All Photos: Wendy Goodfriend
No, they aren't local. But whole live lobsters from Maine or Canada are a delectable treat, and if you're already in the groove of cooking your own live crab, pretty easy to cook at home. They're rarely seen on Bay Area menus, so if you're a homesick New Englander who fled ice scrapers and snow shovels but still craves a good lobster roll or a whole boiled lobster now and again, doing it yourself is the best option.
Lobsters are typically sold live, out of salt water tanks in fish markets, higher-end supermarkets, and Asian markets. Their claws are almost always closed with a rubber band so they can't grab you, the fishmonger, or their fellow tank-mates. For food safety's sake, you have to keep them alive until you cook them, so look for lively, healthy lobsters that are active in the tank, holding their claws up and their tails straight. Limp lobsters with droopy, dangling claws or curled-under tails should be avoided. Get your lobsters home and chilled as soon as possible. Plan to cook them the same day you purchase them, if possible, but definitely within 24 hours.
Line a large brown paper grocery bag, a wide pot or a large bowl with some damp, crumpled newspaper or fresh seaweed, should you have some handy. Untie the plastic bags you carried your lobsters home in, transfer them into your prepared bag, pot, or bowl (remember, their claws are trapped, so they can't pinch you), and refrigerate immediately. Like Dungeness crabs, they're salt water creatures, so don't submerge them in fresh water, and no matter how squeamish you are, don't smother them by shoving them straight into the fridge still knotted in layers of plastic bags.
Bring about 2 inches of well-salted water to a boil in a large, deep stockpot. Once the water is boiling, take the lobsters out the fridge, and holding them firmly by the body where it meets the tail, snip off the rubber bands on their claws. Drop them head first into the pot and cover. Like crabs, you time by the average weight of one lobster, not the total weight. Depending on the size of your pot and how many lobsters you're cooking, you may have to do them in batches--they shouldn't be too crowded. Start with a base of 10 minutes for a 1-lb lobster, then add roughly 2 minutes per quarter-pound of weight.
- 1 lb lobster: 10 min
- 1 1/4 lb lobster: 12 min
- 1 1/2 lb lobster: 14 min
- 1 3/4 lb lobster: 16 min
- 2 lb lobster: 18 min