Technique: The Best Way to Extract Lobster Meat

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2013

There’s a lot more meat in a lobster than just the tail and claws—if you know how to get it.

Here’s our tried-and-true approach to extracting every last bit, no special tools needed. The method works for both hard- and soft-shell lobsters.

1. START WITH TAIL: Once cooked lobster is cool enough to handle, set it on a cutting board. Grasp tail with 1 hand and grab body with your other hand and twist to separate.

2. TAKE OUT TAIL MEAT: Many sources recommend using knife to cut down center of tail; we prefer to keep it in 1 piece. Lay tail on its side on counter and use both hands to press down on tail until shell cracks.

2. (CONT'D) Hold tail, flippers facing you and shell facing down, with your thumbs on opposite sides. Pull back on both sides to crack open shell and remove meat. Briefly rinse meat under running water to remove green tomalley if you wish (for more information, see “Lobster Tomalley” in related content) and pat meat dry with paper towels. Remove dark vein from tail meat with paring knife.

3. MOVE TO KNUCKLES: Twist “arms” to remove both claws and attached “knuckles” (2 small jointed sections) from body. Twist knuckles to remove them from claw. Break knuckles into 2 pieces at joint using back of chef’s knife or lobster-cracking tool. Use handle of teaspoon or skewer to push meat out of shell.

4. NEXT UP, CLAWS: Wiggle smaller hinged portion of each claw to separate. If meat is stuck inside small part, remove it with skewer. Break open claws using back of chef’s knife or lobster-cracking tool, cracking 1 side and then flipping them to crack other side, and remove meat.

5. FINISH WITH LEGS: Twist legs to remove them from body. Working with one at a time, lay legs flat on counter. Using rolling pin, start from claw end and roll toward open end, pushing out meat. Stop rolling before reaching end of legs; open tip of leg can crack and release pieces of shell.