Is It Ever Safe To Cook A Dead Lobster?

Lobsters are one of the few foods that people tend to buy live and kill once they're ready to be eaten, live whole lobsters are more common for cooking because they tend to be safer to eat. When a lobster dies it's prone to start growing a multitude of harmful bacteria within a relatively short amount of time, which is why you may have heard you should never cook a dead lobster. But there are some scenarios where you can safely cook and eat a dead lobster, and it mostly depends on when you got them, and how you've been storing them.

Lobster that has been stored properly in a refrigerator will remain safe for up to 24 hours after it dies. The maximum temperature of your fridge to ensure safe eating is 38 degrees Fahrenheit — anything higher and you should not consume that lobster. This 24-hour window is a hard deadline, even with proper temperature control the lobster carcass can quickly develop harmful bacteria. If you are unsure when your lobster passed and there's any chance it's been more than 24 hours, you should toss your lobster. If your lobster was sitting out at room temperature and died, you only have two hours before you have to toss it. Before you begin cooking a dead lobster you need to conduct an eye and smell test to ensure it's still fresh.

How to assess your lobster and properly prepare it

One of the clearest signs your lobster is no longer good is a strong, pungent odor. If you detect an abnormally fishy odor emitting off your shellfish, it's a key sign you should toss it out. Along with your sniff test, give your lobster an attentive once-over to check for any physical signs of decay. If you notice soft spots on the shell or cloudy and sunken eyes, it's another good indicator to toss out the lobster. Finally, you should assess the flesh as well, if the flesh is slimy and bumpy in texture like cottage cheese, this indicates the meat has begun to decay and is no longer safe to eat. If you have any suspicions at all that your lobster may have gone bad, don't risk eating it, simply throw it away.

If your lobster does pass all your assessments and you've determined that it's safe to consume, you'll want to take extra care to ensure you properly prepare your lobster safely. Lobster needs to reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees to be safe to eat. While you may not normally temp your shellfish after cooking, if you're cooking a dead lobster it's highly recommended to take this step to ensure your meat is cooked all the way through. You should make an effort to cook your lobster as soon as possible after discovering it has passed to ensure the safest cooking and eating conditions.