As chef Amy Eubanks of BLT Fish says, "killing a lobster is the closest most chefs get to taking away a life, except for a soft shell crab." This is really what makes her realize that she's working with a life and taking one away — probably the aspect that most intimidates home cooks when it comes to killing lobsters at home (similar to the experience of Julie in the book/movie Julie & Julia shown above). Eubanks admits that she cried the first time she did it and it took her 45 minutes to get through three — but now she can do it swiftly because it only takes a little practice and know-how.
If you are looking to tackle this at home, then check out Eubanks' tips for storing, killing, and cooking a lobster below.
The Live Lobster
The lobster should have a little movement in their claws, with the eyes moving around a little. If you flip it and it doesn't move, then it is dead. (You need to discard the lobster because it will have already started to decompose.) While you are waiting to cook them, cover them in a wet brown paper bag or newspaper. (If you placed them in freshwater, then they would die.)
Killing the Lobster
There are essentially two basic ways to kill a lobster, one, by boiling it water, and two, by putting a chef's knife through its head to kill it immediately.
Why choose one over the other? When you boil a lobster, the tail usually ends up being overcooked because it takes less time to cook than the claws (for a 1 ½ pound lobster, 9 minutes for the claws and 5 minutes for the tail). Using the knife method, allows you to remove the meat from the shell when raw and cook the pieces separately. However, Eubanks offers another alternative if neither of these options is suitable: At her restaurant, and many others, the lobsters are often par-boiled, so that you can break them apart after they are already dead. This method comes in handy if you are going to grill the lobster tail or need to remove the meat before poaching it or adding it to a sauce.
Watch this slideshow for step-by-step instructions for killing the lobster with both methods.
(All photos courtesy of Marsye Chevriere)