Here's how to tell if a lobster is actually fresh

Lobster with butter sauce, lobster rolls, and lobster mac-n-cheese. There's really no bad way to eat a lobster. There is a way to ruin a lobster meal, though: use lobster that's not fresh. Whether you're purchasing and preparing the lobster yourself, or ordering a lobster meal at a restaurant, watch for these telltale signs of an unfresh crustacean.

According to The Spruce Eats, if you're buying a live lobster, all of its appendages, including the tail, need to be actively kicking and moving. For maximum freshness, any live lobster brought home should be cooked the same day. Letting it sit in the fridge, or freezing it, will start the decomposition process. In fact, to ensure freshness, The Spruce Eats advises against ever purchasing any uncooked, frozen lobster other than lobster tail. Too squeamish to cook a live lobster? Let's discuss how to identify a fresh lobster in a restaurant.

How to order fresh lobster at your favorite restaurant

OK, you're at your favorite seafood restaurant, bib on, and ready to order the biggest lobster they've got. If the restaurant has a pick-your-own-lobster tank, you're golden – this is the best way to ensure you're getting a fresh lobster. However, if you're ordering off the menu, watch for signs that you may be served unfresh, or, worse, fake lobster.

Don't be afraid to perform a quick smell test when your lobster arrives at the table. No seafood, including lobster, should smell "fishy," sour, or like ammonia (via Jamaica Observer). If you order something other than a whole lobster or lobster tail, make sure it's actually lobster. Imitation lobster meat is sometimes used in dishes such as lobster bisque, lobster salad, and pasta dishes that use the word "lobster." If you aren't a stickler for authenticity, and really just care about the "flavor" of lobster, no worries. However, if you ordered and expect to receive lobster, ask your server what's in the dish. If it's not lobster, it will more than likely be langostino, sometimes called a squat lobster, which tastes like lobster but costs less (via Pook's Pantry).