Seeking out the highest-quality ingredients one can afford is always important, but never more so than when it comes to crustacean cookery. Here are some of our best practices for getting your money's worth.
First and foremost, look for a shop with high turnover of these critters. This applies whether you're looking to buy live crab and lobster, precooked lobster tails, crab claws, or even lump crab meat. While seeking out the freshest precooked meat may seem obvious, even creatures sold live are highly perishable; once they're plucked from the sea, they'll stop eating, and a starved crustacean will have less meat on its shell.
What to Keep in Mind When Buying Live Crab or Lobster
- Buy these in season, and from local waters. A cross-country journey means more time has lapsed from catch to plate, and the critter is likely less robust and less meaty. Plus, purchases made at the source will cost less than those coming from thousands of miles away.
- Look for active, wriggly live crab and lobster, taking care to avoid any that appear lethargic. They should feel heavy for their size when handled; this indicates a juicy, meaty find, rather than one that is nearly all shell.
- Avoid any seafood coming from a less-than-spotless tank.
- Make sure to either kill them in the cooking process or cook them immediately after dispatch. Even the lapse of one hour between killing and cooking can effect the quality of the meat, leaving you with a pile of mushy meat.