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How to Tell the Difference Between Crayfish and Lobster

By Max. D Gray. Updated: January 21, 2017
How to Tell the Difference Between Crayfish and Lobster

Can you not distinguish between crayfish and lobster? Do you confuse these very different shellfish? Whether you don't know what to buy or you have been served this dish and are not quite sure what you're going to eat, don't worry, they are very commonly confused at naked eye and many people don't know the traits that differentiate both crustaceans. So this OneHowTo gives you a hand in explaining how to tell the difference between crayfish and lobster.

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Crayfish

The common spiny lobster or European spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas) is a decapod crustacean with ten legs and a sharp and spiny shell, belonging to the family Palinuridae. It is a nocturnal animal, usually around 40cm (15.75 in) in length, but can reach 60cm (23.5 oz). The body of a crayfish is characterized by a reddish or brownish color and is divided into the cephalothorax and abdomen, with two long antennae. Crayfish may also be known as crawfish.

How to Tell the Difference Between Crayfish and Lobster - Crayfish
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Clawed lobster

The common lobster or European lobster(Homarus gammarus) is also a decapod crustacean, but belongs to the family Nephropidae. Despite also having five pairs of legs, the first pair takes the form of two large pincers or claws with sharp edges. They are characterised by a dark color, bluish-black with spots, although it should be noted that the so-called 'American lobster' (Homarus americanus) is a close relation to the lobster and, therefore, is more similar to this shellfish but is reddish in color.

How to Tell the Difference Between Crayfish and Lobster - Clawed lobster
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Differences between a crayfish and a lobster

Now you know the characteristics of both crustaceans, it's important to know how to tell the difference between the two so, when in doubt, look out for the following:

  • A lobster has two large pincers or claws whilst a crayfish doesn't.
  • A crayfish is reddish in color whilst a lobster is bluish, greenish or brownish.
  • When it comes to flavor, crayfish is more subtle while lobster is usually more intense.
  • When a lobster is cooked, it loses all its color pigmentation apart from the color red, and for this reason, it changes color during cooking.
  • If you can put them together and compare them in size, you'll notice that lobsters (in general) are longer than crayfish.
  • Do not be fooled with lobsters with no claws, though they may be referred to as crayfish, this is a common misuse of the term.

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How to Tell the Difference Between Crayfish and Lobster
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How to Tell the Difference Between Crayfish and Lobster

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