How to prepare lobster?

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You’ve come this far. You’ve procured the best Maine lobster in the sea, but hold your shell crackers…you ruined it! The cooking part was all wrong! Make sure your prized catch is cooked the right way.

Every lobster order includes step-by-step cooking guide.

Perfectly cooked lobster is surely one of life’s simplest pleasures. Live Maine Lobsters are a snap to cook. Steaming and boiling are the two most common ways to cook lobsters.

But before you can cook your lobsters, you need to be careful handling them. If you have never handled live lobster before, keep the bands on! Some lobstermen insist on removing the claw bands before cooking. The rubber bands, they say, impart an off taste to the water and to the lobster. Only salty and experienced lobster lovers should remove them before cooking. Whether you’re having lobsters shipped to your door or are picking them up at the local pound, learn the best way to handle live lobsters and keep them fresh before cooking.

Page Contents

How do You Cook a Live Lobster Humanely

Is there a humane way to kill a lobster? What’s the best way to kill a live lobster for cooking? There is much debate on whether lobsters feel pain or not, but we believe a quick plunge into hot water will make for a quick death. Be sure to review some of the best methods chefs use to prep and kill lobsters before cooking.

Cooking Live Lobster at Home

Cooking lobster is an art, and if you do not get the timing just right, you might be in for a tough or chewy lobster. Never overcook your lobster. This makes the meat tough and stringy. You’ll find plenty of lobster cooking tips online, but we find most of the times are way too long. In the winter, lobsters have a harder shell and therefore require more time to cook. In the summertime lobsters have a softer shell and require less time to cook.

What Size Lobster Pot?

How big a lobster pot do you need? Whether you steam or boil, pick a pot with lots of room. Do not crowd the lobsters in the pot as the heat will not circulate evenly around the lobsters. If you do not have a big pot, cook lobsters in batches, using a couple of pots. If you add the same amount of water in each pot, the lobsters should cook at about the same time. A 4-5 quart soup or pasta pot will work well for a couple of small lobsters. A 19-quart pot will cook about 5 to 6 1- 1/4 lobsters. The pot does not have to be heavy duty as water will actually boil faster in a lighter gauge metal pot.

Should you steam or boil your lobster? Pulling crustaceans out of a big pot of boiling water can make a mess. With steaming there is less chance of a boil over. Both of these traditional cooking methods have both pros and cons described below.

Confused about what size lobsters to order? Check out our tips for picking the perfect lobster to cook up at home.

How to Steam Lobsters

Steaming cooks whole lobsters more slowly than boiling, so it reduces the chance of overcooking. It also makes less of a mess! Why steam lobster? Is steaming better than boiling?

Keep the lid on tight to keep in the steam. A steamer rack is not a necessity; it just keeps the lobsters from getting charred on the bottom of the pot. You can also use a vegetable steamer rack or an upside colander inside the pot.

  • Yields a more tender lobster than boiling.
  • Lobsters are less diluted with water.
  • Makes less of a mess.
  • Timing is more accurate since the water returns to a boil faster
  • Preserves the ocean fresh taste of lobster.
  • Cooks lobster a little slower with less chance of overcooking.

Steaming Instructions:

  1. Use a pot large enough to comfortably hold the lobsters and fill water so it comes up sides about two inches. (Feel free to use a steaming rack to place the lobsters on or just add directly to the pot.)
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of salt for each quart of water. If you have sea salt—even better.
  3. Bring the water to a rolling boil, and put in lobsters, one at a time. Bring water to a rolling boil over high heat. Place lobsters in the pot (head first), cover tightly, return to a boil as quickly as possible and start counting the time.
  4. Steam a lobster for 7 minutes per pound, for the first pound. Add 3 minutes per pound for each additional pound thereafter. See chart below for approximate cooking times. Regulate the heat if the froth starts to bubble over.
  5. Carefully remove lobsters from the pot with tongs. Be careful, they are very hot. Set in a large bowl for five minutes to cool before cracking.

If the roe inside a female body is blackish and appear gelatin-like, instead of the customary red, it may undercooked. Put the lobster back into the pot until the roe is red. The roe is edible, but can be rinsed out. Learn more about lobster eggs, also called tomalley.

