Lobster Terminology

Chickens, sleepers and culls: lobster terminology

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Lobster Terminology

In the strange-but-true department, lobsters have teeth in their stomachs, kidneys in their heads, extremely poor vision considering the size ratio of eyes to their heads, and smell through their feet.

Bone up on these lobster terms so you know what you are getting:

• Tomalley: The liver of the lobster. It is greenish in color and prized for its flavor. It is often added to sauces to boost the lobster flavor.

• Coral: Deep red when raw and coral pink in color when cooked, this is the roe or egg sac found only in the female. They are considered a delicacy and are also often added to sauces.

• Chicken: These are small lobsters popular in New England, ranging in weight from one to two pounds. The name allegedly refers to their tenderness.

• Hen: Female lobster.

• Cock: Male lobster.

• Eighth: A lobster weighing 1-1/8 pounds.

• Quarter: A lobster weighing 1-1/4 pounds.

• Large: A lobster weighing 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 pounds.

• Jumbo: A lobster weighing over 2-1/2 pounds.

• Paquette: French term for a female lobster with fully formed eggs. The lobster is deemed most succulent at this stage and commands a high price.

• Pistol: A lobster that has lost its claws, usually due to predators. Luckily, lobsters regenerate their claws.

• Cull: A lobster that has lost one of its claws. These are used when the presentation of the full lobster is not a factor.

They are usually less expensive but perfectly fine for all but the fanciest dinner party where looks count.

• Sleeper: Term for a lobster that is so sluggish it cannot hold up its claws. These have been out of their environment too long and are usually close to death. They should be avoided.

• Soft-shell: Like crabs, lobsters molt their shell.

Unlike crabs, they are not a good choice, although they are certainly edible. Soft-shell lobsters feel lighter and will rattle when shaken. The shell color is also usually much redder than usual. They have less meat and are not necessarily flavorful, so the connoisseur usually avoids them.

• Lobster shack: New England and particularly Maine is awash with these roadside restaurants that specialize in freshly cooked lobsters with very little embellishment.

• Shorts on: A term used in the industry to indicate a lobsterman who has caught lobsters under or above the legal size limit.

More About Lobster:

Lobster Cooking Tips
Lobster Selection and Storage
• Lobster Terminology
How to Humanely Kill a Lobster
Lobster Equivalents, Measures and Famous Recipes
• Lobster History
• Lobster Recipes


  • Lobster At Home
  • Fish & Shellfish
  • Rick Stein's Complete Seafood
  • Big Book of Fish & Shellfish
  • More Cookbooks