How To De-Shell A Lobster

11/02/2011 12:29 pm ET | Updated Aug 31, 2012

After you've cooked your lobster, you'll need to remove its shell before chowing down on the delicacy. Chef Bruce Mattel of The Culinary Institute of America demonstrates how to free the lobster meat from the hard shell, starting with the tail, moving to the claws, the knuckles, and, in the end, the legs. With Mattel's tips, you don't even need that many tools -- just a chef's knife and a strong grip. If you follow his advice on extracting lobster meat from its legs, you will need a rolling pin, though -- watch the video and see.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

I'm Chef Bruce Mattel from the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm going to show you this kitchen basic: how to de-shell a lobster.

The first thing I like to do is deal with the tail. Here we have a beautiful lobster tail: look at that! I'm going to take a firm hold of that, and just give it a gentle twist. This is something you can also do at the table. For the time being, I'm going to put the rest of the lobster back over here while we work with this tail.

We'll take the shell firmly in our hands and squeeze it together. Hear it crack like that? That helps break the shell right down the center here. Then you're going to pull it apart. Of course the bigger the lobster, the more clumsy this might be. We're going to pull the shell apart, and pull it off. We're going to save the shell, because the shell still has some flavor in it. If you make some kind of a soup like a lobster bisque or a shrimp bisque, or even a shellfish stock or broth, you can put these cooked shells in for some added flavor. So here we have a beautiful lobster tail; I'll just put that aside for a minute while we work on the other parts of the lobster.

I'll bring this lobster back onto my cutting board and I"m going to twist off the claws. Now we're going to work on the claws. Using leverage, I'm able to press down in a backward motion, and I pop off this part that contains what we call the knuckles. I'll put those off to the side for a while; I'll do the same with this other claw. Just take this part off in that way, just using some leverage. Now with the first claw, what you do is take this piece right here and move it from side to side to loosen it, then pull it out like that. With the crusher claw, just go straight back; that allows the center filament to come right out with that piece. And now we have the two claws. Turn each claw with these little spikes facing up, and take the heel of the French knife or chef's knife, this lower portion here, and go in like that, then twist your knife. You could also bang on the claw just a little bit, and what'll happen is you'll be able to break it off at that point. Then the claw meat should come right out.

Now what's left? We have these knuckles. There's really not a fancy way to take the meat out of the knuckles. I just use the back of the chef's knife and just crack it a little bit, then use my fingers and empty out that the knuckle meat.

So really this is the majority of the meat of the lobster. However, I'm going to show you something really interesting, an innovative way to get the meat out of these legs. First you line them up evenly, and you can take your knife and take a little bit off the ends of the legs. Then you can take these legs one at a time and take a rolling pin, and using pretty good force you can use the rolling pin to press out this little bit of meat that's inside the lobster. And there you have it, that lobster's ready to be eaten.

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