Steaming Lobster Times

How Long to Steam Lobsters? (Steaming Chart is for all lobsters, not each)

Cooking Clams with your lobsters? Place the netted bag of clams on top of the lobsters and steam both at the same time.

How to Boil Lobster

The shell of the lobster flavors the bubbling water, which in turn, flavors the lobster meat!

For cooking a bunch of lobsters, boiling gives you even fast cooking. However, boiling lobster tends to water-log them. Why boil lobsters?

  • Best for cooking 4 or more lobsters at a time.
  • Cooks lobsters more evenly than steaming.
  • High, intense heat cooks the meat quickly, making it to easier to remove from the shell. So boil your lobsters if you plan to pick the meat to make homemade lobster rolls or other dishes.

My Family is Passionate About Our Seafood

I live in Texas, and I am a personal chef here. I have been a chef for 20 years now. I grew up in Long Island NY, and my grandfather was a lobster fisherman in the Long Island Sound in Cold Spring Harbor. I never in my whole career thought that I could have lobsters better than the one’s we had with my grandfather, but the lobsters you sent were as fantastic as my childhood memories.

Thank you So Much! T. Steinhart Order Maine Lobster

Boiling Instructions:

  1. Fill a pot (large enough to hold the lobsters) anywhere from one-half to two-thirds full with water. Use about 1 gallon of water per lobster so it is deep enough to submerge the lobster by at least 3 inches.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of salt for each quart of water. (If sea water is available, even better. Skip the salt.) Bring the water to a strong boil over high heat.
  3. Place the live lobsters in one at a time, headfirst, completely submerging them. Pick up the lobster by holding the upper side of the thorax between your thumb and middle finger.
  4. Cover the pot tightly and return to a boil as quickly as possible. AFTER the water boils start timing, and regulate the heat to prevent water from boiling over, but be sure to keep the water boiling throughout the cooking time. Melt some butter while you wait.
  5. Carefully remove lobsters from the pot with tongs. Be careful, they are very hot. Set in a large bowl for five minutes to cool before cracking.

When a lobster boils it retains a lot of water. Pierce the body and tail with a knife to help drain the water.

Hold the underside of the body away from you, because the lobster have a tendency to flip the jointed tail, splattering water. You can cook more than one lobster in a pot as long as there is enough room and water to cover the lobsters. (If you do not have a big enough pot use two smaller pots or cook your lobsters in batches.)

Boiling Times for Lobsters

How long to boil lobsters?(Boiling Chart is for all lobsters, not each)

How to Microwave Lobster?

In a pinch to cook lobsters and don’t have a pot? Yup, you can zap them in the microwave. It actually steams the lobster in its own shell. First things first, humanely dispatch the lobster immediately before microwaving. It may take slightly shorter time than the recommended steaming time but only microwave one lobster at a time!

Does microwaved lobster taste the same? Microwaving a lobster cooks it in its’ own juices and the shell imparts extra flavor. It also stays hotter longer since it cooks in a thick shell and the bag. Needed materials:

  • One-gallon plastic food-safe zippered freezer bag per lobster for 1 ¼
    or 1 ½ pound or a 2-gallon freezer bag for 2 pound lobster
  • Lemon half to spear on the rostrum above the eyes*
  • Rockweed to add flavor or 1/4 cup of water

Cook at the highest setting of the microwave, this will vary.

Microwave Cooking Times

Lobster Size Cooking Times
1 pound 6 minutes
1 ¼ pound 7 minutes
1 ½ pound 8 minutes
1 ¾ pound 9 minutes
2 pound 10 minutes

Options for Microwaving Lobster

  • Raw in shell(usually claws or tails)- follow above instructions (16 ounces per pound)
  • Pre-cooked- in a pinch, you can microwave cooked lobster meat. Simply place in a freezer bag like above, place on a microwave-safe plate, and microwave a pound or two, on MEDIUM heat for one minute, 30 seconds. Others suggest heating in 30 second increments and re-adjusting pieces each time. Use a finger touch to ensure it is warmed to your liking. It should be steamy. Using a thermometer, the internal temperature of a large piece needs to be between 135 and 140 degrees F.
  • Raw out of shell- spread fully thawed meat over the bag area add water and reduce time. Check for 135-140 degrees F with a thermometer.
  • Pre-cooked- in a pinch, you can microwave cooked lobster meat. Simply place in a freezer bag like above, place on a microwave-safe plate, and microwave a pound or two, on MEDIUM heat for one minute, 30 seconds. Others suggest heating in 30 second increments and re-adjusting pieces each time. Use a finger touch to ensure it is warmed to your liking. It should be steamy. Using a thermometer, the internal temperature of a large piece needs to be between 135 and 140 degrees F.

