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How To Properly Cook Lobster

February 16, 2020

lobster tail

Everything You Need To Know To Cook Lobster At Home

It’s decadent, delicious, and my personal favorite thing to order at a nice restaurant…but that price tag tends to make any lobster lover grimace. While I had tried my hand at it a few times in the past, it never came out as good as the restaurants I went to. I had almost given up, but with my anniversary coming up I knew I had to figure this out so I could cook the perfect, romantic dinner. After all, what better gift is there than lobster?


Through some trial and error and a lot of research, I can confidently say that cooking lobster at home really doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it seems. To help you cook your own perfect dinner (and so you can learn from my mistakes), here’s everything you need to know:

Buying Your Lobster

Warm Water Lobster Versus Cold Water Lobster

The first step to creating that beautiful lobster dinner, is actually going out and buying the lobster. The best lobster tails to buy are going to be from cold waters like Maine or Massachusetts. These lobsters are usually what people think of when they image restaurant-style lobster dinners as they tend to have meat that is whiter and firmer than warm water lobsters. It will also taste cleaner and sweeter than the lobsters caught in the warm waters of Florida or Caribbean.

Is there any advantage to buying warm water lobster over cold water? When it comes to how to cook Maine lobster tails versus warm water tails, the methods you use will be the same, so there’s really no advantage to buying warm water lobsters. It’s more important to focus on the taste and texture of the meat, making cold water lobster the better choice every time.

What does lobster taste like when cooked properly? This will depend on the type of lobster you make. However, cold water lobster should be firmer in texture and a little sweeter than crab. It also shouldn’t have any fishiness otherwise there may be something wrong with the meat or it may not have been cooked very well. As long as you follow these steps teaching you how to cook lobster tail correctly and closely follow a high-quality recipe, you should be fine.

How Many Legs Does A Lobster Have And What To Look For

If you’re like me and end up with an unhelpful clerk at the fish counter who can’t tell you where all the different lobster tails for sale were caught, you will be relieved to learn that you can tell by the shell. Lobster shells with black spots are most likely coming from warm waters, which is what you want to avoid. Warm water lobster should also be missing claws as the claw meat is not edible, and they will have spiny antennae.


Why Is Lobster So Expensive?

I’m positive this is a thought that goes through the head of everybody who loves to eat lobster. The answer is, lobster farming is extremely difficult: they grow very slowly, are difficult to raise, and can get sick easily. This makes wild caught lobster the best option, but it also means supply-and-demand can get tricky for consumers. However, lobster can be a more affordable dinner option when you make it at home as you don’t have to pay the restaurant markups.

The Best Time To Buy Lobster

Cold water lobsters are usually caught all year, but the best lobster seasons will depend on where you are. In areas such as Maine, most of the lobster fishing is done between June and December, as this is when the lobsters move closer to shore in large numbers.

Cooking Option 1: Live Lobsters

Storing Your Lobster

Now that you’ve found the best place to buy lobster, it’s time to figure out the best way to cook lobster. If you plan on cooking an entire lobster, you want to make sure that the lobster you’re bringing home is alive. Lobsters can easily grow harmful bacteria that won’t necessarily get killed off during the cooking process if they are left out too long after death.

To help prevent your lobster from dying before you are ready to cook it, make sure you are storing it properly. They need to be kept cold and dry, with plenty of air. Fish mongers who sell live lobsters should give you some kind of box with air holes to transport them in, so it’s usually best to just store them in that until you’re ready for the next step.

How To Dispatch Your Lobster

The first thing you should know is how to humanely dispatch your lobster when it comes time to cook. This was the most difficult part for me when I began cooking lobster at home (and I know I’m not alone) and was one of the main reasons why I didn’t cook my own lobster for a long time. Boiling them alive is widely understood now to be an unnecessarily cruel cooking method, with many chefs preferring to use a knife to dispatch the lobster instead.

Here’s how:

Take a large chef’s knife and place the tip on the lobster’s carapace. You can find this behind the lobster’s eyes, directly below where the claws and body meet, about halfway to the first joint. (Don’t hesitate! That will just make this next part worse as you are more likely to miss your target.) Quickly and firmly insert the knife into the head, then immediately add the lobster into the boiling water. The legs may still twitch slightly, but the lobster is definitely dead.

