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Lobster Stock: The Secret Ingredient to Lobster Soups and Stews

Broths and Stocks

Lobster stock is such a beautiful thing. Also called lobster broth, it’s light and slightly sweet with hints of anise, thyme, white wine, and the sea. It’s the secret ingredient that makes lobster bisque so fantastic. You could say the same for other lobster soups and stews like this luscious lobster chowder (pictured below) or this Maine lobster stew.

You can also substitute lobster stock in dishes that use fish broth or clam broth, such as a bouillabaisse or cioppino. And you can boost the flavor of seafood sauces like lobster ravioli sauce or dishes like lobster risotto.

lobster stock

In fact, there are countless types of seafood soup recipes from around the world where lobster stock could be used. But of course, let’s face it, those juicy crustaceans are expensive, and making lobster stock probably won’t be a regular part of your kitchen routine.

And that’s even more reason to SAVE THOSE SHELLS! The shells are what we need to make homemade lobster stock. There are a lot of juices, cartilage, and tiny bits of meat in the shells, that contribute lots of lobstery flavors when simmered in water. Sometimes, you might even find lobster shells for free.

3 Tips to Save Lobster Shells

1. If you or someone you’re with orders lobster in a restaurant, ask the server to package up the leftover lobster shells and bring them home.  

2. If a local cafe or seafood shack makes fresh lobster rolls or any sort of dishes with fresh lobster meat, ask if they have extra shells.

3. Sometimes your fishmonger might make special preparations with lobster meat like lobster salad. Ask for extra shells.

Get as much value out of those babies as possible!

4 More Lobster Stock Tips

1. Steam whole lobsters instead of boiling them

It’s certainly easiest to use lobster shells from a previous lobster meal. But if you’re making a soup from scratch with whole uncooked lobsters, you’ll need to boil or steam them first and remove the meat from the shells.

Steaming is much better for our purposes because the lobsters will leach some of their juices as they cook. The steaming water will better concentrate those juices than a big pot of boiling water. You can then reserve the steaming water and add it to your stock water. 

Check out this short video for how to steam lobster.

2. Include the tomalley, if possible

Don’t be intimidated by the tomalley, the green pasty substance inside the body of cooked lobsters. It doesn’t look particularly appetizing but truth be told, the tomalley is actually considered a delicacy. It’s not essential to include it but it will add some nice subtle flavors. I promise your lobster stock won’t turn green!

3. Use fresh tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes or tomato paste

Fresh tomatoes will add some nice color and subtle sweetness to your lobster stock but they’re not totally necessary. Just be sure to NOT use canned tomatoes or tomato paste. Countless lobster stock recipes use them but I find they’re way too rich and sweet and can often obscure the lobster flavor.  

4. Simmer assertively

The shells of lobsters can handle a little more heat than fish stock. You don’t want to aggressively boil it but you want a slightly more assertive simmer than a fish stock. This will also evaporate some of the liquid and concentrate the flavors. Similar to fish stock, cover the carcasses completely. If after an hour of simmering, it’s not flavorful enough, keep simmering it down. You can reduce it by up to half if needed. If you find the water has reduced too much, simply add more.

Lobster Stock vs Lobster Broth

For the most part, the words “lobster stock” and “lobster broth” are used interchangeably but there are two slightly different methods to make them.

The easiest method, which is the method used in this post, is to simply simmer the shells in water for an hour with veggies and herbs. It results in a light, but still delicious-tasting stock.

In my cookbook, New England Soups from the Sea, I call this a Basic Lobster Stock but it could also be called a Lobster Broth, as it mimics how a chicken broth is made, via a short simmer time. For this easy lobster stock recipe, I include a chopped fennel bulb which adds a hint of anise that I think pairs perfectly with the flavor of lobster.

The second method is to roast the shells and/or saute the shells and vegetables in olive oil first and then add the water and simmer. This method often has a longer simmer time of two to three hours and results in a richer-tasting stock that I like to call a Robust Lobster Stock.

Both methods are included in my new cookbook, New England Soups from the Sea!

seafood cookbook imagery

Available Now!

From Rhode Island to Maine—Get 80 locally inspired recipes that honor the traditions of America’s northeast.

When to Use a Lobster Stock vs Lobster Broth

Although the differences in taste are subtle you might use lobster broth in dishes that have many other flavors such as lobster chowder or a seafood stew like bouillabaisse. And you might use a lobster stock recipe in dishes where a stronger lobster flavor predominates such as lobster bisque or lobster risotto.

More Stock and Broth Recipes to Try

How to Make Lobster Stock

1. Get some lobsters

Yup, you’re going to need lobsters to make lobster stock. I know, mind-blowing stuff here.

lobsters for lobster stock and lobster broth

The shells from a typical pound and a quarter lobster will yield about a quart to a quart and a half of broth. I bought the three lobsters pictured above from a local seafood market which yielded about 3 and a half quarts of lobster stock when all was said and done.