Are Big Lobsters Tough to Cook?

Let’s dispel the longstanding belief that bigger lobsters, over 2 lbs., are tough when cooked. This simply is not true. We’ve cooked plenty of 5-6 pound lobsters and they can be every bit as tender and sweet as the small size lobsters. That’s if the lobster is not overcooked. It is real easy to overcook seafood, especially big lobsters. The issue we see again and again is the recommended cooking times are often too long. Overcooked lobster will be tough and chewy no matter if you steam or boil them.

Reheating Cooked Lobster

In the rare occasion you can not eat a fresh cooked lobster on the spot, you may reheat it and enjoy later. (Also, see our tips for storing live lobster before cooking). It’s best to par-boil or par-steam (partially cook) your lobsters rather than cooking them all the way though. Cooked lobster in the shell will keep refrigerated for up to twenty-four hours. Simply reheat it in the shell in the microwave for about a minute or less, or gently steam in water for about 2-3 minutes (depending on the size).

If you can not reheat your lobsters within 24 hours, its best to pick the meat out of the shell and refrigerate in a covered bowl or zip lock bag. Fresh out-of-the shell meat will keep refrigerated for about 2-3 days. You can enjoy the meat cold in a lobster roll or warm by heating it up in saucepan with a little butter.

Cooking Lobsters at High Altitude

Cooking lobsters at high altitude takes more time since water boils at a much lower temp, and evaporates faster. At high altitude the air has less oxygen and the atmosphere becomes much drier. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most cookbooks consider 3,000 feet above sea level to be high altitude. At sea level, water boils at 212 °F. With each 500-feet increase in elevation, the boiling point of water is lowered by just under 1 °F. At 7,500 feet, for example, water boils at about 198 °F.

To compensate for the lower boiling point of water, the cooking time must be increased. In short, increase the cook time, not the heat. How many minutes should you increase the time? Try adding about 2 minutes to our lobster cooking times. Also, cover the pot tightly when cooking. To avoid overcooking and undercooking your lobsters, use an instant read food thermometer to check internal temperature. The FDA recommends most seafood be cooked to an internal temperature of 145ºF. Visit the FDA’s website for more information on cooking lobster at higher elevations.

How to Tell if My Lobsters are Cooked?

Another common mistake is adding to the cooking time just because you are cooking more than 1-2 lobsters in the pot.

Many people will mistakenly boil a two and half pound lobster twice as long as a one and a quarter pound lobster.

For timing, use the weight of individual lobsters, not the total weight of all lobsters being cooked

Lobster is cooked when the shell is entirely red. When properly cooking lobster, the meat becomes a creamy white color all the way through–no translucent areas. Some chefs say when the antennae pull out easily, lobsters are done, but this is not always the case. Insert an instant read thermometer in the underside of the tail closest to the body. The internal temperature should read about 135-140 degrees F. It is important to note when you take your lobsters out of the pot they will continue to cook. To stop the cooking process, put your lobsters in a big bowl of ice.

If you overcook them, you will be eating tough lobster. If you under-cook them you can always heat them up. The reason many people believe larger lobsters are tough is simply because they overcook them.

Just remember to bring your pot back to a rolling boil and regulate the heat. The tail is a good indicator of freshness. It will contract and curl when cooked; and the tail meat will be somewhat firm, not mushy. Happy cracking!

How Do you Grill Live Lobsters?

While boiling and steaming are the most well know ways to cook live lobster, grilling is another great option. See our step-by-step guide for grilling live lobster in your backyard. And if your cooking frozen lobster tails, we’ve got you covered too. Checkout our tips for boiling, steaming, and grilling frozen lobster tails.

