Published March 1st, 2012

For many of my clients, no Maine wedding is complete without a lobster dinner. But this Rocky Coast delicacy can be intimidating for people who’ve never shelled their own lobster. Here’s a quick how-to for your guests so they can get cracking and feel like a real local.

Step 1
Start by breaking off the legs. Hold the lobster by its back and gently swivel off the legs with a twisting motion. Dig out the sweet meat inside the narrow legs with one of your lobster picks. If you want to figure out whether you have a male or female lobster, flip it over and look at the feathery appendages under the tail, known as the swimmerets. The swimmeret closest to the body on a male will be hard and bony, while on a female all of the swimmerets will be feathery.

Step 2
Next, twist off the claws, or chelipeds, at the joint connecting them to the body. Bend each claw open by splaying the two ends until it snaps like a wishbone. Dig out the meat inside the smaller branch of the claw. Now use your nutcracker to shatter the tip of the larger section. This should expose some of the meat – but don’t pull. From the other side of the claw, the side that had been attached to the body, push the meat out the broken end.

Step 3
The mouth, antennae, antennules, rostrum, beak, are inedible. But the tail, you can eat. And how! Grab the tail with two hands and twist to separate the shell into two parts. The flippers on the end of the tail have a little bit of yummy meat if you have the patience to dig it out with your pick.

Step 4
And now for the tail. There are two kinds of lobster fans in the world: Those who prefer the tail and those who prefer the claws. Plenty of people say the tail’s the best part, so check it out for yourself by pushing the tail meat out intact through the larger opening. Peel off the top of the tail to expose the digestive tract. This should be removed before the tail is eaten.

Step 5
If you want to go digging, there’s more meat inside the carapace, the shell, and the lobster body. Some people eat the green “tomalley”, which is the lobster’s digestive gland, but in general, it’s not a great idea because this is where whatever toxins in that were in the lobster’s food are stored.

If you haven’t been dipping your meat along the way in lemon butter, now’s the time to catch up! Enjoy!