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It’s lobster season in the Netherlands (April through June) and we have our very own type of lobster that only lives in the Oosterschelde. DNA testing has shown that Oosterschelde lobster is truly different from other lobsters, and it is said to have a more delicate flavor. I’d like to do a blind tasting to confirm this some time, but this time I had only picked up the Oosterschelde lobster and decided to do some experimenting to find out the optimal temperature for sous-vide cooking.
For sous-vide cooking you want to get the lobster out of the shell as raw as possible. Unfortunately the shell won’t come off when the lobster is still completely raw, especially the claws. So I decided to follow Thomas Keller’s method to get it out of the shell. This means killing the lobster first by thrusting a knife through its brain. I don’t enjoy this step, but if you want to eat the lobster you need to kill it one way or the other, and this is the most ‘humane’ method.
First make the lobster sluggish by freezing it for 15 minutes. Then insert the knife at the ‘cross’ on top of its head and thrust it down between its eyes. To see how to do this, you can have a look at this video of me killing another lobster.
I then put the lobster in a pot and covered it with 1.5 liters (1.5 quarts) of boiling water, to which I had added 25 ml (1 oz) of white vinegar as per Thomas Keller’s instructions. I left in the tail for 2 minutes and the claws for 7 minutes. Please note that the pot was not on the heat, otherwise the lobster would be cooked completely!
I shelled the lobster and divided the lobster meat into four parts that were individually sealed into vacuum pouches with some butter. The pouches were all cooked for 15 minutes at different temperatures as suggested by Modernist Cuisine.
Two years later I did another experiment to compare a lobster tail cooked at 46ºC/115ºF with a lobster tail cooked at 59.5ºC/139ºF, as the latter is the temperature used by Thomas Keller and quoted by many sources.
Lobster tail sous-vide: best at 46ºC/115ºF
The lobster tail was cooked at 46C/115 F and at 50C/122F. Although both were good, we thought that the tail cooked at 46C/115F was more tender and slightly less ‘rubbery’ than the tail cooked at 50C/122F. Since the tail seemed to be overcooked a bit towards the edges from steeping in boiling water, next time I will try to get it out of the shell with less steeping or even cook it sous-vide in the shell (for a longer time).
The lobster tail cooked at Thomas Keller’s suggested temperature of 59.5ºC/139ºF had the same problem as the one cooked at 50ºC/122ºF: not as tender and juicy as the one cooked at 46ºC/115ºF. More about this in this post.
Lobster claws sous-vide: best at 60ºC/140ºF
The lobster claws were cooked at 54ºC/129ºF and at 60ºC/140ºF. Both were good, but we found the claw cooked at 60ºC/140ºF to be more tender than the claw cooked at 54ºC/129ºF. Even with 7 minutes of steeping, it was difficult to remove the claw meat in once piece. Sous-vide cooking seems to be more beneficial for the lobster tail than for the lobster claws compared to conventional steaming or boiling.