Get the Main(e) ingredient— fresh, live lobsters shipped to your front door no matter where you live!

Shop all live lobsters

Quick FAQS on How to Cook Lobsters

How do you cook live lobsters?

It’s easy, we provide a detailed lobster cooking and handling guide with every order. You will also find instructions for lobster tails, steamers, mussels, shrimp, scallops, steaks and more.

I thought lobsters were red in color?

Lobsters come in just about every color but red. The shade varies a little from lobster to lobster, but they are a dark blue-green or a greenish brown-black color uncooked. On rare occasions, one is landed that is orange, yellow, or blue. The lobster’s color is caused by pigments in the shell. When the lobster is cooked, all of the color pigments are masked except the red background color. Learn more about how lobsters get their colors.

If my Maine Lobster dies on the way home from the supermarket, is it
ok to cook? If not, why?

The answer to your question is probably “yes,” unless of course, the
supermarket is in Belfast, ME, and your home is in Berkeley, CA!
Lobster meat does not take long to spoil after the lobster dies. As long
as there isn’t an unusual odor, cooking and eating the lobster is
probably OK. However, there are a couple of things to watch for to be
certain. If the Lobster is safe, the tail will be curled tightly after
cooking, and the meat inside will be firm. If either of these conditions
are not present, don’t take the risk!

What is the red stuff in the lobster?

The hard red substance is the roe or the eggs of the female lobster. It is also called the coral because of the deep red color. The roe will be black and will appear gelatin-like if your lobster is under-cooked. It is edible but can also be rinsed out. Learn more about what’s inside a lobster.

What’s that green stuff in the lobster?

The green substance is the liver, also known as tomalley. It can be rinsed out of the cooked lobster.

How can you tell if your lobster is cooked?

Shellfish takes very little time to cook. Cooking a lobster for too long will make it tough and rubbery. Lobster meat should be white, opaque, not translucent. Walking legs will pull out easily from the body. Tomalley (liver) will be green and firm. Roe from a female (lobster eggs) will be bright red and firm.

What if I cannot cook my lobsters right away?

If you need to hold them until later in the day it is best to keep them in their packaging and refrigerate them. If you cannot fit your cooler in the refrigerator, put your lobsters in a paper bag on a drip tray or dish to catch any water that may leak, and don’t seal them in a plastic bag. Please do not put them in water! Without proper salinity and temperature control the lobsters will die.

How do you remove the claw bands before placing the lobster in
boiling water without getting pinched?

Our strong advice about removing the bands before cooking is:
Don’t do it. The cooking time for lobsters is short enough that the
binder won’t burn or melt. The bands are easily removed after cooking.

Leftover lobster can taste moist and delicious, but it can also end up dry and tasteless, especially if you don’t know how to reheat lobster the right way. If you have a leftover lobster tail or ziplock bag full of meat hanging out in the freezer, then grab a pen and some post-it notes, because we’re going to show you how to reheat a lobster.

How to Reheat Cooked Lobster in the Oven

When it comes to the best way to reheat lobster, the oven method comes out on top. Clare Langan, Culinary Producer on Scraps, says that regardless of the method you choose, gentle heat is key. So, it makes sense to use the oven to reheat boiled lobster. After all, the meat is cooked, you just want to warm it up. That said, she recommends heating the lobster meat (shell-off) in its sauce or if there’s no sauce, a bath of stock or even butter. Here are the steps Langan follows to reheat steamed lobster in the oven.

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Put the lobster in a heat-proof/oven-safe dish and cover it with foil. Make sure there is liquid in the dish (the lobster’s sauce, stock, or butter).
  3. Heat in the oven until the lobster is warm. Depending on your oven, this will take about 10 minutes.
  4. Take out of the oven and serve.
  5. Note: Ed McFarland, Chef and Owner of Ed’s Lobster Bar, says if you’re reheating a whole lobster, cut it in half and lay it on a sheet tray. It will take approximately 20 to 30 minutes to heat up.

