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Lobsters are a type of crustacean that is enjoyed all around the world. Many people who eat lobster consider it to be a delicacy. These marine creatures have long bodies and five pairs of jointed legs. Only some species of lobster have claws, which is often the meatiest part of the lobster.
There are many different kinds of lobsters, divided into two main types: warm water lobsters and cold water lobsters. Each type includes numerous species, each with its own distinguishing features.
Specialty seafood restaurants offer lobster as a key dish on their menus, with many restaurants keeping tanks of live crustaceans onsite. Some types of lobster, like reef lobsters, aren’t edible but are popular among aquarists who keep this species in a tank.
Characteristics Common to all Lobsters
All lobsters are omnivores and usually eat at night. The animals feed off marine vegetation and other sea creatures, including other crustaceans. Lobsters aren’t only eaten by humans but are also often eaten by other sea creatures like hermit crabs.
As a lobster grows, it sheds its shell — a process known as molting — giving the lobster a hard-shell season and a soft-shell season. Hard-shelled and soft-shelled lobsters should be cooked in different ways because the two types of lobster flesh have different flavors.
After molting, these crustaceans puff up their flesh with water to create a bigger surface area to be covered by a new shell. This puffy flesh is considered to be the soft-shell stage, during which the lobster is more delicate and needs more careful handling, especially during shipping.
The warm-water lobster, also called a spiny lobster or a rock lobster, has five sets of legs but doesn’t have claws. The front legs look like antennae. Most of the meat on this lobster is on the tail.
Warm water lobsters are found during winter in the Caribbean and off the coastline of California. This type is cheaper than cold water lobsters. Warm water lobster tails cost between $22 and $45, depending on the species and the season.
The Caribbean lobster is commonly found in the Caribbean waters of the Gulf of Mexico and along the North American coastline. Fished from late summer to the end of winter, Caribbean lobsters are available from August to March and cost $35 per pound.
Caribbean lobsters are 3–5 inches long and have a hard shell with gray and brown stripes and a spotted yellow tail. These lobsters weigh 5–12 ounces.
Caribbean lobster meat is firm with a delicate, sweet flavor and is delicious when coated with garlic butter and cooked on a grill.
South African Lobster
South African lobsters are classified as warm water lobsters but come from the cold waters off the coast of South Africa. This type of lobster is popular in America, with frozen raw tails costing $45 per pound.
The South African lobster, with its succulent, tender meat, is in season from November to April. Fishing and trade of these lobsters are strictly controlled by the South African government in order to protect the lobster population.
California lobsters, as their name suggests, are found along the coast of California, and their season lasts from October to March. This spiny lobster is one of the largest lobster species, growing up to 24 inches long, and has a nutty, creamy flavor with a hint of sweetness.
Trade-in California lobsters comprise a large part of the California economy because these lobsters are highly popular in China and are fished on a large scale for export. Priced at $25 per pound when live, California lobsters are shipped and sold at three times the price in China, in frozen form.
California lobsters aren’t only popular as a food delicacy served in restaurants. These lobsters are also fished for recreation.
Australian lobsters, found along the Northwest Australian coastline, come in varying shades of green and red. These lobsters aren’t seasonal and are available all year round, costing about $25 per pound.
Australian lobsters, one of the larger species, are popular for their tails. An average tail weighs 8–10 ounces. The lobster meat is firm with a delicate, sweet flavor and goes well in a seafood paella.
Western Rock Lobster
Western rock lobster is similar to Australian lobster. Found along the west coast of Australia, this spiny lobster has large antennae and grows up to 15 inches in length.
The tender meat of the western rock lobster tail can be used in any seafood dish and is also wonderful when covered in garlic butter and cooked on the grill.
Usually fished from November to August, western rock lobster is sold for $25–$30 per pound.
Southern Rock Lobster
Southern rock lobster is a spiny lobster found along with the New Zealand and southern Australian coastlines. With a speckled red-and-brown outer shell and reddish-orange legs, this lobster has tender meat with a sweet flavor.
Popular in China and Southeast Asia, southern rock lobster is easy to prepare by boiling in salted water and serving with a lemon-butter sauce.
Lobster season for southern rock lobsters is almost year-round and lasts from mid-November to mid-September. Fishing of these lobsters is sometimes rationed due to demand, pushing up the price. Expect to pay up to $40 per pound for southern rock lobsters.
