A dead lobster can happen as a result of many reasons from the seller or consumer, for example, delay from logistics, seller deceit or bad storage conditions, and if anything, it definitely isn’t the end of the world!
When you have a dead lobster at hand, you want to make sure you dip it in water and cook as fast as you can to ensure bacteria don’t spread everywhere on the inside and make you sick, even after boiling.
Cook dead lobsters a few hours after they die and make sure they’re fully cooked to avoid illness. When you’re unsure the exact time a lobster died, it’s best to avoid consuming it at all, because the body is most likely serving as a breeding ground for bacteria which can release harmful toxins that can make you terribly sick!
Also, when you notice the lobster emits a stench, cooks into a cottage cheese consistency, or has an inside meat that is somewhat slimy, then it’s most likely bad and should be tossed into the bin.
It may be a dormant lobster
Now hold on a bit, the lobster you might be calling dead might actually just be a sleeping lobster.
When shipped, lobsters are put into a dormant state with the use of cold water, so they don’t move about and make delivery a headache, and when they arrive, they may show little signs of movement which may trigger you to think they’re dead.
You can change them into a much warmer water and wait for a few more hours to really get them back to their active state. Then, you should begin to see more movements from the lobster.
Another sign to look out for is a curly tail when cooked, if this doesn’t happen, the lobster is most likely dead before you cooked it since live lobsters always tend to have muscle twitches (around the tail region) which ends up curling the tail under the body as they cook.
How to tell when your lobster is dead
A discolored lobster meat is a good sign that it was dead prior to cooking.
Now you have to be very careful what you call a discolored lobster meat because not every lobster is created the same. But at least, all lobsters should have a similar color of meat when cooked from their alive state.
So when you notice something a bit different from what you’re used to seeing, your lobster is most likely dead.
Lobsters, like any other crustaceans, begin to decompose the moment they die, and it’s only natural they emit smell as a result of the reactions going on in them.
So whenever your lobsters emit a really foul stench either when you pick it up for inspection or begin to work on it, it’s most likely a dead lobster.
The immediate decomposition that happens when lobsters die is the chief reason why their meat may become slimy.
Because many toxins are released that cause a variety of changes to the internals of the lobster.
So apply the slimy texture test on the lobster (when cooked), and if it fails the test, in that it appears slimy, then look out for other signs on this list, because there’s a possibility that the lobster is actually dead.
Tail doesn’t curl under body when cooked
Much like the way goats and sheeps bite on their tongues when they’re slaughtered, live crabs also twitch their tails until they take it almost below their body when they’re boiled or killed.
So if your lobster doesn’t show this sign, then more than likely, you’re dealing with a completely dead lobster!
Broken shell (if it’s a soft shelled lobster)
Moving lobsters from really far distances can make their shells break underway, especially if the road isn’t a smooth one and especially when the lobster is a soft shelled one.
So when this happens, and the lobster does not show any signs of movement, then it’s more than likely it’s dead, and you want to test for slimy meat and curly tail when cooked to complete the verification process.
Lobster doesn’t show any signs of movement
When you notice your lobster isn’t moving at all even with the roughest agitations from you, it’s most likely dead. You can use other methods described above which are convenient for you to further confirm.
I’m pretty sure my lobster only recently died, what do I do next?
For a freshly dead lobster, do the following:
Remove tail and freeze as soon as possible when you don’t intend on cooking immediately
Internal decomposition begins almost immediately, and unless you’re quick to act, the tail meat will also be affected and the biggest sign would be smell, sliminess and discoloration.
So when you’re sure the lobster died almost immediately, which you can verify from the way it smells, looks, and when you open it up and work on it, and also from the way the meat feels and cooks, always remove the tail and store it in the freezer to halt any action of spoilage bacteria on it when you don’t plan on cooking it immediately.
You want to be aggressively sure you do this and do it fast, especially when the temperature outside is warm, or hot, because that speeds up spoilage even more!
To remove the tail, place a sharp knife at the first junction that connects the tail to the head, then insert it well and hit hard with the palm of your second hand to detach the tail from the body. If you’re dealing with a live lobster, the same is the procedure!
For best result, freeze lobster tails in their shells, and for no more than a month. Refrigerate for no more than 3 days. Using the lobster before the exhaustion of this time frame guarantees better flavor and texture.
For the head, cook it immediately, as it’s the most affected and prone to faster deterioration.
If you can, cook the lobster almost immediately, especially when it’s hot outside because that accelerates the decomposition process which increases the amount of toxins inside, which further increases the risks of food poisoning when ingested, and also degrades the flavor and texture!
Read below how to properly cook a lobster for taste and flavor!
How to cook a dead lobster
The method described here also applies to live but then killed lobsters, the word “dead” is only there to relate to the theme of discussion.
Lobsters on their own, have really great flavor profile, and you don’t need any complicated process to actually bring that out to the table.
So avoid complicated processes at all, simply cook dead lobsters the following ways.
Bring salty water to a boil and submerge the lobsters inside. Sea water is a must if you live near the ocean.
The saltiness does a whole lot to improve flavor because by boiling, you’re naturally losing some of the flavors! Add 3 to 5 ounces of salt per gallon of fresh water when you’re not using bay water.
Cover the pot and wait for the water to begin boiling again, then cook for 15 minutes for a 1 ½ pound lobster and add additional 2 minutes for every ¼ pound increment in size. Typically, cooking lobsters should not exceed more than 25 minutes no matter how large they are.
Now remove them and place inside water containing ice to cool, facilitate easy removal of meat from the shell, prevent drying and shrinkage, and also prevent further cooking.
Cool the meat for around 10 minutes or so or when the internal temperature is back to room temperature.
Deshell and then serve as you like.
Get a stock pot and place a steaming basket inside. The steaming basket helps keep the lobsters above the water line so they aren’t boiled instead of steamed.
Now add water so it sits just below the steaming basket, around 1 to 2 inches would do. Bring the water to a boil and place the lobsters on the steaming basket.
Cook 1 pound lobster for 9 minutes and add 4 minutes for every additional pound lobster you have.
Now place in an iced water bath for 10 minutes and serve.
If you wish to save some leftovers, if picked out of the shell, transfer into a plastic storage container and keep in the fridge for no more than 3 days.
Lobsters sectioned and left in their shells will preserve texture and flavor better.
To freeze, store them unpicked, in a double layer of aluminum foil, in a freezer storage bag with protective glazing on it, or in milk cartons.
To create the glazing, first put the meat with the shell in the freezer to freeze, then remove, dip inside cold water, return back into the coating, remove as much air and then put back into the freezer. The cold water will create a layer of ice on the meat which will serve as a protective layer.
Dead lobsters are safe to eat when they’re only freshly dead. When lobsters are allowed to sit dead for many hours, they will begin to decompose which will cause to the meat to become toxic, smelly and even adopt textural changes.
The best time to eat dead lobsters is when they’re freshly dead — about a few hours after they perish. Cook them in boiling salt water, deshell, and then serve.