How to Reheat Lobster on the Stovetop

If you want to reheat boiled lobster in under 15 minutes, then the stovetop method is the way to go. But before you get cooking, McFarland says to make sure to remove the leftover lobster from the shell. Here, he goes over how to reheat boiled lobster on the stovetop:

  1. Choose a saucepan or skillet that’s big enough to heat the lobster evenly.
  2. Use a little stock or broth in a sautéed pan clam broth in the skillet. He says lobster stock or chicken stock will work best and you can decide to do this with or without butter.
  3. Bring the stock up to a simmer and add the lobster. It will take about 10 minutes to warm up, then add the butter.
  4. Heat until it is thoroughly warm and serve.

How to Reheat Lobster on the Grill

If you consider yourself a grill master, then get ready to fire up your bbq, because you’re about to learn how to reheat a lobster using this method. Here are the steps McFarland follows to reheat steamed lobster on the grill.

  1. Preheat your grill on high.
  2. Lightly coat the lobster in olive oil and season with salt and pepper (If the leftover lobster is out of the shell).
  3. If the leftover lobster is still in the shell, just heat it shell side down on the grill and do not flip it over. This will produce very flavorful lobster in both cases.
  4. Grill until thoroughly heated.
  5. Remove, cool, and serve!

How to Reheat Lobster in the Microwave

The microwave is great when you’re crunched for time. But when it comes to the best way to reheat lobster, the microwave is last on the list. In fact, McFarland does not recommend this method. However, he does recognize that some people need to make things happen in a jif, so if you must use the microwave, here are the steps he recommends.

  1. Make sure the lobster is removed from the shell.
  2. Wrap the lobster in a damp paper towel so it stays moist.
  3. Heat in three to five-minute increments until the lobster is hot.
  4. Take out of the microwave, unwrap from the towel, and serve.

How to Reheat Lobster Tail

Lobster tail is best fresh, but if you find yourself with a leftover lobster tail, you can use the oven or toaster oven to heat it up.

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Put the lobster in a heat-proof/oven-safe dish and cover it with foil. Make sure there is liquid in the dish (the lobsters sauce, stock, or butter).
  3. Heat in the oven until the lobster is warm. Depending on your oven, this will take about 10 minutes.
  4. Take out of the oven and serve.

How to Reheat Lobster Claws

Just like with the lobster tail, you can reheat lobster claws in the oven. Follow these five steps to reheat leftover lobster claws in the oven.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wrap the lobster claws in foil.
  3. Place the lobster claws on an oven-safe baking sheet or pan.
  4. Heat in the oven until the lobster is warm. Depending on your oven, this will take about 10 minutes.
  5. Take out of the oven and serve.

How to Reheat Cooked Lobster In Its Shell

If your dinner is still taking up residence in its shell, you have two choices to reheat steamed lobster: in the oven or on the stovetop.

Oven method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Put the lobster in a heat-proof/oven-safe dish and cover it with foil. Make sure there is liquid in the dish (the lobsters sauce, stock or butter).
  3. Heat in the oven until the lobster is warm. Depending on your oven, this will take about 10 minutes.
  4. Take out of the oven and serve.

Stovetop method:

  1. Find a pot large enough for your leftover lobster and add water. Make sure it has a steamer basket in it.
  2. Bring the water to a boil.
  3. Place the lobster in the basket (on its back) and cover.
  4. Reheat on medium heat for about five to eight minutes.
  5. Take the lobster out of the pot and let it cool before serving.

How to Reheat Lobster Meat

Lobster meat that’s already out of the shell is fairly easy to reheat. Since you’re only dealing with the meat, you can use your stovetop and a skillet. Here are the simple steps to reheat leftover lobster meat.

  1. Choose a skillet or frying pan big enough to hold the meat (and give it room to move around).
  2. Add enough butter to coat the bottom of the pan.
  3. Turn the heat on medium and add the leftover lobster meat.
  4. Move the meat around in the skillet while it is reheating.
  5. After four to five minutes, check the color of the meat. Your lobster meat is ready to eat when the flesh is pearly and opaque.

How to Reheat Frozen Lobster

If your leftover lobster is in the freezer, your first step is to thaw it gradually by placing it in the refrigerator overnight. When you’re short on time and need to thaw your fish quickly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says to seal the leftover lobster in a plastic bag and immerse it in cold water. Or, if you plan on reheating it immediately, you can microwave it on the “defrost” setting and stop the defrost cycle while the lobster is still icy but pliable. You can then choose one of the methods described above to reheat a lobster.

