Have you ever splurged on a fancy lobster dinner and ended up with leftovers? Or maybe you’ve bought a live lobster, planning a special meal, but plans changed. Well, you’re probably wondering, how long does lobster last?
Throughout this guide, I’ll cover various factors influencing the shelf life of cooked and raw lobsters. From the importance of airtight containers to some signs of bad lobster meat, I’ve got you covered!
How Long Are Lobsters Good For?
Here’s a table to guide you on how long lobsters last under various conditions.
|Storage Method||Shelf Life||Storage Note|
|Cooked Lobster (Fridge)||3-4 days||Best when consumed within this timeframe for optimal taste.|
|Cooked Lobster (Freezer)||3 months (best quality)||Can remain safe indefinitely if kept constantly frozen at 0°F.|
|Cooked Lobster (Left Out)||Up to 2 hours max.||Discard after 2 hours. Bacteria grow rapidly between 40 °F and 140 °F.|
|Uncooked Thawed Lobster (Fridge)||Up to 2 days||Store in an airtight container or plastic wrap. Cook soon after thawing.|
|Uncooked Thawed Lobster (Freezer)||3-6 months (best quality)||Can be stored up to 6 months. Ensure it’s completely covered in cold water in a sealed container.|
|Live Lobster (Fridge)||1-2 days||Store in a breathable container (like a cardboard box) with damp newspaper or seaweed.|
|Lobster Tails Only (Fridge)||1-2 days||Best when used within this timeframe. Store in an airtight container or plastic wrap.|
|Lobster Tails Only (Freezer)||3-6 months (best quality)||Can be stored up to 8 months. Ensure it’s completely covered in cold water in a sealed container.|
Lobster, whether it’s the luxurious tail meat or the whole creature, has a specific shelf life that’s key for maintaining its rich flavor and avoiding any health risks.
Cold water lobsters, especially the sought-after Maine lobster, are a treat but require particular care to keep fresh and safe to eat.
So what happens when you’re unsure if your lobster is still good?
I recommend checking out my other article, “How to tell if lobster is bad.” It covers common signs of spoilage to help you know when to toss it so that you’re always serving the freshest seafood.
In The Fridge
Cooked lobster, once prepared and cooled, can last up to 3-4 days in the fridge. On the other hand, raw lobsters, especially if they’ve been thawed, have a shorter window of freshness, typically up to 2 days.
Always place your cooked, or raw, lobster in airtight containers or wrap them securely in plastic wrap to keep them fresh. This not only helps retain the lobster’s moisture but also prevents any cross-contamination with other foods.
Live lobsters can survive in the fridge for 1-2 days when stored properly. However, it’s always best to cook them as soon as possible for freshness and the sake of the lobster.
When you’re storing live lobsters, use a damp newspaper or cloth to keep them moist and place them in a breathable container, like a cardboard box.
Most mail-order lobsters will come with a guide to help you keep them alive as long as possible in the container they’re shipped in.
Avoid storing your lobster near strong-smelling foods like onions or garlic. These can affect the lobster’s flavor, making it less appetizing. Also, you should never put a live lobster in freshwater or ice water, as this can and will harm them.
Of course, I should point out that you should always inspect your lobster before cooking or consuming it.
If you notice any signs of spoilage, such as a pungent odor, slimy texture, or an off appearance, it’s best to discard it. Consuming bad lobster can lead to food poisoning and make you incredibly sick.
Left Out At Room Temperature
Like most seafood, lobsters are particularly sensitive when left out at room temperature. Their shelf life drastically reduces, and the potential for bacterial growth increases, making them unsafe to consume.
- Cooked lobsters shouldn’t be left out for more than 2 hours. After this period, the risk of bacterial contamination rises, making them unsafe to eat.
- Raw lobsters, on the other hand, are even more delicate. If they’ve been left out for over an hour, it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard them.
- Live lobsters, if left out too long, can become stressed and may die, affecting their quality and safety.
The flavor and texture of lobster can change when left out. The meat can become dry, and its rich, buttery flavor can weaken.
And even if you’ve perfectly cooked it, the texture can turn from tender to rubbery, making it less enjoyable to eat.
If you must store lobsters at room temperature for a short period, ensure they’re in a cool and away from direct sunlight.
