How to Cook a Lobster | Lessons from Nova Scotia

I’m back! From a whirl-wind trip to Nova Scotia and from a much needed recharge after a busy holiday. My first visit to Nova Scotia was filled with so many sites, activities, family, and food – I can’t wait to go back (soon!) when I can take it all in at a more relaxing pace. I’m sad it took me nearly 29 years to see one of the most beautiful provinces this country has to offer, but I take solace in knowing that we will be back again-and-again.

The first day we were in Truro (after a very long 15 hours of traveling – which included a 6 hour lay-over and red-eye flight). Kyle spent 7 years of his childhood in this charming city on the tip of the Bay of Fundy, and I can now see why he always speaks so fondly of his time spent here. Most of the homes are historic Victorian-style houses – well over 100 years old (alas, I never did get any photos of the houses). The people are all friendly and proud of the city they call home – there wasn’t a speck of garbage anywhere, and each property was neatly landscaped and kept. We landed on Canada Day, and I’ve never seen one city boast such patriotism – there were Canadian flags hanging from each home, some homes sporting multiple flags upon their lawn (again…no pictures).

Within hours of settling, Kyle’s mother and grandmother whisked me away to Masstown Market – about 10 minutes away from Truro. The market show-cased Nova Scotia and Maritime produce, pickles, jams, crafts, beers, wines and even had a recent addition of a Fish Market in a “lighthouse.” I was elated as we walked through the market checking out the local products, but I’ll be honest, my feet nearly left the ground once we entered the Catch of the Bay fish market. There was loads of fresh Maritime fish and seafood on ice waiting to be greedily bought up; mussels from PEI and Newfoundland in 5lb bags screaming to be steamed (which we did that night – 10lbs!); and Nova Scotia lobster swimming unsuspectingly in a pool of sea water, biding their time before their fateful hot bath. I wanted it all.

The rest of the weekend was filled with Wedding Celebrations and a road trip out to the Tatamagouche area. The wedding ceremony between the lovely bride and groom took place on the Truro golf course – it was short, but wonderfully sweet. Reception followed at the golf club where there was lots of eating, drinking, laughing, love, and dancing. I absolutely adore weddings. We wish the newlyweds all the joy life has to offer – congrats on your new life together!

Our mini road trip on Sunday included stops at the Nova Scotia Tim Horton’s Camp (where one of Kyle’s cousins worked for a few summers), a wine tour and tasting at the Jost Winery (my first time at a vineyard – I’m hooked!) and a quick visit to The Pork Shop for by-product free sausages.The day was an enjoyable way to spend a lazy (and slightly hung over) Sunday. We were welcomed back to Kyle’s grandparents’ home to a lobster boil that was about to commence. And Kyle and I would learn from his grandfather how to properly cook a lobster.

Boiled/Steamed Nova Scotia Lobster

Recipe passed on from Dan McKenzie

fresh live lobster (about 2lbs each)
course sea salt (1/2 cup PER 4 litres of water)
butter (optional)

large stock pot
long tongs
oven mitts
baking pan or large platter
lobster crackers and forks
kitchen sheers

Fill a large stock pot with water and salt. Many people in the Maritimes prefer to cook their lobster with ocean water if they have access to it (as it is sometimes customary to cook your lobsters right on the beach after you catch them). If you aren’t able to fill your pot with water from the sea you must salt your water heavily. 1/2 cup per 4L of water may seem like a lot, but these suckers lived in the ocean water, and if you want them to taste right (and downright delicious) you better get your pot briny. If you’re not keen on your house smelling like a fishery following the lobster boil, set up the pot outside if you have an outdoor burner. This also helps with keeping clean-up to a minimum – there are going to be enough lobster juices flying around when everyone’s cracking and eating. Oh yes – bring this water to a boil.

When the water is boiling, dunk the lobsters in head first – this will kill them quickly (and no, the “screaming” sound is not the lobsters squealing in agony, it’s the air from their bodies escaping – they don’t have vocal cords or a nervous system capable of feeling pain). Allow the lobsters to boil for about 25 minutes. In the Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens cookbook I bought, it states “15 minutes for the first pound, and 5 minutes for each additional pound.”

Grampy showed us a trick to check if the lobsters are done: Pull out one lobster from the pot. While holding the lobster firmly, grab one of the antenna and give it a quick pull. If it comes off without much effort your lobsters are cooked to perfection. Pull out the rest of the lobsters and place them on the platter/baking pan. (continue this process with additional lobsters if you are cooking more – no need to replenish the water, they will steam with whatever water is left)

Fill a sink with cold water and dunk the cooked lobsters in to cool them off quickly. Then – to the best of your ability – stand up the lobsters so as much water as possible can drain out of them. Grampy showed me the old “wrap the claws around the hose” trick.

Melt butter in serving dishes if desired. Set out an empty bowl (or two) for shells. Lay out lobster tools within everyone’s reach and give everyone a big enough plate to hold their lobster. Now tuck-in to a Nova Scotia Lobster Feast.

To Eat a Lobster: I’m really  not the best to explain this. My advice is go primal and just start ripping the sucker apart. There are a few unedible parts that you’ll want to avoid – the lung sacs and dark intestinal vein. And some other innards that some may shun but others find quite tasty (the green “tomalley” – YUM! – and the red roe). Use your hands to break off all the parts (claws, legs, tail) from the body. Use the crackers and kitchen sheers for getting to the meat in the larger body parts and you can use your teeth to squeeze and suck out the meat from the small legs. Kyle’s step-father showed us that if you use a rolling pin on the little legs it squeezes out ALL the meat! Ultimately the process of eating the lobster is part of the enjoyment – it will get messy though folks, so you might want to wear a bib!



  1. #1 by Lea on July 19, 2011 - 7:30 am

    yummy–you are so lucky to have all that great family there to show you around and experience their hospitality and many wonderful wonderful food dishes

  2. #2 by Gorging George on August 5, 2011 - 8:22 am

    Yes – we’re so lucky to have family on the East Coast. I hope they now realize we’re going to be back all the time!

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