So long as you’re buying from a reputable company and there wasn’t an unexpected travel delay, a lobster is almost always alive when it reaches your door step. In fact, before asking what to do with a dead lobster, you should be sure it’s actually dead. Many lobsters show minimal movement when first delivered because the cold water has put them in a dormant state. Otherwise, it’s most often dead when you open the package because it’s been sitting outside in the elements for too long. Very rarely, a misstep in handling and shipping can crack a lobster shell, but in most cases, the lobster was alive when it first reached your doorstep.

Document and Report the Situation as Soon as Possible

First and foremost, take a quick picture of the lobster and the package it came in. And note the time. Then, in most cases, you’ll want to cook the lobster as quickly as possible. Likewise, try to contact the company as soon as reasonably possible. Some companies may refund the lobster no questions asked. Some companies may say there’s nothing they can do. But it’s also true that, at the end of the day, you’ll get a better result if you have evidence of the exact situation.

Live Lobster Guarantees

Many of the best lobster companies make some type of guarantee that their lobsters will be alive when you receive them. Pretty much all of them have caveats, and for good reason. There are some things that the lobster company simply can’t control.

  • When you talk to these lobster companies, they’ll tell you that the most common reason for a failed lobster delivery is that the customer made a typo when entering their address. Take that extra moment to read over the order confirmation and triple-check that you didn’t make a typo at the very last moment before finalizing the purchase.
  • Likewise, when giving someone the gift of live lobster, trust that the delicious taste of fresh Maine lobster doesn’t need the element of surprise. Double check that you have the correct address for the recipient and make sure that they know to expect a lobster delivery on that day.
  • If it’s New England weather that’s keeping planes on the ground, the delays can be anticipated and you can choose between receiving your lobster a day or two late or canceling the order altogether. In rare cases, a lobster shipment may be grounded in transit, and it’s up to the travel insurance to guarantee a refund on your order.

Should You Cook and Eat Dead Lobster?

Most of the time, the answer is yes. If cooked within a day or so—again depending on the temperatures and conditions in which the dead lobster is stored—the lobster should be safe to eat even if it doesn’t quite have the same impeccable texture and flavor. When a lobster dies, the digestive system begins to consume the rest of the lobster, and the quality of the meat begins to suffer almost immediately.

That said, how much and how quickly the quality of the lobster suffers depends on the temperature. Since lobster companies chill their package to the point of putting the lobster into a dormant state, recently dead lobster will typically last several hours to a day before it truly goes bad. When lobster is truly spoiled, it often takes on the consistency of cottage cheese when cooked. Another tell-tale sign is to look at the lobster tail. When the lobster is good, the tail will curl under its body.

When NOT to Cook and Eat a Dead Lobster

Just to say it one more time, these cases are extremely rare, but there are a few situations in which we wouldn’t cook and eat a dead lobster:

  • You don’t pickup the lobster delivery until the following day. Maybe the delivery person puts the package in a corner of the porch and you don’t notice until the following evening. It’s a shame, but the lobster may have been dead for 24 hours or more. Even if it doesn’t make you sick, more than likely, it’s not going to taste very good.
  • The lobster arrives more than 24 hours late. Maybe the package was delayed in transit because of a major weather event, but the shipping company still delivers the package not knowing if you still want it.
  • The lobster is dead and there is signs of a compromised package. Maybe it’s a cracked shell and signs of brunt force damage. Maybe the package arrived warm and without the proper gel packs and insulating materials.
  • The dead lobster also looks sickly or discolored. This probably means you ordered from a company that’s not listed with Quality Seafood Delivery. This could be a diseased, pounded lobster.