The Cooking Process

When you are ready to begin the cooking process, boiling tends to be what the best lobster recipes recommend. Make sure you know your lobster cooking times before you begin! (5-7 minutes for a 1lb lobster, 10-12 for a 2lb lobster, 12-14 for a 3lb lobster)

  • Begin by filling a large stock pot about halfway with water and adding 2 tablespoons of salt per quart of water. You want to make sure the pot is big enough to hold the lobster and the water without overflowing, with enough water to cover the lobster.
  • Wait until the water is boiling to begin this next step. Dispatch the lobster by quickly inserting a knife straight down into the carapace, then immediately place the lobster into the boiling water headfirst.
  • Cover the pot and bring the water back to a boil, then begin your cooking timer.
  • When the lobster is finished cooking, carefully remove from the water and set them aside for around five minutes to cool down.

Cooking Option 2: Lobster Tail

If the first cooking option isn’t for you, don’t worry, you can always buy lobster tails instead. It’s a little easier as storage is not as difficult, and you don’t have to handle the dispatching of your lobster. All you need to know is how to defrost lobster tail. (I usually just put them in the refrigerator overnight. Super easy!)

So, now that they’re defrosted and ready to go, how do you cook lobster tails at home? Well, there is almost no wrong answer. While boiling may be the easiest way to cook lobster tail, it can also feel a little simple. Tails are easier to cook than live lobsters, so take advantage of all the room for creative freedom! You can cook lobster tail on a grill (my personal favorite) or if you’re feeling fancy, you can serve stuffed lobster tail. You can even poach lobster tail to give it that delicate, luxurious texture.

No matter your opinion on what is the best way to cook lobster tail, just make sure you know the best place to buy lobster tails so you can be sure you’re getting the best quality product. You also want to make sure that you know your lobster tail cooking times before you get started with any cooking method, otherwise you run the risk of overcooking.

Here are my favorite, easy lobster tail recipes:


  • I always begin by parboiling each tail. (Bring a pot to boil, add lobster tails, and let simmer for 2 minutes)
  • I then insert a skewer to the boiled tails, so they don’t curl in on themselves. This makes them easier to cook, but I also think they look nicer when they lay flat.
  • Next step is to set the skewered tails onto a hot grill with the soft side down and let cook for 2-3 minutes for each 4 oz. tail.
  • For seasoning, my favorite method is to brush a lemon juice, butter, and diced garlic mixture over the tail as it grills. It adds great flavor and will help keep the meat moist. If you’re worried about the calories in lobster tail, just make sure your mixture’s ratio includes more lemon juice than butter.


  • In this recipe for lobster tail, you will again want to start by parboiling your tails. Then crack the shell so you can pull the meat. I like to leave the end of the tail attached to the shell to give it a nice pop.
  • Create another lemon juice and butter mixture, adding whatever seasoning strikes your fancy that day. The seasoning I add usually changes day to day, but of course, you can never go wrong with a little garlic, right?)
  • I move the oven rack so that the lobster will sit around 5” from the top coils, and let it broil for about 4 minutes.
  • After the 4 minutes passes make sure to pull the lobster out and gently brush on your butter mixture again before broiling it for another 3 minutes. Keep in mind that your lobster tail cook time could depend on your oven, so keep an eye on it.

What To Serve With Lobster Tails

Presentation is everything, especially with lobster. If you don’t know how to open lobster tail, then you can end up accidentally butchering the delicate meat in the process. The best way I’ve found is to hold the tail in my left hand with strong kitchen scissors in my right hand, then cut through the top of the shell stopping just before I reach the bottom. You can then spread the two halves apart and lift the meat.

When it comes to what to cook with lobster, your options are again pretty endless. If you prefer something a little fancier, why not try risotto or bruschetta? A beautiful lobster tail with a delicate side can be the perfect date night dinner.

Or, if you’re doing an old-fashioned seafood cookout, corn on the cob and steamed clams are always perfect sides. You can even serve everything straight out of the cook pot, as long as your guests know how to cut a lobster tail or how to eat a whole lobster on their own.


Lobster Tail Calories Information

Is lobster good for you? If you’re worried about all those calories in a lobster tail, don’t be! When you look up some of the lobster tail nutrition facts, it’s really not as bad as you’d think depending on how you serve it.

There are only about 170 calories per tail, which makes lobster a fairly healthy meat choice overall. Naturally, the number of calories in lobster tail with butter is going to be a little more decadent because of that butter. One tablespoon of butter is going to be around 102 calories, but don’t be afraid to treat yourself every once in a while! In my opinion, lobster with butter is absolutely worth the splurge every now and then.

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