This is a step-by-step guide to eating a whole, cooked lobster. It does not cover acquiring a lobster1 or cooking the lobster (they are usually boiled or steamed). Lobsters come in many sizes, but for a single person, a one and a half pound lobster is usually a good choice. As a matter of preference you can eat it either hot or cold. If you are ordering whole lobster in a restaurant, you may need to ask them not to cut it for you, as some places saw them in half. This is to make the process simpler for the benefit of people far less knowledgeable in the art of eating a lobster than you will be after having read this entry.
Eating a lobster can be a little difficult and intimidating. The eater must overcome both the hard shell and the crustacean's creepy looks. It may look ugly, but have faith, it's delicious. In order to break into the shell you should have some tools handy: a cleaver or heavy knife for cracking the large claws, a nut-cracker for cracking smaller bits, and a pick for extracting the tasty bits from tight corners. Lobster is now considered a delicacy2, but that doesn't really mean gourmet; you don't need to fancy it up with sauces or spices - melted butter for dipping will do. You also don't want to dress up smartly for this meal, as lobster-smelling water and butter are bound to drip on your clothes3.
To start with, crack the two large claws by chopping though them below where they join the legs. This should be done before the lobster is served.
Remove the thumb-like parts of the claw by bending them back, away from the larger part. Remove or ignore the bit of cartilage that comes with them and pick out the meat from inside the shell. You can now pick out the large chunk of meat in the bigger section of the claw, using nut-crackers to open them further if necessary.
Eating the legs is probably the most technically challenging part of the meal; there are many hard joints and only small sections of meat. However, perseverance pays off. Use the nut-crackers to break open the sections on the large front legs. For the smaller rear legs, twist them off the body and suck the meat out as if through a straw.
This contains the largest section of meat in the lobster, and is many people's favourite part. In order to open the tail, you first have to disconnect it from the body by bending it back and forth where it meets the body's shell. When you have the tail removed, grip the tail in your hand, with the rounded back against your palm. Squeeze the sides of the tail together until they crack, and then pull them apart to free the meat. Finally, you must peel off the thin strip of skin along the top of the tail and remove the thin, dark coloured strip of entrails that runs its length.
The body is often left uneaten, however it contains a great deal of very tasty bits of meat, liver and roe. There are a couple of inedible sections to avoid: there are feathery gills, some cartilage, and at the very end, the head4. To open the body, grip it at the opening left by the tail, one hand on the top of the shell, and the other at bottom by the legs; then lever the shell off the body. Inside you will find the green-coloured liver (called the tomalley) and sometimes some red-coloured roe; both are very tasty. With a little more work, you can get the last bits of meat out of the bottom of the body where the legs meet.
Lobster is usually served with rolls, melted butter and possibly coleslaw, perhaps after a course of chowder or mussels. A lobster feed is usually very filling, however, if you are still hungry, pie is a good choice for dessert.