If you've ever tried to cook fresh lobster, you know how tricky it can be that first time. After all, most of us aren't used to dealing with our food, well, so alive. Even now, every time I encounter lobsters in the kitchen, I always think back to film classic "Annie Hall."
Start by chilling the lobsters in the freezer for 15 minutes or so. Lobsters are coldblooded, and this slows their metabolic rate and dulls their response to pain.
Place the chilled lobsters belly-up on a cutting board. Thrust a sharp knife into the belly of the lobster between the first pair of legs and pull the knife down toward the head. If you are careful not to cut through the top side of the shell, your guests will never be able to tell.
To keep a lobster tail straight while cooking, run a skewer through the center of the fan and up the length of the tail. If the lobster is whole, run the skewer all the way through. (To kill the lobster painlessly first, freeze it for a couple hours before preparing.) As a lobster is cooked, the tail meat naturally wants to contract and curl; the skewer will keep it straight. This technique also works for large shrimp and prawns.
If you're boiling lobsters and are working with even numbers, you can also keep their tails straight by tying each pair together before boiling. Arrange the lobsters with their bellies touching and tails extended before tying; this will keep the tail meat straight without having to use skewers.
If you have any kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.