When you really want to impress guests, a lobster dinner is the way to go. But what is it about this seafood that makes it such a delicacy?
This clean taste means lobster doesn’t have that “fishy” flavor that turns many people off seafood.
Different varieties and parts of a lobster also have subtle differences in taste and texture. We’ll explore all the factors that affect the flavor of this luxurious crustacean!
The Flavor Profile of Lobster
Since lobster comes from the sea, it has a naturally salty taste from the seawater. Seawater contains sodium chloride and an abundance of minerals, all which lead to this salty flavor.
What keeps the saltiness balanced is the lobster’s natural water filtration system in their gills. So while it is noticeable, the saltiness and fishiness of lobster is very subtle.
Lobster muscle is full of natural sugars like fructose and glucose which gives it a naturally sweet taste. The sweetness can be tasted mostly in the tail meat, which is rich in muscle tissue.
You can amplify this sweetness by grilling lobster meat to caramelize the surface.
Lobster is often described as meaty and succulent, and this is due to its umami elements. Umami gives foods a brothy, meaty savoriness.
Umami flavor in lobster comes from the presence of glutamic acid. Glutamic acid naturally enhances the flavor of food and is highlighted by steaming or boiling your lobster.
Minerality is an element that adds complexity to seafood. It’s often described as an aroma or an essence rather than a distinct flavor.
Lobster has this minerality due to being from the sea. Where the lobster is caught can determine the level of minerality and the presence of certain minerals like magnesium and calcium.
It might seem unexpected but the flavor of lobster is also described as “nutty”. This nuttiness actually comes from the presence of tomalley in the lobster’s body cavity.
Tomalley is a green substance that is visible when you crack open a lobster. In places like New England it’s considered a delicacy due to the rich flavor and texture it adds.
Variations in Taste And Cooking Methods
Lobster transforms in different ways depending on how it is cooked. Here’s a breakdown of the different ways to cook lobster, and how they affect flavor.
Boiling lobster is the most common way to cook lobster, and for most people the easiest. Boiled lobster preserves the delicate texture of the meat and keeps it nice and juicy.
With boiling, you can also infuse flavor into the lobster meat by adding lemon and herbs to the water. This way you can maintain the subtle flavor of lobster but enhance the taste at the same time.
Boiling lobster also helps concentrate the natural flavors in the lobster. It’s the purest way to enjoy this succulent crustacean!
You’ll make plenty of friends if you bring lobster to a barbecue! Grilled or fried lobster meat has a mouthwatering sweetness and complexity that can’t be matched.
Since lobster contains natural sugars, high heat causes the outside to caramelize. This caramelized surface is also infused with smokiness from the grill to give the meat a delicious savory flavor.
Lobster tails are the best part to grill due to their juiciness. I don’t recommend grilling claw meat since it tends to get tough and chewy.
Although less common than boiling or grilling, baking is a great way to cook lobster. Baking takes longer, so you have more control over adding different flavors.
Often lobster is baked with a fat like butter which is infused with herbs and garlic. This butter bakes right into the lobster meat and makes it super rich and moist.
Steaming is another less common cooking method for lobster due to the tedious process. However, because steaming is gentle it’s a great cooking method to preserve the texture and flavor of lobster.
The best parts of lobster to steam are the tail and the claws. You can even add lemon and herbs to the liquid before steaming to give the lobster flavor while it cooks.
Types of Lobster and Their Taste
There are two main varieties of lobster: warm water and cold water.
Cold water lobster is also known as Maine lobster for where it’s found. Warm water lobster is sometimes also referred to as spiny or rock lobster.
Cold Water Lobster
Cold water lobster is what most people picture when they think of lobster. This crustacean is found in cold water regions in North America and Europe and is distinguishable by its large front claws.
This type of lobster has a buttery texture and a subtle sweet taste. Maine lobsters are considered the best-tasting lobster and are much preferred over rock lobster.
Where a cold water lobster is caught influences the flavor of the meat. There are 25 different varieties of cold lobster, each one offering a slight variation in taste and texture.
If you go to a restaurant and order a lobster roll, you’ll be eating Maine lobster!
Warm Water Lobster
As their name suggests, warm water lobsters are found in warm waters around the Mediterranean and Caribbean. Some varieties also live in coastal areas in Asia.
The head and tail of warm water lobsters look similar to cold water lobsters. However, they lack the distinctive front claws.
These lobsters have noticeably less meat than their cold water counterparts. Generally, just the tails are harvested and sold as frozen lobster tails.
The flavor of warm water lobster is much more “fishy” than cold water lobster. The cooked lobster meat itself is also quite tough in comparison, and less sweet.
While it’s not the prized lobster that you see on surf and turf menus, warm water lobster is still tasty. If you’re used to Atlantic lobster though, you might be surprised at the difference in how this lobster tastes.
Parts of Lobster and Their Taste
Cold water lobster is much meatier than warm water lobster. They have claws filled with meat, as well as meaty spines and tails.
Since rock lobsters lack claws and body meat, their main source of meat is their tail. For this reason, many restaurants don’t serve rock lobster meat unless it’s in lobster bisque or lobster mac and cheese.
- Tail: For both rock and Maine lobster, the tail is considered the prime meat area. I would describe the lobster tail taste as dense, buttery, and juicy.
- Claws and Legs: Lobster claw meat is typically softer and sweeter than tail meat. The legs are also edible, but provide very little meat compared to the tail.
- Knuckles: Fresh lobster knuckles offer a small amount of meat, but connoisseurs consider it one of the best-tasting parts. It is soft and moist like claw meat, and mouthwateringly rich and flavorful.