And on days when taking the time to reheat boiled lobster is not in the cards, Langan recommends serving it cold. “Chop some herbs, maybe a stalk of celery or some shallot and fold it into chilled lobster meat with some mayo or warm butter, add a squeeze of lemon, and you have the best lobster salad for a homemade lobster roll or to top a salad.”

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The surprising reason we boil lobsters alive

Whenever you enter a restaurant, you’re putting your health in someone else’s hands. Thousands of people get sick from food poisoning each year. But thankfully chefs can take steps to minimize the risk. One of those ways? Boiling lobsters alive. Turns out, those unusual tanks of live lobsters in restaurants isn’t just there so you can have a plate of fresh lobster. Following is a transcript of the video.

If you walked into a kitchen and saw a pig cooked alive on the stove, you’d probably be horrified and lose your appetite. Yet, this is how millions of lobsters meet their fate in American kitchens each year. Some people even relish choosing which lobster’s time is up at restaurants or markets across the country. But is a lobster really any different from other animals we eat? Why do we boil lobsters alive? And why do places even sell live lobsters? Turns out, this seemingly barbaric way of cooking lobsters could actually save your life.

Humans were boiling lobsters alive thousands of years ago. The first recorded case came from recipes attributed to the famous Roman Cook Caelius Apicius in the first century. American chefs later adopted the process by 1880, when they discovered that the dish looks and tastes better when the animal is boiled alive. It wasn’t until later that we realized this also reduces the risk of severe food poisoning. That’s all because of these little guys. They’re a type of Vibrio bacteria. And they thrive on the decaying flesh of lobsters and other shellfish. If a lobster dies, you only have a few hours before these bacteria show up to the party. And once they’re in, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them. Even cooking the lobster meat won’t kill all of the bacteria. So it’s safer to just keep the animal alive right up until you serve it.

If Vibrio bacteria end up in your system, it’s not pretty. You can experience abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and sometimes even death. Luckily, there’s a pretty good way to tell if that meat has gone bad. Just smell it. You can easily smell the ammonia that is released when the body starts to decompose.

So boiling lobsters alive save us from a world of pain, but what about the lobsters? For starters, lobsters don’t scream when you boil them. In fact, they lack lungs and don’t even have the proper biological equipment to form a scream. What you hear is air and steam escaping from the shells of their simmering suppers. In any case – we don’t do this to chickens or pigs because it’s pretty obvious that they can feel pain. For lobsters, it’s less clear if their primitive nervous systems and brains even know what pain is. When a lobster thrashes around in the pot does that mean it’s in agony? Or is it simply a reflex response to the boiling water, but not a conscious action? No one really knows, so more research is needed.

Regardless, some say this uncertainty is exactly why we should think twice.

Anil Seth: With lobsters, we just don’t know if they can feel pain. There’s a thing in ethics that we call the Precautionary Principle, when not knowing we should err on the side of caution. If there is the potential for something to have the ability to suffer, we should treat that possibility very seriously. So boiling lobsters, not a very good idea.

New Zealand and Switzerland certainly agree. They’ve gone so far as to make it illegal to boil lobsters alive. Should America follow suit?

Fun Facts about Luscious Lobsters

American lobster on the deck of a ship.

How many kinds of lobsters are there in the United States?

There are two kinds of lobster-like crustaceans in United States waters. The “true” lobster (the American lobster) is designated as such to differentiate it from the spiny lobster. They have two differences:

  • True (American) lobster has claws on the first four legs, which the spiny lobster does not.
  • Spiny lobster has a pair of horns above the eyes, which the true lobster does not.

To avoid confusion over common names, we call the true lobster the “American lobster,” and the spiny lobster just that.

The item marketed as “lobster tail” usually is a spiny lobster. The spiny lobster is found in warm waters off Florida, in the West Indies, and off southern California.

Large female American lobster with eggs.

How big do lobsters get?

The record weight for the American lobster is 45 pounds.

How far do lobsters travel?

