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Lifestyle

May 21, 2008

The great lobster debate: The claws vs. tail Lobster lovers have strong preferences about the favorite parts of their shellfish

When it comes to lobster, Kathryn Rolston is all about tails. She finds it easier to wrestle from the shell than claw meat, and more substantial.

But for Gene Beaudoin, her lunch companion, it's the claws that make the meal. He says any extra effort to get at them is worth it because the meat is sweeter and more tender than tails.

"Plus, there are two claws," he said as they finished their lobster rolls during a recent visit to The Lobster Shack restaurant in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, which overlooks the cold, lobster-filled waters of Maine's Casco Bay.

"But I like the texture of the tail meat," she countered light-heartedly.

The arrival of warm weather in Maine means tourists won't be far behind, scarfing down the state's signature seafood at the numerous lobster joints that dot the coast. And with that comes the perennial debate over lobster part preferences — claws or tails.

In these parts, it's a question that can stir spirited debate, something akin to asking Southerners which kind of barbecue is best.

The North American lobster, Homarus americanus, is regarded as the king of shellfish. Served whole with a side of melted butter is the traditional way to eat it, but chefs also use lobster meat in numerous recipes, from appetizers and stews to salads and pastas.

Much of the lobster is edible, including meat from parts many diners never try — the body, legs, even the tail flippers. By comparison, the tail and claws offer rich rewards for comparably little effort.

The tail meat generally is chewier and more fibrous than the claw. That's because lobsters flap them forcefully as a means of locomotion, said Brian Beal, a lobster expert and professor at the University of Maine at Machias.

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