Before you get started, you’ll want to assemble some essentials. You’ll need a nutcracker, a large bowl to hold the shells, a small dipping bowl for melted butter, and what’s missing from the above photograph—a lot of napkins! Eating lobster is messy, you’ll need them. There’s a good reason they give diners plastic bibs at restaurants when serving lobster. You may also want to use some kitchen shears and nutpicks in addition to a nutcracker.
After the lobster comes out of the pot, let it cool for a few minutes, otherwise it will be too hot to handle.
Pull off the rubber bands from the claws, if they are still attached. Twist the claws away from the body at the joints that connect them to the body. Separate the knuckle from the claw.
Pull back the “jaw” of the claw until it breaks, but do it gently, so that the little bit of meat that is in the small part of the jaw stays attached to the rest of the meat (it’s easier than trying to fish it out of the small shell).
Use a nut cracker to crack the main claw shell. Depending on the season and the size of your lobster, the shell may be easy or hard to crack with a nutcracker. If necessary you can take a mallet or hammer to it, but do it gently, just enough to break the shell without crushing the meat inside. Pull away the broken shell pieces and pull out the meat inside. Any white stuff attached to the meat is fat, which you can choose to eat or not. Dip into melted butter or not, and eat.
To extract the meat from the knuckles, use kitchen shears (if you have them) to cut the shell along its length. Pry open the shell where you made the cut and you can pull out all the knuckle meat in one piece. Alternately, you can crack each section of knuckle with a nutcracker and pull the meat out in chunks.
If you have a very large lobster, you can eat the legs. Get to the meat from the legs in a way similar to pulling off the “jaw” of the claw. Bend the joints of the legs the “wrong” way, which breaks them. You should have a piece of meat attached. Simply bite this off, leaving a thin piece of cartilage attached to the rest of the leg.
Now on to the lobster tail, where the biggest piece of meat lies. You’ll need both hands to get the meat from the tail. Grip the lobster’s body with one hand and the tail with the other. Bend the tail back away from the body to separate it from the body.
You will see one, and maybe two, odd things inside. You’ll see the greenish “tomalley,” which is the lobster’s liver. You can choose to eat it or not. Some people spread it on toast or add it to lobster soups or sauces. If the lobster is a female, you may also see the bright red “coral,” which is the roe of the lobster. You may also choose to eat this or not. The coral can be spread on toast as well, or used to add flavor to lobster bisque.
The tail will now look like a really big shrimp. Grab the flippers at the end of the tail and bend them backwards gently. If you do it right, you’ll get the meat from the inside of one or more flippers. This is uncommonly sweet meat, so don’t forget the morsels in the flippers! You can pry them out by working the little joints back and forth, or use shears to cut their thin shells.
With the flippers off the tail, you can now just put your finger through the small opening where the flippers were and push the tail meat out in one piece. If you have an exceptionally large lobster, use kitchen shears to cut a line down the underside of the tail to help remove the meat.
Before you eat the tail, pull the top of it off. This will reveal a digestive vein which you will likely want to remove, much like deveining a shrimp. It won’t hurt you if you eat it, but it is the digestive tract of the lobster.
There is meat inside the body of the lobster, mostly right around where you pulled off the tail. For lobsters bigger than 2 pounds it is worth it to fish around for these extra morsels.
There you go! Now just dip in melted butter (or not) and eat. If you have crusty bread, it tastes great dipped in the lobster-infused butter as well.