The Inside Scoop: Answers to FAQs About Maine Lobster

September 9, 2020

Share This:

What are the most frequently asked questions about Maine Lobster? We asked lobster lovers everywhere to submit all their questions about the world’s best seafood. Well, you asked and we answered! We sent your questions to Maine lobstermen, chefs, and scientists to get the inside scoop – from how lobster is caught, to the best ways to prepare it. Check out what they had to say!

The History of  Maine Lobster

What does lobstering mean for the fishermen of New England?

Lobstering is more than just a job – it is a way of life and a cherished tradition, representing a culture of independence and sustainability. The pride that Maine Lobstermen take in their work makes it hard to imagine doing anything else, which is why lobstering is often passed down through the generations

“This fishery is my life. I live, breathe, and sleep lobstering for my survival and for future generations to come.” – Dustin Delano, Maine Lobsterman

What is the origin story of Maine lobster?

The first documented lobster catches in Maine occurred in the early 1600s, though it is likely Maine’s Native Americans had been catching lobster long before then. The commercial fishery took off in the 1800s, when Maine Lobstermen began using the rail system and well smacks to transport live lobster along the Atlantic coast and to neighboring states.

“The first recorded catch took place in the 1600s, and while the gear has been updated, many of the traditions of the lobster industry have remained the same through the years. It is a family business like no other, with secrets of the best fishing grounds, the perfect bait, tricks for navigating Maine’s coast, and more passed down for generations to create the industry we have today.” – Dr. Bob Bayer, former Executive Director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine.

How many lobsters are caught annually by Maine Lobstermen & women?

The Maine Lobster fishery is ruled by Mother Nature, so the lobster catch varies from year to year based on environmental factors. In 2019, Maine Lobstermen brought 100.7m pounds of lobster to shore. The sustainability practices implemented by the industry ensures the resource and high-yield catches will be available for years to come.

“Landing numbers ebb and flow, but there are always lobsters there, and there always will be for generations to come.” – Sonny Beal, Maine Lobsterman

When and Where to Get Maine Lobster

When is Maine Lobster season?

Maine lobster can be purchased and enjoyed year-round, but peak season in Maine, also known as New Shell season, begins in July and lasts through November. This is when lobsters in the waters of Maine shed their shells and reveal new, larger ones underneath. As the lobsters grow into their newly formed shell, there is a gap between the meat and the shell that seawater fills, naturally marinating the meat. The result is the sweetest, most tender lobster on earth.

“Peak season, or New Shell season, is when lobsters are getting their new shells. This generally happens between July and August, which is when the industry is booming. When New Shell season is upon us, you just kind of know. You’ve been waiting and waiting and overnight your traps will be full.”Krista Tripp, Maine Lobsterwoman

Recommendations for where to eat/buy lobster in Maine when visiting?

When it comes to buying lobster in Maine, you can pretty much guarantee that you are getting the freshest product straight off the docks. Depending on which part of the state you are visiting, there are sure to be a host of favorite local eateries like the Clam Shack in Kennebunkport, Union River Lobster Pot in Ellsworth, Island Lobster Company on Peaks Island, Eventide in Portland, McLoons in Spruce Head Island, and countless others. When you visit, ask a local Mainer for their favorite spots and try a few to pick your favorite! 

“You can’t go wrong eating lobster in Maine. A Maine New Shell Lobster fresh out of the ocean and cooked in saltwater is the quintessential Maine meal – it tastes like summer!” – Steve Kingston, The Clam Shack

Where can I get lobster rolls in Maine?

There is no shortage of lobster rolls on the coast of Maine. Depending on where you are visiting, there are sure to be several purveyors of this favorite dish, each with their own twist.

“Lobster rolls are a summer staple in Maine. Whether you get a traditional Maine-style roll, dressed with mayo on a warm buttered bun, or opt to try a new variation on the classic, you are in for a treat” – Brian Langley, Union River Lobster Pot

Where can I get Maine Lobster (on the West coast, in Oregon, etc.) & Where/how can I get Maine Lobster shipped?

One of the easiest ways to enjoy Maine Lobster on the West coast is by getting it shipped right to your door! Maine’s lobster dealers ship a variety of Maine Lobster products nationwide, including live lobster, cooked meat, raw meat, and more. You can find a dealer that meets your needs and be enjoying fresh Maine Lobster within a day of ordering!  Additionally, our suppliers in Maine have partnerships with grocery stores all over the country, making it easy to pick up Maine Lobster on your weekly shopping trip. Ask your grocer if they sell Maine Lobster or if they would start stocking it if they don’t already.

