Some comments on… COOKING
These comments on cooking lobster were prepared by the Lobster Institute.
For more information contact:
Lobster Institute * 210 Rogers Hall * University of Maine * Orono, ME 04473
( 207) 581 -1443 * www.lobsterinstitute.org
Lobster Institute has received many inquires about whether boiling
lobsters is humane. Being concerned about this important question,
researchers conducted experiments and studied the lobster’s nervous
system. The nervous system of a lobster is very primitive; in fact it is
most similar to the nervous system of an insect. If one compares the
diagram of a lobster’s nervous system to that of a grasshopper, the
similarities are apparent. Neither insects nor lobsters have brains. For
an organism to perceive pain it must have a complex nervous system.
Neurophysiologists tell us that lobsters, like insects, do not process
Why do lobsters twitch as they cook?
found that a few seconds after a lobster is dropped in boiling water it
will begin to twitch its tail. The tail movement, which continues for
approximately one minute, is part of a reflex action found in lobsters
and crayfish (but not crabs). Known as the "escape response", it is a
reflex action to any sudden stimulus – a reaction that was first
identified by George Johnson in 1924. The lobster is reacting to an
external factor, such as an elevated water temperature.
Can you stop the twitching?
are several methods purported to "put lobsters to sleep" so they don’t
twitch their tails when cooked. These include hypnotizing, slow heating,
and chilling/icing. Experiments at the University of Maine determined
in the traditional manner causes a lobster to begin activity in 5-10 seconds and continue for 1–1½ minutes.
the lobster by holding its head down and rubbing it nearly doubles the length of time it moves.
salt water from room temperature results in increased activity when the
water reaches a temperature of around 30°C/86°F. This activity lasts
2-3 minutes and then subsides.
to reduce the activity of lobsters. However, lobsters at the top of the
steam rack may still be alive after 20 minutes when large numbers of
lobsters are being cooked at once unless the steam is retained in the
cooking, by placing the lobster on ice or in a freezer (but not
freezing it) delays the onset of activity about 30 seconds and reduces
the duration of movement to about 20 seconds.
believe the best way to minimize the lobster’s movement time is to
chill/ice it before dropping it in water that has come to a rolling
boil. Hypnotizing, slow heating, and steaming increase the length and
duration of activity during cooking.