Cracking a lobster seems daunting to some, but it’s really quite simple. We often look at the cartoonlike drawings on the paper place mats at typical lobster pounds in New England, but we think they’re just designed to confuse you further. Just start with the tail. Hold the tail as if the lobster is swimming away from you. Twist to remove the tail. With two hands, push the tail together until the top of the tail cracks; then flip the tail over and place two thumbs in the ridge of the tail and push outward until the entire shell comes off.
Now, twist off the arms.Twist the claws off the arms. Place the arms on a cutting board and cut along the lines separating each knuckle with a heavy-duty chef’s knife or using a lobster cracker. Using your fingers or a chopstick, push the meat out of each knuckle. Use the heavy end of the knife to hit the claw gently until it’s cracked all over like an egg or crack it with a lobster cracker. (You may want to cover the claw with a towel before hitting it to keep the juice from flying.) Remove the meat from the claw. Twist the small part of the claw with your hand until it comes away from the flesh and then gently twist the larger part and pull it out from the shell. Using your fingers, pull the cartilage from inside of the claw out as well.
[Editor's Note: You can discard the body and use it for stock, or, if you're in the mood for digging, pry open the body cavity by lifting the top of the shell up and the bottom part down. Discard the top shell, and place your thumbs on the inner rib-like part of the body. Crack it open like you're opening a book. Using your fingers or a small fork, pick out the tender meat inbetween the cartilage.]
As for the thin legs, just give it up, man! There are fanatics who like to suck the meat out of the legs and, if you feel so inclined, go ahead. We know they always show that on the place mats, but we think it’s just too much trouble.
Adapted from "Maine Classics: More than 150 Delicious Recipes from Down East" by Mark Gaier & Clark Fraiser (Running Press, 2011)