Cape Rock Lobster
Cape rock lobster, sometimes called Jasus lalandii, is a warm water lobster native to the coastline between South Africa and Namibia. This lobster is about 20 inches long, with firm lobster tail meat.
This species is a popular choice for char grilling and serving with a seafood sauce. This lobster is often canned and exported from South Africa and can be used in paellas and other seafood dishes.
The fishing season for Cape rock lobster is short, usually lasting only a few weeks from November to December. The price of this lobster is about $22 per pound.
European Spiny Lobster
European spiny lobster is native to the waters off the coast of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. These orange and yellow lobsters have been overfished, causing a scarcity of the popular delicacy and pushing up the price to around $40 per pound.
European spiny lobster has tender meat that’s delicious when cooked in a skillet with shallots, herbs, spices, and a creamy seafood sauce.
Cold Water Lobster
Cold water lobsters, found in the ice-cold waters of the North Atlantic, are also known as clawed lobsters because of the large claws at the end of three of their five sets of legs. These lobsters are mostly eaten for their claw meat, which is often tastier and firmer than the tail meat of warm water lobsters.
With their distinct seafood flavor, cold-water lobsters have more lobster meat than warm-water lobsters, making cold-water lobsters more popular. Most seafood restaurants serve cold water lobsters.
Commonly fished along the east coast of Canada, Canadian lobsters are large with big claws. These lobsters are popular for their succulent claw meat, which is firm and sweet.
Because there is such a high demand for Canadian lobsters, the fishing season of these hard shell lobsters is restricted and staggered, with availability limited to October to January, and June to July.
Canadian lobsters can be bought live at $20 per pound, or bought frozen at $65 per pound.
Maine lobster, also known as American lobster or northern lobster, is one of the most popular types of lobster served in restaurants. Found in the icy waters of the northeast Atlantic, Maine lobster is mostly fished from June to December but is usually available all year round.
These lobsters vary in size from 1 to 4 pounds. With its big tail and large claws, this cold water lobster is full of sweet and tender meat that’s suitable for most seafood recipes.
Because of its popularity, Maine lobster is in high demand and sells at $20 per pound for live lobster and up to $70 per pound of frozen lobster meat.
New Zealand Lobster
New Zealand lobster, as its name suggests, is native to the cold waters of the New Zealand coastline and is one of the biggest species of cold-water lobster, measuring up to 26 inches. Deep red in color, these lobsters are in season from May to February.
Popular for its juicy, sweet meat and firm texture, New Zealand lobster is a favorite in Asian cuisine. It’s excellent when eaten raw in sushi or cooked on the grill with lots of garlic butter.
New Zealand lobster is exported around the world at a price of $50 per pound for whole lobster and $25 per pound for tail meat.
The Norway lobster, also called a Dublin Bay Prawn, is a small lobster similar to the American lobster. This hard shell lobster, growing a maximum length of 10 inches in length, is found in the cold waters of the northwest Atlantic Ocean and western Mediterranean sea.
Cook Norway lobsters by boiling in salted water and serving with a seafood sauce, or sear the whole lobster in a hot griddle pan and baste with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic butter.
Norway lobster season peaks in October and November, when these lobsters cost $11–$13 per pound.
French Blue Lobster
The French blue lobster, also called the Breton or European lobster, has an unusual black shell with distinctive blue markings. This lobster is fished on the Atlantic Ocean’s European coastline and is available from April to August, costing $30 per pound.
With its sweet and tender meat, French blue lobster is considered a delicacy that goes well in seafood salads and is also enjoyed when cooked in salted water or grilled with lots of garlic butter.
The slipper lobster is a rare type of cold water lobster native to the Mediterranean sea and the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Varying in size from 6–12 inches, the slipper lobster is difficult to catch because it swims away from traditional lobster traps.
The short season, from July to August, limits the availability of slipper lobster, which sells for $25 per pound.
The slipper lobster’s tender meat is white with a delicate, sweet flavor and is best cooked by steaming in a basket over a pot of boiling water.
What Type of Lobster Is the best?
Maine lobster is considered to be the best type of lobster, because of its texture and taste. This species has the most succulent, tender meat, which is usually cooked with melted butter, lemon, and garlic.
Maine lobster is the most popular lobster served in restaurants and is prized for both its claw meat and its tail meat. The flavor is sweeter than most other types of lobster, because of the cold Atlantic waters of the lobster’s environment.