From how to cook lobster – from how to kill live lobsters humanely to how to cook lobster tails and recipes for lobster mornay, lobster thermidor and more – to how to cook crustaceans such as crabs, crayfish, yabbies, and prawns, we’ve compiled everything you need to know for cooking perfect shellfish this Christmas.
Seafood was always central to Christmas meals in Australia for my family. It’s summer in Australia after all. So while my Australian grandmother sweated over oven roasts and my Russian baboushka rolled out dough and boiled big pots of pelmeni and vareniki, which my parents thought made no sense in the scorching heat, when it came to Christmas meals at home with mum, dad and my little sister, we feasted on fresh seafood: lobsters, crabs and prawns bought from the fish market, and oysters that we’d collect from the saltwater lake.
More Australians will be eating seafood this year with lobster sales up 70% and seemingly every Australian online today researching how to cook lobster and specifically how to cook lobster tails for Christmas. While I can’t explain the interest in cooking lobster tails specifically when the sweet claw meat is sublime – and as Gordon Ramsay demonstrates, every bit of lobster has a use (link below) – I can tell you that Australians have the Chinese to thank for affordable lobster this year.
With a glut of Western Australian rock lobsters to sell that the Chinese would normally buy (a whopping 95% of WA rock lobsters were exported to China before recent trade tensions), Australian supermarket chains Woolworths and Coles are selling $20 lobsters. That ‘lobster woolworths’ is ranking high on Google search tells us a lot of Australians are buying the discounted crustaceans, which typically sell for twice that amount, and that there’ll be a lot of Aussies cooking lobster on Christmas Day.
Supermarkets like Woolies and Coles are quickly selling out their lobster stock, however, and due to lobster shopper frenzy have limited sales to four lobsters per customer so that more Australians can enjoy what would normally be a luxury purchase. (Remind you of something?!) So, buy your lobster, but splurge on some other shellfish too, as there are few better things to feast on over Christmas in Australia than Australian seafood. Here’s what to do with it all.
How to Cook Lobster, Crayfish, Crabs, and Other Crustaceans this Christmas
Below we’ve compiled the best tips to how to cook lobster – from how to kill live lobsters humanely and how to cook lobster tails to the best recipes for how to cook lobster mornay, lobster thermidor, lobster risotto, lobster bisque, and more – along with the best advice on how to cook crustaceans such as crabs, crayfish, yabbies, prawns and more, as well as loads of fantastic shellfish recipes, including a couple of our own.
How to Kill Crustaceans Humanely
Back in the day, cooks thought nothing of throwing live lobsters and crabs into big pots of boiling water. Times have changed, fortunately. Scientific research has confirmed that crustaceans feel pain and there’s a wealth of information available such as this RSPCA guide to how to kill crustaceans humanely for human consumption.
If you don’t want to have to contend with this, many seafood markets sell crustaceans already cooked. This Jamie Oliver video shows you how to break down a cooked lobster.
Kitchen Tools for Cooking and Eating Crustaceans
There are some kitchen tools you will need if you’re new to cooking shellfish. Firstly, you’ll need a good sturdy, sharp chef’s knife for killing crustaceans humanely. You will also need very large pots for lobsters, crayfish and crabs. If you don’t have any, this graniteware enamel-on-steel lobster and clam steamer is perfecting for steaming crustaceans, while this enormous stainless steel stock pot with steamer basket is best for boiling, and both make fantastic Christmas gifts. You will also need an instant read thermometer, long strong tongs, seafood scissors, and a set of lobster/crab claw crackers and picks to go round. These lobster claw oven mitts are just really cute. All of these make fab stocking stuffers too.
Preparing and Cooking Lobsters
How to Kill Lobsters Humanely
Gordon Ramsay demonstrates how to kill lobsters humanely and how to use every bit of lobster meat in this brilliant clip from a MasterChef episode. There’s more to it than just ‘how to cut lobster in half?’
How to Cook Lobster
The Sydney Fish Market does a good job of demonstrating how to prepare Australian rock lobsters, but has a soundtrack of dreadful music. There are some great Western Rock Lobster cooking tips from the Geraldton Fishermen’s Co-operative where all that wonderful Western Australian lobster is coming from, and the images of the gorgeous Geraldton coastline make up for their awful music.
How to Cook Lobster Tails
Everyone in Australia appears to be researching how to cook lobster tails today. We recommend keeping things simple so you can enjoy all that sweet plump lobster meat, however, take care so you don’t over-cook it. As you’ll probably be cooking on the barbie at some stage on Christmas Day, it’s hard to go past these grilled lobster tails with garlic butter, which should take you back to Sunday summer barbecues in the Seventies and aptly it’s on the this Australian Women’s Weekly site.
Best Lobster Recipes
When it comes to how to cook lobster, I have to say that my parents recipe was pretty hard to beat. When I was a kid, they had a French restaurant on the central coast just north of Sydney where they’d cook seafood classics such as lobster mornay, lobster thermidor and oysters kilpatrick, which is what everyone appears keen to cook this Christmas, whether it’s because these retro dishes are back in fashion or we are just nostalgic for food from simpler times.
It’s hard to go past the Australian Women’s Weekly’s lobster mornay recipe for an authentic Aussie retro-classic. It must be very similar to the one my parents made in the 1970s. The Good Food site also has a good old-fashioned lobster mornay recipe but bad blurry photos while there’s another similar recipe over on Taste, with a similarly poor-quality picture. Maybe they took them in the Seventies.
