What is New Shell lobster? Learn about Maine’s sweetest season.

Fishing in StoningtonNew shell lobster season is one of our favorite times of year in the Maine food business. For our company, it means a peak of activity of buying, selling and shipping lobster around the world. For our industry, this harvest represents a huge economic driver along the coast. And for us as consumers, it means we get to enjoy the most delicious, sustainable lobster on the market. These lobsters are incredibly fresh and we look forward to working with our customers on their new shell supply.

What is a New Shell lobster?

Lobsters have exoskeletons, so in order to grow, they must molt or shed their old shells. In order to molt, lobsters take on a great deal of water, which forces the shell open. They walk out of their old shell and are already in their new shell. They will go into hiding to regain strength and energy as the shell firms up. As they get stronger, they leave their hiding spots in search of food. Maine’s peak lobster harvest functions around the time of the new shell lobster production. The lobster is growing into this new shell and by December will be an old shell lobster again. As the lobster ages, they will shed less frequently and will require longer amounts of time to harden and grow into the new shell. In the first few years of life, they shed many times in a year. As they age, this frequency decreases.

Flavor profile and meat yield (cooked):

Lobster TailsThe flavor profile is exceptional. These lobsters are tender and sweet with a fresh, briny flavor. New shell lobsters are widely regarded as the favorite lobsters of the year due to their bright flavor. Their shells are easy to crack and open, making them a favorable product by many chefs and consumers alike. New Shell lobsters average a slightly lower meat yield of about 17% meat yield at this time of year compared to the 21% from a fully-meated old shell.

Appearance and quality (live):

New shell lobster has a similar appearance to the old shell product. The shell itself is brighter in color and doesn’t have the scarring that may develop over time on an old shell lobster. Depending on how recently the lobster molted, it may feel like squeezing an opened can of soda or an unopened can for a firmer shell. With a newly molted lobster, there is some give to the shell and you should use the meaty parts of your fingers to gently squeeze the lobster.

Handling upon arrival:

New shell lobsters should immediately be placed into a salt water tank at ~4°C. If your facility does not have tanks, it is recommended to place these lobsters into refrigerated holding. Lobsters should always be handled carefully one at a time and never thrown around.