Look for "soft" or new shells: Lobsters molt—or shed their old shell and grow a larger new one—dozens of times during their lives, up to 25 times in the first five to seven years alone (which is about how long it takes for them to reach 1 pound). After that, most will molt around early summer each year. The meat is at its moistest and most delicious just after, from July through October, when it's had a few months in a softer shell and soaked up more briny juices from the ocean. Most lobsters you buy from Maine during this time of year will have new shells, says Cyrus Sleeper, a lobsterman in Sprucehead, Maine. But, to make sure, look for bright orange underneath the raw claws, a shell that deforms somewhat easily when poked or squeezed, and a shell that contains few dark scratches, a sign they've been dragging it across the ocean floor for a while.
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