They say there are a lot of ways to skin a cat. I wouldn't know. But what I do know is that there are even more ways to shell a whole cooked lobster. I've used implements ranging from the blunt side of a knife to a mallet, a nutcracker, and a pair of scissors to free the meat from a lobster's hard and spiny exoskeleton.
No matter what tools you use, though, the one rule I vehemently stand by is that you can't call yourself a lobster lover if you don't take the time to get every last morsel out of it. I was raised in a family of crab and lobster pickers, and my mom regularly inspected my shells to make sure I hadn't missed anything. But I've met enough people to know that not everyone grew up with such expectations. Much more common is to eat the tail and claws, maybe the knuckles, and then discard the rest. I want to change this.
In the above video, I walk you through the steps of getting everything you possibly can out of a whole cooked lobster, using a nutcracker—the tool most commonly offered in restaurants—to get at the meat. If you still doubt that picking through every last crevice in the body is really worth it, just wait until you see how much I get out of mine in the video. It's nearly a whole extra tail's worth of meat.
The key is to try to enjoy the process of picking instead of seeing it as a chore. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes a mindless task that keeps your hands busy, while allowing you to have good, long conversations with your family and friends.
Practice it now—because I'm tempted to start spot-checking people's shells in restaurants across America. You really don't want me calling out your poorly picked shells in public. It'd be very, very embarrassing.
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.