One of the premier delicacies of the sea, lobster is delicious on its own, or as an ingredient in other dishes.
Most of us know about boiling lobster, but there are a variety of cooking methods available, all of which add their own particular elements to the rich tastes and textures of this delectable meat.
Regardless of your cooking method of choice, cooking with lobster guarantees that your efforts will return a gourmet meal.
As long as you adhere to the cooking temperatures and times outlined in the recipe you’re following, the meat should turn out succulent, juicy and full of flavor.
And, for those that may be a bit squeamish about sacrificing one of nature’s innocent critters to satisfy bodily appetites, frozen tails will work well in any dish! Just remember to thaw them slowly in the refrigerator (see more below).
We’ll also cover how to humanely dispatch these cute crustaceans before cooking, for those who prefer using the freshest of ingredients.
How to Buy Fresh or Frozen Lobster
At your local fish market or grocery store, you can buy whole lobsters or tails, fresh or frozen.
Don’t live near the coast where these a readily available?
Try shopping online. While most lobster that are available on the web are shipped frozen, there is one outfit that ships whole live lobsters straight from catch of the day in Maine.
This awesome company is Lobsters Anywhere, and they have been in business since 1999, supporting their local fishermen.
Besides offering live specimens from baby sized to giant 5 and 6 pounders, Lobsters Anywhere also delivers various sizes of frozen tails from 7-8 oz all the way up to mammoth 20 oz plate-filling goliaths.
Want to know the best part?
These are hard-shelled cold water species, meaning the meat will be succulent and sweet. This is unlike some of the budget tails that are sold in the big box stores, which are often second tier soft-shelled lobsters found in tropical waters.
The tails from the soft-shelled varieties don’t have the same taste, aren’t as large, and often shrink down during the cooking process.
Anyhow, if you want a high quality, fresh product, then check out Lobsters Anywhere now!
Thawing Frozen Tails
If you choose to opt for frozen tails, the key to retaining the meat’s integrity and tenderness is in proper thawing. It’s crucial that the meat remain as cold as possible before cooking, so the tails should be thawed in a sealed bag in the fridge for a least 6 hours.
Or, better yet, put them in the fridge the day before you plan to cook them to ensure that they thaw slowly… and so you won’t be tempted to speed up the process by putting them on a kitchen counter or in warm water.
As I mentioned before, this wonderful shellfish can be cooked using a wide range of methods. Here’s a brief description of some of the more common ones, followed by four techniques for preparing delicious, sumptuous and succulent meat.
For serving amounts, a general rule of thumb is that one 6-8 ounce tail will serve one person.
Boiling: When you want to present a whole lobster for dinner, boiling and steaming are the two best choices. Boiling will cook the meat a bit quicker, it is easier to time accurately, and the meat will slip out of the shell more easily than with steaming.
For recipes that require cooked and cleaned meat, boiling is the quickest and most effective approach. You’ll need a large pan for this – there a few purposely designed pots that allow for both steaming and boiling of lobsters, as well as other crustaceans and shellfish.
Broiling and Baking: This method gets top marks for presentation and appearance. All but a little bit of the meat at the tip of the tail is cut out and sits on top of the shell, piggyback-style. Lifting the meat out of the tail also makes for quicker baking times.
Grilling: Grilling is a fast and easy cooking method to present a delectable dish, even better when accompanied with your own herb infused butter.
Par Boiling: In recipes calling for raw or partially cooked meat, par boiling the tail makes it easier to remove from the shell. In rapidly boiling water, cook claws for 5 minutes and tails for 2 minutes, then plunge into an ice bath immediately to stop the cooking process. Remove meat from the shell and continue as per the recipe.
Pan Searing: Lobster can be pan-fried and seared, either in or out of its shell. If a recipe calls for meat only, remove the meat from the shell entirely before searing. If you’ll be serving it in the half shell, searing the meat with the shell on will add flavor as the shell browns while cooking.
Poached in Butter: Well, pretty much anything poached in butter is going to taste good, but with lobster the flavor is divine. Use par-boiled meat to butter poach.
Steaming: Steaming offers a reliable way to prepare this delicate meat without overcooking. To effectively steam these large crustaceans, you’ll need a large and sturdy stockpot or lobster pot, with a steamer insert and a tight fitting lid.
How to Humanely Kill a Lobster
And to ease your conscience a bit, research indicates that these sea creatures have no central nervous system or cerebral cortex with which to register stimuli, such as pain; but it’s still easier to deal with them if they’re not trying to escape.
For boiling, plunging them head first into rapidly boiling water will kill a lobster almost instantaneously. However, the tail may instinctively thrash, which means the meat will be tougher than if it was dispatched first.
To do this you can put the lobster in the freezer for an hour or two to desensitize it. Or, you can plunge the tip of a knife straight down, right behind its eyes, to quickly do it in.
Now let’s review four of our favorite cooking methods for making fantastic lobster: boiling, steaming, grilling, and poaching in butter.
How to Boil a Lobster
If you want juicy meat, boiling is the way to go.
1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. 16-20 quarts will accommodate approximately 6-8 pounds of lobster; with a rule of thumb being 3 quarts water per 1 ½-2 pounds of weight.
2. Add 1 tablespoon salt per quart of water used.
3. Grab the lobster at the rear of the carapace with tongs, and submerge head first into the boiling water. If cooking more than one, try get them all in the water as quickly as possible without breaking the boil, so they’re all ready at the same time.
4. Keep the water boiling and do not cover.
- Cook 8 minutes for 1 pound.
