If you’ve never ordered live Maine lobster, you might not know what to expect. After all, shipping live seafood means caring for a marine animal once it arrives—even if that care only lasts for a few hours and is primarily about the quality of the meal you get to enjoy. Ordering live lobsters is just part of a larger process. From ordering the food and scheduling your shipment to storing the lobster before cooking, getting Maine lobster shipped to your door is a little more involved than you might expect at first.

Not to worry, we’ve outlined a few of your key responsibilities as a customer to ensure your meal is as fresh and delicious as possible. Get to know these tips for shipping live Maine lobster, and you’ll start feeling like a lobster connoisseur in no time.

Scheduling the Shipment

Scheduling your shipment is among the most important steps for buying lobster online. While these live lobster delivery companies will take care of the packaging and shipping process, you need to do some planning before scheduling the order. In deciding when to have your lobsters delivered, consider the following:

  • How far away from Maine do you live? While most lobster companies guarantee next-day delivery, the distance may inform when during the day your shipment is delivered.
  • When are you planning to cook the lobsters? Ideally, your package should arrive on the day you want to prepare the food.
  • What is your local climate like? If the package arrives when you are not home, it should not be left out in scorching summer heat.

People planning to order Maine lobster shipped live should also be home when the package arrives. The container may have a “live animal” sticker, but a delivery person can very easily overlook the label. To stay alive, the lobsters will need to remain cool and moist—likely the opposite of the environment on your front porch. Whenever possible, make sure you are home to receive the shipment so you can immediately store the package properly. If you can’t be home, leave a note or indicate in your order where the delivery person should place the package. Consider leaving your garage open or creating a shaded area to house the shipment. Some people will also have their neighbor pick up and store their lobster until they get home.

How to Prepare for Your Shipment

Keeping your lobsters alive once they arrive at your door is crucial to a safe, delicious meal. There’s really no point in opting for lobsters shipped live if you can’t keep them that way. The quality of the lobster meat starts to decline pretty much immediately after the lobster dies. To prepare for Maine lobster shipped to your door, you’ll need a plan to store them. The good news is that if you know what to do, keeping these crustaceans moving is pretty simple.

Refrigerate your lobsters immediately after the arrive and keep them cold until you are ready to cook. If you have a thermometer handy, consider tossing it into the cooler to monitor the lobsters’ temperature, which should be at or close to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If the ice and cool packs in the package have melted or lost their chill, store lobsters in a strong paper bag or the lobster pot itself. Throw a wet paper towel in with the lobster, and then put the bag or container in the refrigerator. If you have the space, place this container as close to the cooling vent as possible to maintain a low temperature.

While it may sound silly, you’ll want to check that you have everything you need to store and cook your lobster before they arrive. Clear a space in your refrigerator and make sure you have a pot or bag large enough to store your purchase.

Assessing Your Order

Check on your lobsters as soon as they arrive to make sure they all survived the trip. While the cold shipping container might prevent them from moving around, you should be able to tell if they are alive by smell and touch. Pick up each lobster by the large shell behind its head. If the lobster smells fishy or is warm to the touch, it may be dead. Observe the lobster for a few moments to see if there is any movement; even the slightest tail flex or leg shake is an indication of life. If you think your shipment is suspect, check out our guide to assessing and reporting a dead lobster delivery.

Understanding Lobster Shipping Costs Before You Order

The shipped cost of live Maine lobster can vary wildly, so shop around before making your purchase. Some fisheries will cover shipping if you order a certain number of crustaceans, while others have flat fees and graduated shipping levels. Low shipping costs have nothing to do with the quality of the product or service, but simply indicate that the company has configured their price model to account for this added cost. Regardless, be sure to add the lobster shipping costs with the price per pound to make a true cost comparison among different Maine lobster companies.