BOSTON PUBLIC RADIO
11:48 am
Thu July 25, 2013

Lobster Killer Qu'est Que C'est

On July 19, Boston Public Radio invited Bud Ris of the New England Aquarium and Legal Seafood's Roger Berkowitz for the Friday News Quiz. When the subject turned to New England's beloved lobster, Ris offered this surprising statement. “We did a study quite a while ago on, 'Do lobsters have feelings?' Quite simply, no.” We decided to look into this further.

Lobster tank
Credit Jeppestown / Flickr

According to The Lobster Institute at the University of Maine, "The nervous system of a lobster is very simple – not unlike that of an insect. Neither insects nor lobsters have brains. For an organism to perceive pain it must have a more complex nervous system."

Yet, for a novice chef, the constant twitching of the lobster can be difficult to watch. How can one prevent this from happening?

“If you take it stick it in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes  you dull the senses, then you can feel less badly,” said Berkowitz. 

Even though it is scientifically proven that lobsters do not feel pain, killing another creature causes some distress for the chef. Jonathan Alsop, who runs the Boston Wine School shares how he deals with the moral dilemma.

"Take one glass of wine, and drink it to calm your nerves, then look away while you throw the lobster in!" He joked. "Is there really a humane way to boil something alive? A lobster is not human but what I am saying is there is no humane way [to boil something alive]."

On a different note, our other sources provided more technical details on how to prepare your lobster.

Jacqueline Church, founder of Kitchen Confidence and a private cooking coach, echoed Berkowitz's advice.

"To humanely kill a live lobster, place the lobster in the freezer for about 15 minutes. This will push the lobster into a state of hibernation (they’re cold-blooded creatures) so you can handle the comatose crustacean safely and dispatch it quickly ... If you're going to boil your lobster whole, please remove the rubber bands from the claws! The taste of rubber in a lobster boil? Ick."

According to Rich Chudy, chef and food blogger, "The simplest way [to humanely cook a lobster] is to simply add the lobster to a pot of boiling water and your results would be just fine. But I like the addition of aromatics; whole garlic cloves, fennel fronds, lemongrass, lemon peel, parsley stems, and plenty of salt and peppercorns to really add as much flavor as possible."

And if, by this point, you are still feeling clueless, you can always fall back on classic cooking techniques.

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