- Add two additional minutes cooking time for each extra ½ pound of weight, up to 3 pounds.
- After 3 pounds, allow an extra 2 ½ additional minutes cooking time per half pound.
5. Here’s how to test for doneness:
- Color. A cooked lobster will be bright red, and an uncooked one will be a charcoal color – but color alone isn’t completely reliable…
- Tug an antenna. If cooked, it will pull off easily.
- Check the meat. Crack open where the tail and carapace meet. If cooked, the meat will be white and opaque; uncooked will be translucent.
6. Once cooked, cool in an ice bath in the sink for about 10 minutes.
- Twist the claws away at their base, and twist the claw at the knuckle.
- With a good set of kitchen shears, cut down the length of the knuckle and remove the meat with a pick, or use your fingers – this is the tastiest meat of the lobster.
- Twist the tail away from the torso. Lay the tail flat on a cutting board, and put the tip of a knife into the tip of tail. Slice all the way through the length of the tail, cutting it into two halves. Remove the meat.
- With your shears, tap all the way around the claw (not the pincers), gently breaking the shell in half. Pull the meat out from the top and bottom pincers. Keep the torso to make a stock or bisque, as it contains lots of flavor and can be frozen for later use.
How to Steam a Lobster
Steaming is the time-honored traditional way of preparing this spectacular crustacean, and it’s fairly simple to do.
1. Add two inches of salted water to the bottom of a large stock pot or seafood kettle, and bring to a boil.
2. If you plan to use the broth, add a large sprig of thyme, 2-4 sprigs of parsley, two bay leaves, a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, a cup of white wine, and the juice of one lemon.
3. Add the steamer rack.
4. Add the lobsters one at a time, and be sure not to overcrowd the pot.
5. Cover the pot and cook according to weight, shuffling them once or twice to ensure even cooking.
- For 1 pound of weight, steam for 10 minutes.
- For each ¼ pound increase in weight, add another 2 minutes steaming time up to 2 pounds.
- After that, add 5 minutes for each ½ pound increase in weight.
How to Grill Lobster
The secret to successfully grilling lobster tails isn’t much of a secret – don’t overcook them.
While a moist cooking method such as boiling ensures their juiciness, a dry heat like grilling requires your attention to ensure that they don’t dry out.
Just as soon as the shell has turned from dark brown or grey to bright red, and the meat is firm and opaque, they’re ready to serve.
Grill over a medium-high heat, 350-400°F. If cooking live lobster, ensure that it has been dispatched before placing it on the grill.
Grilling on the Half Shell
To grill on the half shell, have an herbed butter or oil basting sauce ready to go.
1. Pre-heat grill to medium-high heat, 350-400°F.
2. If your lobster tail is large, you may want to par-boil it for 5 minutes, then plunge it into an ice bath to stop cooking.
3.When cool, place the tail on your cutting board with the soft underside of the shell facing up. Using a sharp knife, place the tip into the V formed at the fin and cut in half lengthwise, all the way through the shell.
4. Pry the meat loose a bit with your fingertips or a spoon. Brush the lobster, meat and shell, with an herb infused butter or oil marinade, then lay the tails on the grill cut-side down.
5. Grill until the meat is white and the shell red, about 4-5 minutes. Turn and continue grilling until the meat is opaque, about 2-4 minutes more. Transfer the tails to a serving dish or cutting board, depending on your plans for it.
Easy Basting Sauce
Sure, you can make a fancy sauce to accompany your lobster tails, but simple is often better when it comes to grilling. Make an easy basting sauce with:
- Your favorite healthy oil
- The zest and juice of a lemon or lime
- A couple of tablespoons of fresh, minced herbs and garlic
- Freshly ground pepper
Shake well in a tightly sealed jar and chill for an hour before using.
You can make an herbed butter out of any combination of your favorite herbs:
- Cream butter and herbs together and season with salt and pepper.
- On a sheet of waxed paper, form the butter into a log and roll up tightly. Fold the end flaps over to seal the butter.
- Freeze. When set, slice off 1” pieces as needed and reseal the end.
Make ahead of time and freeze your butter, so it’s ready to go when you are.
And of course, feel free to experiment with your own marinades or dipping sauces. Soy sauce, apple juice, pineapple juice, fish or chicken broth and Worcestershire sauce all make good substitutes for butter or oil. Just go with the ingredients you like, and create your own signature sauce.
Poached in Butter
For something different from boiling, steaming or grilling, try poaching the meat slowly in butter for incredibly tender results. Here’s the basic method for a 1-1½ pounder:
1. Kill the lobster by plunging the tip of a knife in at the point where head and body meet, just behind the eyes.
2. Separate claws and tail from the body. Drop claws and tail into boiling water. Cook tail 2 minutes and claws 5 minutes, transferring to an ice water bath immediately to halt cooking. Remove par-boiled meat from shells.
3. Bring just one tablespoon of water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Whisk in a stick of butter, one tablespoon at a time, keeping the mixture a touch below the boiling point.
4. Add par-boiled lobster meat to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, basting with the butter continuously. When opaque, remove the meat with a slotted spoon and serve as per your recipe.
Once cooked, the meat can be used for salads, pasta or risotto, tucked into a hearty bun or a Maine roll, or served on its own with a medley of fresh summer vegetables.
Lobsters have wonderful layers of flavor with superb texture, and shouldn’t be reserved only for special occasions. They’re relatively quick and easy to prepare, and you’ll be able to enjoy them in under an hour.
One thing’s for certain – whatever the occasion, you can transform an everyday meal into a gourmet experience with the addition of lobster.
About Lorna Kring
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.