Inshore lobsters tend to stay in one place, seldom moving more than a mile or so. Deepwater lobsters farther out on the Continental Shelf follow a seasonal migratory pattern shoreward in summer, returning to the shelf again in the autumn. The record travel so far is 225 miles, covered by a lobster tagged off the Continental Shelf and recovered at Port Jefferson, Long Island, New York.

What color is a lobster’s blood?

Lobster blood is colorless. When exposed to oxygen, it develops a bluish color.

What are some other names for lobsters?

The American lobster is also known as the Massachusetts lobster, the Maine lobster, the Canadian lobster or the North Atlantic lobster.

Where are lobsters caught?

The American Lobster is found on the east coast of North America, from Newfoundland to North Carolina. In 1996, more than 70 million pounds of lobsters were landed in the U.S. Approximately 80 percent of U.S. landings come from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine.

What do lobsters eat?

Lobsters usually move around and hunt for food at night. People used to think that lobsters were scavengers and ate primarily dead things. However, researchers have discovered that lobsters catch mainly fresh food (except for bait) which includes fish, crabs, clams, mussels, sea urchins, and sometimes even other lobsters!

Is the number of lobsters dwindling?

Lobster landings have increased significantly in the last decade. However, the number of traps and general efficiency of the fishing industry have also increased. In the Northeast lobsters are considered to be generally overfished.

Fishermen and managers are working together to develop management measures which will help ensure adequate egg production to sustain the resource and fishery. Presently major conservation measures include safeguarding lobsters smaller than 3-1/4″ carapace length. (Carapace, or shell, length is measured from the rear of the eye socket to the rear of the main body shell). Any lobster that is smaller in carapace length than 3-1/4″ must be returned unharmed to the sea. These lobsters are known as “shorts” or “sub-legals.”

Egg-bearing females are also protected, and must be placed back in the sea if they are caught. Lobster traps must have escape vents to allow sublegal size lobsters to exit the trap while it is still on the bottom (they can come in, eat, and leave). Not all “shorts” leave, however, so the lobstermen must throw them.

Lobster traps must also have biodegradable escape panels which will create a large opening and neutralize the fishing potential of a lost trap.

Late stage American lobster (Homarus americanus) eggs photographed with digital dissecting microscope.

Do lobsters lay eggs?

Yes, lobsters lay eggs. A freshly-laid lobster egg is the size of the head of a pin (1/16″). A 1-pound female lobster usually carries approximately 8000 eggs. A 9-pound female may carry more than 100,000 eggs. The female lobster carries the eggs inside for 9 to 12 months and then for another 9 to 12 months attached to the swimmerets under her tail. When the eggs hatch, the larvae will float near the surface for 4 to 6 weeks. The few that survive will settle to the bottom and continue to develop as baby lobsters. From every 50,000 eggs, only two lobsters are expected to survive to legal size.

Where do lobsters live?

Small lobsters (less than 1-1/2″ carapace length) hide in and abround sea weeds and rocky habitat that provide adequate food and shelter from predators. Adolescent lobsters (1-1/2″ to 3- 1/2″ carapace length) dominate coastal habitats and offshore areas. They migrate very little. Larger, more mobile, adult lobsters may live in deeper waters and may return seasonally to shallow warmer waters.

When do lobsters mate?

A female lobster mates mostly when she is in the soft-shell state right after she has shed her shell. Female lobsters can carry live sperm for up to two years. At any time she may decide to fertilize her 3,000-75,000 eggs. By law, a female lobster carrying eggs must be thrown back if it is caught.

How does a lobster grow?

Newly molted juvenile American lobster (top) that has shed its old shell (bottom), hatched and reared by the Sound School in New Haven in a field-based nursery system in Long Island Sound.

Lobsters grow by molting. This is the process in which they struggle out of their old shells while absorbing water which expands their body size. This molting, or shell-shedding, occurs about 25 times in the first 5-7 years of a lobster’s life. Following this cycle, the lobster will weigh approximately one pound and reach minimum legal size. A lobster at minimum legal size may then only molt once per year and increase about 15 percent in length and 40 percent in weight.

No one has yet found a way to determine the exact age of a lobster. However, based on scientific knowledge of body size at age, the maximum age attained may approach 100 years. They can grow to be 3 feet or more in overall body length.

