When you think of lobster, you most likely think of fancy seafood restaurants, or perhaps the coastline of Maine, or even a tasty lobster roll.
However, lobster wasn’t always thought of as one of the fanciest foods. In fact, in the 19th century and earlier, it was actually a much-maligned and discarded food that was only reserved for prisoners or servants. And before it was rebranded centuries later as a key component of high-class cuisine, it was used for just that, or even as pet food.
This is because, despite its rich taste, since it was so common (in the 17th-century, settlers reported seeing two-foot piles of lobsters littering the coastline) it was seen as a bottom-feeding “trash food”. This, plus its unsightly insect-like appearance put most people off of eating it.
So, what changed? Well, the managers of the train companies thought that if people on the inland didn’t know about the poor reputation that lobster had on the coast, they could up-sell it. And since they could buy it for very cheap from coastal canneries, the margins were great. From there, the appetite for lobster grew to what it is today.
But, if you’ve never tried lobster, you may still be wondering what all the fuss is about, or what does lobster taste like? Well, in short, it has a texture somewhere between a shrimp and crab that has a milk buttery, sweet taste.
Keep reading for our complete overview of the taste, texture and smell of lobster, plus a guide on how best to serve it.
What Does Lobster Taste Like?
Since the taste of lobster is unique, and like nothing else, it can be very difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes lobster flavor so delicious.
My best description is that it has a slightly sweet, slightly salty, and buttery taste.
There isn’t much of a “fishiness” to it that can be the case for a lot of seafood or freshwater foods.
Lobster merely has a slight saltiness to it that’s not overpowering. The rich-flavored delicacy can taste slightly different depending on a variety of factors like the part of the lobster, how you cook it, and what you cook it with, however.
Baking, Grilling, or Frying Lobster
While baking, grilling, or frying lobster isn’t the traditional method of preparation, there is nothing wrong with cooking it this way.
In fact, it’s a great way to get a whole new flavor profile from lobster.
If you prepare baked, fried, or grilled lobster you can expect it to take on a slightly sweeter and smokier flavor than when it’s boiled or steamed.
Boiled or Steamed Lobster
The traditional way to cook lobster is of course by boiling or steaming it. If you read any cooking blogs or websites, their “best lobster recipe” will most likely feature steamed or boiled lobster.
This is because you can expect a slightly sweet, slightly salty, and juicy taste when it’s prepared like this. It of course maintains its moisture better when it’s cooked this way as well.
What Lobster Is Cooked/Served With
Similar to most foods, the marinade and/or seasonings that it’s cooked or served with can play a major role in how it tastes. But, the most common addition is butter.
When lobster is cooked and/or served with butter, it brings out more of the sweetness and adds a certain “silkiness” to the dish, which admittedly sounds pretty great, right?
Of course, lobster tail is the most famous part of the lobster that can sometimes cost an arm and a leg at certain restaurants. This is because, for most, it has the best taste of any part of the lobster. And it’s also the most sought-after component of the lobster, with the claws a close second.
The meat of a lobster tail is solid and chewy, with a meatier and sweeter flavor than shrimp.
The high protein content of the tail contributes to its robust, spongy feel.
Of course, lobster meat absorbs a lot of the characteristics of the things it’s cooked with, so if you cook it with garlic and butter, it’ll taste garlicky and buttery.
Cold Water vs. Warm Water
Cold water lobster, according to many, are tastier and have a superior texture than warm water lobster. This explains why cold water lobster tails are more costly. Many people claim that lobsters from cold water have a softer texture and sweeter flesh than lobsters from warm water.
Northern Europe, New England, New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia are the origins of cold water lobster. Warm water lobsters are found in regions such as Indonesia and the Caribbean.
Autumn or early winter is the greatest season to find high-quality, tasty lobster. During this time of year, the animal stores fat, which adds more taste to the meat.
What’s the Texture of Lobster Like?
Let us now discuss the texture of lobster in terms of texture.
One of my favorite aspects about lobster is its texture.
It has a texture that is somewhere in between shrimp and crab. In comparison to shrimp, it is not as chewy. In the meanwhile, when compared to crab, it’s not as flaky.
But no matter how you describe it, to put it another way, lobster nearly melts in your mouth if it’s prepared right.
What Does Lobster Smell Like?
When it’s fresh (or not spoiled, rather) lobster shouldn’t have a particularly strong smell.
This is only the case if it’s gone bad. When it’s still safe to eat, it should only have a slightly salty kind of smell, somewhat similar to shrimp. And unlike crab, lobster doesn’t have a strong fishy, ocean smell.
One strong smell that may seem like it’s bad but it’s not, is if it has an iodine-like smell. This happens because the meat of a lobster is very sensitive. And this iodine smell reflects some of the foods that the lobster ate. However, a smell that shows that the lobster has gone bad is an ammonia-like smell.
Since lobsters have such highly sensitive meat, it means that they can easily spoil if they’re not handled and stored properly. This implies that after this crustacean has died, it might spoil fast. As a result, rotting lobster exudes a foul ammonia odor and has a mushy flesh consistency that’s comparable to that of cottage cheese.
In other words, bad lobster smells like ammonia. This is why it is advisable to just throw it out rather than risk potential health issues by eating it because the ammonia is given off when bacteria are beginning to break down the meat.
Why is Lobster Expensive?
If you recall, I mentioned that lobster used to be food for the poor. But, obviously, that has changed now. While it was originally the train companies that improved the national image of the lobster, it doesn’t fully explain why lobster nowadays is so dang expensive. This is because of a few reasons: supply and demand, technology in harvesting, and storage costs.
If you’ve ever noticed lobster at a restaurant or fish market, usually it’s sold at the “market price” meaning that if follows the same supply and demand principles that much of our economy does.
If there is little supply and high demand, the price will be higher, and the opposite is true. High supply and low demand will lower the price. And since lobster has increased in popularity while over-fishing has reduced their population, it has led to the prices increasing. Also, it takes seven years for lobsters to mature, which makes it harder for the population to recover.
Some additional costs that are considered in the price of the lobster are the food safety and harvesting technologies that are required to harvest it safely as well as keep it from spoiling before it can be sold. All of these costs are factored into the price as well. And, this can vary depending on where you live. It will most likely be more expensive to eat a lobster in Kansas than it will in Maine.
What Tastes Similar to Lobster?
I have alluded to them before but certain shrimp and crabs can taste somewhat similar to lobster.
But the animal that tastes the most similar is crawfish, which actually looks pretty similar to lobster as well.
Best Recipes for Lobster
There are many delicious recipes and ways to enjoy lobster, but here are some of my favorites:
- Lobster tails with garlic butter
- Lobster bisque
- New England lobster roll
- Maine Lobster with Wild Mushroom
Vegan Alternatives to Lobster
Now is the best time to become a vegan.
There are some pretty innovative cooks out there that have come up with vegan versions of nearly everything, and that’s true for lobster as well.
You can use hearts of palm as the “meaty” main ingredient when making a vegan version of your favorite lobster dish.
It’s best used when making something like vegan lobster bisque or vegan lobster rolls.