Many of Maine’s lobster suppliers offer national shipping to consumers, and global shipping to wholesalers, allowing people to enjoy the fresh taste of Maine wherever they are. Check out this list of trusted Maine-Lobster suppliers to find the right supplier for you – it’s that easy!

“It is easier than ever to enjoy the fresh taste of Maine Lobster wherever you are. Lobster suppliers in Maine take every step necessary to ensure your lobster arrives as fresh as when it came out of the sea for a delicious, authentic Maine dining experience.”  – Mark Murrell, Get Maine Lobster

How much is it for live or cooked lobster?

There are a lot of factors that go into determining the price of live lobster or cooked lobster products – how many pounds of lobster are caught in a given season, demand, New Shell vs Hard Shell Lobster, how far it’s traveled to get to your plate, etc. – which makes it hard to give a set price!

“With the industry reliant on a series of environmental factors, Lobster prices can fluctuate annually based on that season’s catch.” – Jim Dow, Maine Lobsterman

Types of Lobster

Can you tell if they are hard shell or soft shell/new shell just by looking at them?

Yes! In addition to the more malleable feel of the New Shell, you can distinguish it by its color. Learn more here.

“A New Shell lobster will have few dents or scars and crisp, clean claws and underbellies. A Hard Shell will have spent more time exploring the ocean floor, resulting in scars and scuffs which appear darker in color. Cooked, a New Shell will turn a bright, orangey red, while a Hard Shell will turn a deeper red, with its scars and scuffs still visible.”  – Lucky Catch Lobster

What is the difference between Spiny lobster and Maine lobster?

Physically, you can distinguish Spiny lobster from Maine Lobster by their longer, thicker antennae and lack of claws. Additionally, Spiny lobster is primarily found in warmer seas, like the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, as well as waters in Australia and Asia, while Maine Lobster is found in cold water on North America’s Atlantic coast. 

 “Spiny or rock lobsters  are not closely related. They come from different families. The flavor and texture of the meat  is very different…Maine Lobster has an unmatched sweetness.”Dr. Bob Bayer, former Executive Director of the Lobster Institute at the University of Maine.

Top Cooking Tips and Recipes

What is your favorite recipe for using cooked lobster meat?

Cooked Maine Lobster meat is a very versatile ingredient, perfect to add into salads, pastas, sides, and more! Check out some of our lobstermen’s favorite family recipes with cooked meat:

Find more great recipes that call for cooked lobster meat.

“Pro-tip: Cooked lobster meat is perfect to use in a quick, easy to prepare recipe, because all you have to do is heat (if it’s a hot dish) and serve.  My favorite recipe is using cooked meat is Maine Lobster Benedict” – Krista Tripp, Maine Lobsterwoman

What are the ways you can cook a lobster?

There are countless ways to cook lobster beyond the traditional steamed lobster dinner (which is great too!).  Get step-by-step instructions for a variety of ways to cook Maine Lobster.

“The most popular ways to prepare Maine Lobster are boiling, steaming, or grilling. My favorites dishes to prepare are lobster pot pie or poached lobster and garlic butter over pasta.”  – Steve Train, Maine Lobsterman

How long do you cook a lobster for?

Favorite lobster cooking hack: Cooked lobsters will turn bright red, but that’s not the best indicator of doneness, especially for large lobsters. They may still be underdone when the shell turns red. Cook the lobsters for the recommended times below, then crack one open where the carapace meets the tail. If it’s done, the meat will have changed from translucent to white.

“Cooking time depends on how you are preparing the lobster. For split tails, one of my favorites, you typically grill 5 minutes with the shell side down, baste with butter, then flip to cook for 3-4 minutes on the meat side. If you are steaming or boiling, cook times will depend on the amount of lobster you are cooking, and the size of each.” – Ben Conniff, Co-Founder of Luke’s Lobster and Co-Author of Real Maine Food  

Boiling and steaming times for New Shell and Hard Shell Maine Lobster

How do you cook lobster tails?

For many, the tail is the favorite part of the lobster – perfect as a center of the plate protein or incorporated in favorite sides, appetizers and more. Check out some of our favorite lobster tail recipes.

“There are tons of ways to prepare lobster tails – baked, poached, grilled, and broiled are some of my favorites.” – Steve Kingston, The Clam Shack

Can you recommend any recipes with butter poached Maine lobster meat?

Our favorite recipe is these deliciously decadent butter poached Maine Lobster Tails.