US food site Epicurious has a classic lobster thermidor recipe by the 1940s Gourmet magazine chef Louis P. De Gouy and another awful image. What’s with these food sites and their photos? While you’re there, they have 37 more lobster recipes, from lobster bisque to lobster rolls, some with better images.
Preparing and Cooking Crayfish
How to Kill Crayfish Humanely
There are more tips here on how to kill crayfish humanely, along with lots of great advice and a couple of videos on cooking and shelling crayfish.
How to Cook Crayfish
New Zealand chef Peter Gordon has loads of great crayfish cooking advice while the ABC food site has some very handy crayfish cooking times here, along with a recipe for crayfish sandwiches with seared abalone and crisps and crayfish mayonnaise.
Best Crayfish Recipes
SBS Food has a fantastic range of crayfish recipes, from a straightforward crayfish boil and chef Peter Kuruvita’s roast crayfish with truffle cream sauce to barbecued crayfish with kaffir lime butter and redclaw crayfish with Szechuan salt. There’s also an elegant recipe for marron, cured beef and wild sea flora. If you’re not familiar with marron, native to Western Australia, it’s one of the largest crayfish in the world.
Preparing and Cooking Crabs
How to Kill Crabs Humanely
Killing crabs humanely requires different techniques to killing lobster and crayfish. The RSPCA guide I linked to above has the best advice with clear instructions and diagrams.
How to Cook Crabs
Award-winning ‘fish butcher’ and chef Josh Niland of Saint Peter restaurant has loads of great advice on cooking spanner crabs and getting the most out of the sweet crustacean on the Australian Gourmet Traveller site – along with a recipe for crab coral mayonnaise – while the US food magazine Bon Appetit’s site has a terrific guide to cooking different kinds of crabs.
Best Crab Recipes
Check out chef Matt Moran’s video on how to cook blue swimmer crab and black peppercorns, this citrus butter crab recipe made with Northern Territory mud crab by Darwin restaurateur-chef Jimmy Shu of Hanuman, and legendary chef Neil Perry’s spanner crab linguine with crushed coriander seeds.
Here on Grantourismo, Terence’s crab omelette recipe is perfect for a luxuriant Christmas breakfast or brunch, as is this pork and crab congee with XO sauce recipe by Christine Manfield.
Preparing and Cooking Yabbies
This is where I need to say that, yes, yabbies are a type of crayfish, but we think of them a bit differently to crayfish in Australia, perhaps because they’re a heck of a lot easier to catch*. Like Australian food writer Anthony Huckstep, I used to catch yabbies as a kid with nothing but raw meet tied to the end of a piece of string and a net. I don’t think my family ever bought a yabby in our lives, however, Huckstep has a handy guide to buying, cooking and eating yabbies.
How to Kill Yabbies Humanely
Melbourne chef Matthew Wilkinson has tips to killing yabbies humanely as well as an easy recipe for yabbies’ cooked in beer on Good Food.
How to Cook Yabbies
There are some fab tips on how to prepare and cook fresh yabbies on the ABC site and why it’s important to purge them for at least 24 hours in a trap or ‘yabby sock’ to remove the muddy taste.
Best Yabby Recipes
There’s a super simple recipe for yabbies with roasted garlic here on Taste and another easy recipe for yabbies with a tomato-based chilli sauce – and simple and easy is what we want on Christmas Day. This recipe for yabbies with apple, radicchio and lemongrass butter by Perth chef Kiren Mainwaring is a bit fancier and would look stunning on a Christmas lunch table.
There are a couple of Italian-Australian yabby recipes here by another legendary Aussie chef Steve Manfredi, who shares his secret to enjoying “the delicate flavour of the humble yabby” and recipes for maccheroncini with yabbies, sesame butter and parmesan, and yabbies with peperonata.
*See this excellent visual guide by the Western Australian Department of Fisheries if you really want to know what the differences are between freshwater crayfish, marron and yabbies.
Preparing and Cooking Prawns
Prawns are probably even more synonymous with our summery Christmases in Australia than lobsters and perhaps because they’ve been more accessible and more affordable than lobsters – until now. So it makes no sense for me to send you to a British site, however, he Great British Chefs have a good series of guides to how to buy, peel, devein and cook prawns.
How to Kill Prawns Humanely
In Australia prawns are typically bought dead, uncooked or cooked, so you won’t have to worry about how to kill prawns humanely.
How to Cook Prawns
The Great British Chefs site, which I linked to above, also has a series of guides to how to cook prawns, covering boiling, frying, grilling etc. My preference for Christmas day is boiling the prawns and eating them cold.
Best Prawn Recipes
It’s hard to beat this collection of 48 perfect prawn recipes on the Australian Gourmet Traveller site. although these 60 prawn recipes on Delicious come pretty close. Although my favourite way of eating prawns on Christmas Day, of course, is a good old-fashioned prawn cocktail. And there we go getting all nostalgic again.
Pictured: this crustacean being held by a waiter at Siem Reap’s Malis restaurant is called ‘bangkang’ in Khmer, which local chefs call Mekong langoustine or Mekong lobster, which, of course, it isn’t. I’m told it’s Macrobrachium rosenbergii, a giant freshwater river prawn.
We’d love to hear from you if you have any tips on how to cook lobster, crayfish, crabs, prawns, and other crustaceans this Christmas. Feel free to leave them in the comments below.