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Do Lobsters Scream When Boiled?

Do Lobsters Really Scream When You Boil Them?

We're at the height of shore food season, and with an overabundance of lobster this year, it's been near-impossible not to spot the red crustacean just everywhere, from atop guacamole to sandwiched between a million different lobster rolls. It all makes me want to go out and get my own lobster to steam with drawn butter.

Yet, as someone who's new to the world of cooking live lobster, two things still haunt me: the memorable kitchen scene from Annie Hall, and the lore that lobsters scream in agony when you boil them. I can't do anything about the former, but I sought out sources to either corroborate (or negate) the latter. Keep reading to find out if lobsters really scream when boiled.

Lobsters, it turns out, don't have vocal cords, so it's technically impossible for them to scream, argue Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, authors of Lobsters Scream When You Boil Them: And 100 Other Myths About Food and Cooking. That whistle you occasionally hear? It's more likely to be the sound of steam escaping from a lobster's shell as it cooks.

It's impossible to ever know whether or not a lobster can feel pain, but according to neurophysiologists, lobsters have a basic nervous system that's far too simple to process pain. For the smoothest process possible, seafood industry folk recommend putting them in a pot of salted ice water to anesthetize the lobsters before cooking them. Have you ever cooked live lobster?

Image Source: Thinkstock
Join The Conversation
bsanf3 bsanf3 6 years
My question, "Do plants feel pain"
Sunnyvale420 Sunnyvale420 6 years
I find all of you people who don't eat meat for so called "ethical" reasons hilarious. Guess what! That carrot you're munching on was alive before it was plucked from the earth. So because it never had a face, that's acceptable? Oh, the hypocrisy. There is a thing called a food chain for a reason. Humans are part of this food chain. The funniest part? Most plant based humans I've met look miserable. Judge away. We'll silently laugh at you while you sulk over you're tasteless veggie burger.
katialoves katialoves 6 years
great point, lionlion. this is why i dont eat mammals~
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 6 years
^^ha ha to the above comment. No really? animals make noises?..delicious delicious noises....:)
lionlion lionlion 6 years
I'm kind of surprised that this "do lobsters scream?" question is considered so seriously by people who eat meat. You all realize that the more complex animals that you eat more regularly--pigs, cows--suffer hugely? And certainly do scream. Unless you're in a slaughter house, you just don't hear it. If you want to learn more, you can check out
Susannah-Chen Susannah-Chen 6 years
Onlysourcherry, you can also plunge the tip of a sharp knife straight down right behind the lobster's eyes. It's quicker, so many people believe it's the most humane way to kill a lobster.
ameerah26 ameerah26 6 years
This is good to know- I've never cooked lobster myself and have been reticent too due too the idea of having to ACTUALLY boil them. The tip about sitting them in ice before hand is great.
onlysourcherry onlysourcherry 6 years
I've always said that if i ever went back to eating meat, the only things i would eat would be lobster and sushi. I wonder if you can lop off the head or something though, since death by boiling is awfully.... awful.
amaebi519 amaebi519 6 years
We cooked live lobster this summer and I didn't hear a peep. Had the tails for dinner one night and used the rest for a wicked lobster mac n' cheese recipe the same weekend. (We used Adam Gertler's recipe from - Brilliant!
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