But, generally speaking, they are found in warmer climates.
However, this isn’t the only difference between cold and warm water lobsters. Warm water lobsters also have no front claws, and only 5 appendages. So, let’s take a look at some main species of warm water lobster that you might encounter on your search.
California Lobster — If you live on the West Coast, then you probably will have heard of California lobster. They are a large species of spiny lobster that is found in California, stretching all the way from Monterey Bay down to Mexico. These lobsters are very long, and because of this they offer a lot of meat.
Despite the fact that they are found in California, and seafood is very popular in this area, most California lobster aren’t actually sold here. Instead, up to 95% of the California lobster that are harvested from the Monterey Bay waters are captured and transported to China.
This is because Chinese buyers are willing to pay more than double the amount that American buyers will for this lobster, so with profit in mind, these lobsters are bagged up and shipped away. But, if you want to try California lobster, you will be able to get your hands on it in the USA.
Caribbean Lobster — When you think of warm places across the globe, one of the first places that jumps to mind is the Caribbean. So, it makes sense that there is a species of warm water lobster that can be found in this area. Caribbean lobsters are caught across the Gulf of Mexico and on the shores of the Caribbean, which is why they are given their name.
When compared to other species of lobster, Caribbean lobsters are unique. They only spawn in the Summer months, and even then, only when the ocean’s temperature reaches 73 degrees Fahrenheit. The most common place that these lobsters are commercially fished in the Caribbean is in the Bahamas.
In the Bahamas, Caribbean lobster has become a delicacy. They are incredibly popular because of the high quality of their unique tail meat which is juicy, succulent, and tender with every bite. There are lots of lobsters which are bred for their excellent tail meat, but none of them are quite as good as the Caribbean lobster. So, if you want to try a yummy lobster tail, you have to try Caribbean lobster.
South African Lobster — If you want to hear something that is difficult to understand, we have just the thing for you. South African lobsters are classed as a ‘warm water’ species of lobster, but they live in cold waters. This can be really difficult to comprehend, and the reasoning behind it has never really been explained. But, for whatever reason, the warm water South African species of lobster has chosen cold water to call its home.
Due to the temperature differences in the areas that they grow, South African lobsters are rather different to the other species of warm water lobster that we have looked at. For example, the cold temperatures tend to mean that this species of lobster grows much slower than other species. You might expect this to have a negative impact on their taste, but in fact, it makes it even better.
South African lobsters are renowned for their muscular tails. These muscular tails give even the Caribbean lobsters a run for their money, and because of this, there is a very high price tag attached to a South African lobster.
The management of the South African lobster industry is incredibly strict to protect this special species, however the majority of lobsters that are caught in South Africa are actually sold to the USA. So, if you want to try one of the best lobsters in the world, you should be able to get your hands on a South African lobster.
Australian Lobster — Sticking in that area of the globe, the next type of warm water lobster that you might encounter is the Australian lobster. Australia is a massive country, so let’s get a bit more specific about where you can find this species. The majority of harvesting for Australian lobsters takes place along the North Western coast of the country.
In terms of appearance, Australian lobster are unique as they come in red and green varieties. In most cases, the red and green colors are marbled together to create truly unique markings. But while they are unique, you cannot accuse this type of lobster of being difficult to cook.
In fact, Australian lobsters are one of the most versatile lobsters that the world has to offer. This means that they can be cooked in a wide variety of different ways and still retain their natural, delicious taste.
Size wise, Australian lobster are pretty average. But, what makes them a showstopper is the sheer size of their tail. As this part of their body alone can measure between 8-10 ounces. Once again, the tail of the Australian lobster is a favorite among lobster fans because it contains lots of smooth meat, with a very delicate flavor.
This is finished off with the fact that this lobster does taste a little fishy, with a salty kick. So, it is clear to see why this is another popular option among lobster lovers.
Reef Lobster — The final type of warm water lobster that we will look at is the reef lobster. As there is no specific country attached to these lobsters, it can be difficult to figure out where they hail from. But, this species of lobster can be found in the Caribbean, Indo-Pacific, and warm parts of the Atlantic Ocean. Due to this, they are a popular type of lobster.
If the Australian lobster was unique because of its red and green markings, the reef lobster is one of a kind as it is covered in purple and lavender markings. When you picture a lobster in your head, it will always have red skin, so it can be hard to visualize the markings of these lobsters. But, they are truly beautiful. You will often find these markings depicted in spots, rings, or stripes across the back of the lobster.
Reef lobsters are not considered a ‘clawed’ species, but they do have them. But, unlike other species of warm water lobster, the reef lobster has one single set of claws, instead of the usual three.
These lobsters are only very small, which is why they aren’t a favorite for eating. But, there is no denying how beautiful they are. While they do not offer much meat, they are still commercially fished. So, if you want to try a reef lobster, it shouldn’t be too difficult to obtain one to cook.
Commercially Imported Lobsters
Finally, before we look at how to handle lobster once you have bought it, let’s take a quick look at how lobster is commercially imported and exported. As you can tell by looking at the different types of lobster that we have looked at so far, they all come from different areas of the world. So, commercial importing and exporting is common practice.
As the USA is a large country, a lot of lobster is imported every day. While this food is often considered a delicacy, it is also incredibly popular. This is why so much has to be brought over onto US soil. When it comes to importing/exporting lobster, these creatures are generally divided into two ‘species’, they are ‘homarus species’ and ‘scampi species’.
