How to Crack a Lobster & Other Seafood Must-Knows

Here in the Maritimes, we know our seafood. Whether we’re cracking open a lobster, searing delicious scallops to perfection, jimmying an oyster, or preparing delectable mussels, learning how to prepare meals from the ocean is a rite of passage here for all Maritimers. If you’re visiting the Maritimes and eager for a famous seafood supper, you’re in luck! We’re always ready to give our new friends the inside scoop when it comes to Maritime meal must-knows! Before you start cooking, take a look at these helpful tips.

cooked lobsters on table

How to Crack a lobster

You can’t come to Atlantic Canada and not enjoy a lobster! Whether at a community supper or a fancy seafood restaurant, a lobster is a must. Of course, before you enjoy these tasty crustaceans, you’ll need to know how to crack them. Before you begin, we suggest saving the tomalley, the green paste, and lobster eggs in the tail. Yes, these are totally edible for the brave, but Health Canada advises children avoid them, and even adults should restrict their consumption to no more than the amount found in one lobster. With that out of the way, let’s get crackin’!

To crack your lobster, you’ll need kitchen shears and a bamboo skewer. Let’s start with the tail and make our way to the claws and legs. To remove the lobster tail, bend it back slightly and carefully twist to remove it. Then, using your shears and starting at the open end, cut down the middle of the underside and peel both sides back. Now it’s time for the best part—remove the meat in one piece! Remember what we said earlier about the tomalley or eggs, and if you’re not going to eat them, use a paper towel to wipe them away and discard.

For the claws, make sure you’re keeping your eyes peeled for any spikes. Start by twisting the two front legs off the body of your lobster. Typically, the legs should come off without much effort, but if you’re having trouble, use your kitchen shears to cut any cartilage. Next, with your bamboo skewer, carefully push the meat out of the claw. With the claw meat taken care of, turn your attention to the thinner pincer and bend it back and forth until it breaks off. Once again, grab your bamboo skewer to poke the meat out of its shell carefully.

Finally, turn your attention to the legs. You can either suck the small bits of meat out of the legs or use your skewer to push them out. It’s as simple as that! Whatever your choice, have fun with it!

scallops pan seared

How to Pan Sear Scallops

Scallops are a luxurious treat as part of a romantic dinner for two. However, they fall on the pricier side of our Atlantic seafood. The last thing you want is to have a kitchen misstep when cooking these little guys, which is why we’ve put together the following tips for perfectly pan searing your Maritime scallops! To get the perfect sea scallops, you’ll need:

  • Salt and pepper
  • One tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • Large stainless steel skillet
  • Tongs or a thin spatula
  • Dry cloth or paper towel

To begin, pat your scallops dry using a cloth or paper towel. This will help them sear much faster. Then, sprinkle your scallops generously with salt and pepper and begin heat your pan. Add either butter or olive oil over medium-high heat. You can check the temperature of your pan by testing it with water. If it evaporates, you’re good to go.

When your first scallop hits the pan, it should sizzle on contact. If it doesn’t, wait a few more seconds to let the pan heat before adding the rest. Make sure your scallops are spaced out in a single layer and cook them for two minutes on each side. If your scallops don’t release easily from the pan, let them cook for another few seconds until they do. Do not overcook or your scallops or they may become tough and chewy.

When both sides of your scallops are seared golden-brown, look opaque and feel firm, they’re ready to go! Serve them immediately (while they are still warm) for best results.

shucking an oyster

How to Open an Oyster 

It’s not a complete trip to Nova Scotia if you don’t slurp down our famous oysters! But take it from us, you have to be extremely careful when opening up an oyster—after all, there’s a reason people train to become Master Shuckers around these parts. Be sure to stay focused, and don’t get too distracted by the tunes playing at the kitchen party!

Grab your oyster shucking knife and a thick kitchen towel to get started, and make sure you have a lot of patience and are paying attention. Start by wrapping your hand with a thick kitchen towel to protect yourself while you’re shucking. Place the oyster in your wrapped hand with its hinge facing you. From here, grab your oyster knife and begin gradually applying pressure around the hinge. With a little patience, you’ll notice that the shell will begin to open.

Once the oyster opens completely, rinse it lightly to remove any broken shell pieces. With that, your oyster is ready to eat! This may come as a surprise, but before you eat your oyster, you need to check that it’s still alive. You can do this by poking lightly around its lips. If it does not retract, do not eat the oyster. It is dead and needs to be thrown out.

Maybe we should have told you this ahead of time, but yes, you eat oysters alive!

chef cleaning mussels

How to Clean Mussels

Finally, we’re going to show you how to clean mussels. This is very simple, but will take a little bit of prep time if you want to do it the right way (which we all know you do!). Before you start, grab two large bowls to house your mussels. Put your mussels in one of the bowls and run cold water over them. Make sure to rinse and scrub them to get rid of any dirt. Once they’re clean, dump the water out and place the mussels into a new bowl. Fill it with cold water and leave the mussels for an hour. This will ensure any leftover dirt inside of the mussels rises to the top, making them less crunchy.

With the cleaning complete, it’s time to de-beard your mussels. No, this doesn’t involve shaving cream! Beards are the sticky membranes that allow mussels to attach themselves to surfaces in the water. When you find one, grasp it between your thumb and forefinger and pull it downwards. Voila, beard-free mussels!

Lastly, much like oysters, you need to make sure to check for dead mussels. These can make you extremely sick if you eat them. The easiest way to check is to simply poke them. If the shell does not close, that mussel is dead and needs to be thrown away immediately.

Hungry? Join Us For Supper!

Now, we know our world-famous Atlantic seafood is found all over the world—from New England to Japan. In your city, you can probably visit your local supermarket and find the catch of the day, but there’s nothing like experiencing Atlantic seafood right here in the Maritimes. Imagine visiting a local fishmonger, watching them prepare your selection and being able to cook it in the comfort of your own East Coast home away from home. There’s no doubt about it, when you visit us in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, there’s one thing you should never forget to pack—your appetite.

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