To determine whether an unlabeled lobster is a hard-shell or a soft-shell, ask your local seafood purveyor to take it out of the case to feel for yourself. A squeeze will give you a sense of how much meat is inside and the toughness of the shell, said Canora.
Sam Talbot, a native of North Carolina and a "Top Chef" alum, offered other visual cues for choosing a choice crustacean: The tail should be strong and naturally curl under the belly when you pick it up. They should also look alert.
"If it's half dead, it will taste half dead," he said.
That is, unless you buy into the argument that a lobster's taste depends upon its price.
"You know, people want to say that lobster is a luxury item -- but look at Red Lobster," said Povich. "That's a fast food place like Applebee's and they sell more lobster than anybody."