Homarus species include a lot of the lobsters that we looked at earlier, including Maine, Canadian, Caribbean and, generally, the lobsters that are larger. Scampi species tend to include the lobsters that are very small, often referred to as ‘mini lobsters’.
As you will expect, the homarus lobsters are imported in large quantities as these are the type that you tend to eat. Whereas the scampi species are only imported in very small amounts.
Generally speaking, a large amount of homarus lobsters are exported from the USA and Canada to fill the quota with lobsters that are required for the UK and Europe. Whereas, only a very small amount of scampi lobsters are imported to these shores.
In the same way, a lot of Maine and Canadian lobsters are kept in the USA and Canada to be sold. As we mentioned earlier, Maine lobster is often seen as the best in the world. So, it makes sense that a lot of this lobster is retained in the US to be sold in the many restaurants across the country.
However, another famous ‘US’ lobster, the California lobster, is rarely served on American shores, instead it is shipped across the ocean to China. A massive 95% of California lobster is shipped to China. So, this really paints a picture of how confusing, yet important, commercial importing and exporting is in the lobster industry.
Additional Things You Need to Know About Lobster
Finally, let’s take a look at some other very important things that you need to learn about lobster. It is not enough to just know the 12 types available, you also need to know a lot of other things.
These include knowing the best time to eat lobster, how to freeze it, and some of the great dishes that you can pair with your lobster for a yummy meal. So, we’ve put together this handy guide to give you all the additional information that you need.
The Best Time to Buy and Eat Lobster
Depending on the type of lobster that you want to eat, you might find yourself limited by seasons. Some lobsters are only available to harvest during certain times of the year, so if you want one of these lobsters, you will have to get your timings right. However, there are plenty of yummy lobsters that are available all year round. The Maine lobster included.
But, even if you fancy eating a lobster that is available year round, the best time to eat it is still during the Summer. Lobsters become a lot more abundant during the summer months, so there will be even more lobsters available for you to eat.
This is because lobsters move towards the shores during the warmer weather, and this makes catching them a lot easier — allowing fishermen to catch more than normal.
You might expect this increase in the amount of lobsters to drive the prices down, but in fact it has the opposite effect. While lobsters are easier to get your hands on during the winter months, they are also a lot more expensive.
So, if you want the availability of lobsters, but not the high price points, then May is probably the best time to buy your lobster. This is because the demand of summer has not yet started, so prices will stay low, but you will still have access to lots of lobster.
How to Freeze and Defrost Lobster
In modern society, the freezer has become one of the most commonly used household appliances. In particular, the freezer has become a lifesaver for keeping leftover food safe to eat in the future.
So, with the prices of lobsters also being sky-high, you might find yourself wanting to freeze it. But, how do you do this? And, more importantly, is it safe? It absolutely is! So, let’s take a quick look at how you freeze and defrost lobster.
How to Freeze Lobster
- Take your fresh lobster and blanch in 2% salt brine for 60 seconds at 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Chill your blanched lobster for 15 minutes in a large tub filled with ice and water in equal ratios.
- Remove the excess water from the tub.
- Remove your lobsters and put them in freezer-safe bags.
- Ensure that as much air as possible has been removed from the freezer bag before you seal it.
- Add the sealed freezer bag into another freezer bag, then repeat the process.
- Place your lobster in the freezer until you want to use it. Frozen lobster has a shelf life of 9-12 months.
How to Defrost Lobster
- Take the freezer bags containing your frozen lobster out of the freezer.
- Add the lobsters to a bowl that will be able to fit into your refrigerator.
- Place the bowl containing your lobsters into the refrigerator, and leave to defrost overnight.
- Within 12 hours, your lobsters should have thawed completely, and they will be ready to cook. You should do so immediately.
Side Dishes that Compliment Lobster
If you are new to eating lobster, then it can be difficult to decide what to pair with it. Generally speaking, a lobster is a decadent meal, and so it is served with multiple side dishes. So, if you want to recreate a restaurant quality meal, you should pair your lobster with multiple different side dishes.
Some great side dishes that you should consider include:
- Clam Chowder
- Corn on the Cob
- Side Salad
- Clams or Mussels
- Macaroni and Cheese
- Baked Beans
- Crusty Bread
- Baked Potatoes
- Glazed Carrots
If you were to order lobster in a restaurant, then you would probably be given a wide range of side dishes that you can order with it. Think about what you like and what would complement your lobster, then go with that.
The great thing about lobster is that it can be paired with lots of different side dishes to make it more or less healthy. So, if you don’t know what you fancy with your lobster, you can try different side dishes until you find the combination that you love.
What is the Best Lobster?
We couldn’t make this guide without coming to a decision of what the “best” lobster on the market is. Of course, what is considered the best might not necessarily be the best for you, as everyone has different personal preferences. So, you might not be a fan of the lobster that we believe is the best, or it simply might not be your favorite.
But, in our opinion, the best species of lobster for eating is the Maine lobster. You could probably see this coming because we’ve mentioned multiple times how this lobster is a firm favorite among people all across the USA.
The Maine lobster is available year round, and it has a unique and tender flavor unlike any other lobster on the planet. Additionally, it is one of the few species of lobster that is actually harvested on US shores, so there is no importation involved. So, if you are struggling to find a lobster to try, we would always recommend the Maine lobster.
In short, this has been a complete guide to the 12 types of lobster available on the market. So, if you want delicious seafood all year round, read this guide to find out all about the different options that are available to you.