2. Remove the head sac

You’ll want to split the body with a knife and remove the lobster head sac (also called the “grain sac”) which sits just behind the eyes. The head sac is actually the stomach of the lobster and contains some gritty parts like bones and pieces of shells.

removing the head sac

To further clarify and possibly gross you out, here’s what the head sac looks like…

close up of the head sac

3. Remove the meat from the tail and claws

Now comes the fun part – removing the meat from the tail and claws. Just kidding. It kinda sucks. Hopefully, you’ve achieved some satisfaction in this process via a big lobster feast with family and friends. In my case, I was making lobster chowder for friends so I had to trudge through the somewhat time-consuming and messy process of cracking open the shells, removing the meat, and resisting the temptation to shove those juicy, tender chunks in my face.

I got about three to four cups of lobster meat (minus a few tasty morsels) which I reserved for the lobster chowder.

preparing the lobster stock

4. Simmer the lobster carcasses

Next, place the lobster carcasses in an 8 to 12-quart stockpot and cover them entirely with filtered water. I had to add about 5 quarts of water to the three carcasses to fully cover them.

Bring the water to a simmer and skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Once skimmed, add your vegetables and herbs and simmer assertively (somewhere between a boil and a light simmer) for about an hour, uncovered, until the lobster broth reduces by about one-quarter to one-third, as seen here…

lobster stock reduced

Step 5. Taste and lightly salt

It should have a pronounced lobster flavor with hints of the herbs and veggies. If it’s too watered down, continue simmering for at least fifteen minutes, or until it has a rounded and balanced flavor.

Step 6. Strain and store

Strain with a fine mesh strainer. Chill and transfer to storage containers in the fridge. Freeze whatever you won’t use within 3 days.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you buy lobster stock?

Not really. There are some lobster base products that you might find in some stores but they’re full of chemicals and flavorings. I don’t recommend these. You might also find Bar Harbor Maine Lobster Juice. It’s a lighter more mild version of lobster stock. It’s not strong enough on its own to use as a base for a soup or stew. Rather, it’s best used to enhance the flavor of dishes like lobster risotto, shrimp scampi, lobster ravioli, or a seafood sauce.

What’s a good substitute for lobster stock?

Any seafood stock or broth is a good substitute. Fish broth, clam juice, or shrimp stock, would all be suitable. Store-bought products vary in quality and flavor. Check out my review of the most common store-bought seafood broths and stocks.

How long does lobster stock last in the fridge?

It’s always best to use it as soon as possible but it should stay fresh in your fridge for 3 to 4 days.

Can lobster stock be frozen?

Yes, absolutely! Make sure to use it within 3 to 4 months. You can even put the stock in ice cube trays. This is a great tip for adding a little lobster stock to enhance a recipe, such as a risotto or vegetable dish.

Lobster Stock Recipe

How to Make a Lobster Broth

Lobster Stock Recipe

This basic lobster stock recipe can be used as a base for any seafood-based soup but is especially suited for soups like lobster bisque or lobster chowder.
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
CourseBroth, Main Course
CuisineAmerican, French
Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time2 hours
Servings3 quarts
Calories158kcal
AuthorCraig Fear
Cost$30

Ingredients

  • 3 cooked carcasses lobster meat and head sac removed
  • 5 quarts water
  • 1.5 cups white wine dry
  • 2 cups tomatoes fresh, chopped
  • 2 large onions diced
  • 1 fennel bulb diced
  • 4 carrots diced
  • 6 cloves garlic crushed
  • 6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • Sea salt to taste

Instructions

  • Put the carcasses (including head, body, legs, tails and tomalley) in an 8 – 12 quart stock pot and cover with water.
  • Bring to a boil and skim scum that forms on the surface.
  • Add everything else (except the salt), turn down the heat and simmer assertively (meaning more than a gentle simmer but less than a full boil) for about one hour. Keep the cover off and let the water evaporate and the broth cook down by a few quarts.
  • Taste and lightly salt the broth. It should have a pronounced lobster flavor with a delicate hint of the herbs and veggies. If it’s still too watered down continue simmering for another 15-20 minutes.
  • Strain with a fine mesh strainer. Chill and transfer to storage containers in the fridge. Freeze whatever you won’t use within 3 days.

Nutrition

Serving: 1quart | Calories: 158kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 200mg | Potassium: 1089mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 14639IU | Vitamin C: 41mg | Calcium: 186mg | Iron: 3mg
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Lobster Stock: The Secret Ingredient to Lobster Soups and Stews
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About the Author

Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.

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