Select Maine lobsters that are alive and small, and purchase them directly from a fisherman or a small-scale fishmonger. Lobster is best when purchased alive and killed immediately before cooking. When lobsters die, enzymes in the upper digestive tract begin to digest their own bodies, which results in mushy meat in the upper area of the tail.
Smaller lobsters are ideal because they are cheaper and easier to handle, and they typically cook more evenly than larger lobsters. Eating smaller lobsters also contributes a lesser impact on the overall health of wild lobster populations. Some also believe larger lobsters have tougher and less flavorful meat. Because lobsters eat each others' antennae, select lobsters with large, in-tact antennae; smaller antennae on a lobster probably indicates that the lobster has been confined to the tank for a long time.
Cold-water American Maine lobsters are mostly sold live and are known for their sweet, firm flesh. The vast majority of lobsters consumed in the United States come from Maine. Soft shell lobsters tend to have sweeter meat and are much easier to shuck, though hard shell lobster yields approximately 30 percent more meat than soft shell lobsters. Hard shell lobsters stay fresher longer and are better for transport.