Placing live lobsters in a box with a damp newspaper or paper towels can help keep them comfortable for a while, but even healthy lobsters might already be on their way out when you get them.
I have to stress about the importance of safety again. The primary concern with lobsters left out is bacterial growth. Shellfish, including lobsters, can harbor harmful bacteria that multiply rapidly at room temperature.
Consuming lobster that’s been left out can lead to food poisoning, with symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Always prioritize proper storage to enjoy their delicious flavor without any health risks.
In The Freezer
The freezer can help extend the shelf life of your lobsters. You can enjoy their delicious taste long after their typical expiration date by freezing them.
Cooked lobsters can retain their quality for up to 3 months when stored in the freezer. Raw lobsters, especially tails or meat, can be stored for 3-6 months, while whole raw lobsters can last up to 12 months.
However, for the best flavor and texture, I recommend using them within the shorter end of these timeframes.
Freezing lobsters offers the benefit of prolonged storage without compromising too much on quality. It allows you to buy lobsters in bulk when on sale and save them for special occasions or future meals. Plus, it provides the flexibility to cook them whenever you’re in the mood for a lobster feast.
When freezing lobsters, make sure that they’re wrapped tightly in freezer plastic or heavy-duty aluminum foil. For an added layer of protection, place them in airtight containers or freezer bags.
If you’re freezing lobster meat or tails, consider immersing them in cold water in a sealed container. This water barrier can protect the meat from freezer burns.
What Affects The Shelf Life Of Lobster?
Lobsters are one of those treats you want to get just right. The state of your lobster can make a world of difference in how long it stays good.
When I pick up live lobsters, I always look for the lively ones. They should be moving, and when you lift them, their tails should snap as they’re trying to swim away.
The meat should feel firm to the touch and look juicy for cooked lobsters. And the smell? It should remind you of the ocean, not something fishy.
If you’re grabbing some frozen ones, make sure the packaging isn’t damaged. No ice crystals or freezer burns, please! Those are telltale signs. They’ve been in there a bit too long.
Sometimes, you might find a lobster that’s on the brink – not fresh but not entirely gone either. If that’s the case, cooking it up right away is best. A good boil or steam can give it a bit more life. But remember, if it smells off or looks questionable, it’s better to play it safe and toss it.
Think about their journey. These critters go from the cold waters, get caught, transported on a boat to a factory, sorted, boxed, shipped to the grocery store, and finally made their way to our kitchens. It’s quite the trip!
And during this journey, they can face a lot of rough handling. Every bump, squeeze, drop, or fight with other lobsters can stress them out and harm their shells.
You should use both hands to pick up your lobster, one to support the body and the other for the tail. This ensures they’re comfortable, reduces stress, and prevents any accidental drops.
Whether you’re transferring them to a pot or plating lobster for dinner, a gentle touch is key.
You want to aim for a cool environment for live lobsters, but not too cold. Think of it as a chilly day by the seaside.
The fridge is usually set between 32°F and 38°F, which is just about right. It’s cold enough to slow down their metabolism but not so cold that it harms them.
Lobsters will start to break down and degrade as soon as they leave their natural habitat.
The cold slows down bacteria and other microorganisms that can spoil the meat. So, keeping lobsters chilled gives them a bit more time before they need to be cooked.
And let’s not forget about humidity. Lobsters love a bit of moisture. After all, they came from the ocean. It keeps them comfortable and prevents them from drying out.
If you’ve ever had dry lobster meat, you know it’s not the best experience. I often use a damp cloth or newspaper when storing live lobsters to keep the humidity in check. If you’re worried about using newspapers, you can use paper towels too.
Lobster Shelf Life FAQs
Can you keep cooked lobster in the shell?
Absolutely! Keeping cooked lobster in its shell helps retain its moisture and flavor. Just make sure that it’s stored in an airtight container or wrapped well to keep it fresh in the fridge.
How long can lobsters stay out of water at home?
Lobsters can survive out of water for about 24 to 48 hours if kept cool and moist. However, it’s best to cook them as soon as possible.
How long is leftover lobster good for?
Leftover cooked lobster can last up to 3-4 days in the fridge. Make sure your lobster is stored in an airtight container. And before using, always check for signs of spoilage.