If lobsters molt, why have I never seen a cast-off shell?

After molting, lobsters will eat voraciously, often devouring their own recently vacated shells. This replenishment of lost calcium hastens the hardening of the new shell which takes about 14-30 days from the actual loss of the old shell.

How many times must a lobster molt before it reaches market size?

Lobsters molt 20 to 30 times before they reach the one-pound market size.

Do many young lobsters survive to old age?

Lobster babies swim at water surface for 25 days. Only one percent make it to the bottom. These young lobsters shed their shells about ten times in their first year. A near-shore lobster has a 90 percent chance of ending up on someone’s dinner plate.

How old is a one-pound lobster?

No one knows exactly, but aquarium studies suggest 5 to 7 years.

How long can a lobster live out of water?

Lobsters can live several days if kept in a cool, moist environment. The lobster is a gill-breather, and moisture is essential to survival.

Can a lobster be kept alive in fresh water with ice?

No. Fresh water is lethal to a lobster. The animal has salty blood and tissue, which require a seawater environment if life is to be maintained.

What is tomalley?

Tomalley is the lobster’s liver. It turns green when cooked and is considered a delicacy.

What’s the coral-colored material you see in a cooked lobster?

Coral is the egg mass of a female lobster. Cooking colors the tiny eggs a deep coral or red.

Does a dead lobster spoil rapidly?

If the lobster is “headed” before or soon after death, the body meat will keep fresh longer. This is because the so-called head includes the thorax, where most of the viscera and gills are. They spoil much more rapidly than claw or tail meat.

How many 1-pound lobsters make a pound of lobster meat?

Five, on the average.

Why does a lobster turn red when cooked?

The red pigment is the most stable component of the coloring in a lobster shell. The greens and browns which darken the shell in a live lobster are destroyed by cooking.

How can you tell if a boiled lobster was alive when cooked?

When a lobster dies, its tail loses its elasticity and ability to curl under the body. When plunged into boiling water, a live lobster curls its tail under. It remains in that position during and after cooking.

Are lobsters poisonous if they die before being cooked?

Lobsters are not poisonous if they die before cooking, but you should cook them quickly. Many lobsters sold commercially are killed and frozen before cooking. Lobsters and other crustaceans do spoil rapidly after death, which is why many buyers insist on receiving them alive.

What happens when a live lobster is frozen?

Freezing slows deterioration and harmful chemical actions that follow death.

Are lobsters different colors?

“Red as a lobster” is just a tale. Lobsters come in just about every color but red. They can be blue, light yellow, greenish-brown, grey, dusty orange, some calico, and some with spots. However, they all turn red when they hit hot water. The hot water cuts the link between astaxanthin, a red substance contained in the lobster’s shell, and protein which in cold water brings out the predominant coloring.

Can lobsters be raised commercially?

Not yet, but research is underway to develop rearing techniques and to assess the economic feasibility of rearing the American lobster commercially. Many scientists believe that commercial aquaculture can be achieved in the near future with a sufficient level of effort. Future projections for the culture of the spiny lobster are not, however, optimistic. Unlike the American lobster which has a relatively short larval life (several weeks), the spiny lobster has a larval life of about six or seven months. The technical difficulties presented by the fragile, demanding requirements of the early life stages make traditional hatchery methods impractical.

Can lobsters grow new legs?

Yes; this is called “reflex amputation.” They can discard a limb, which can be lifesaving. Lobsters have the ability to regenerate some of their body parts; for example, the claws, walking legs, and antennae. The fact that lobsters are capable of limb loss and regeneration shows they have a very primitive nervous system and a different sensitivity to pain compared to humans or other types of animals. (They can “drop” a claw, etc. and go off like nothing happened. Could you drop an arm or leg like that?).

Do lobsters have teeth?

Lobster’s teeth are in their stomach. The stomach is located a very short distance from the mouth, and the food is actually chewed in the stomach between three grinding surfaces that look like molar surfaces, called the “gastric mill.”

Can lobsters smell their food?

Lobsters “smell” their food by using four small antennae on the front of their heads and tiny sensing hairs that cover their bodies. Their sense of smell is so fine that they can sniff out a single amino acid that tags their favorite food.

What is the largest lobster ever caught?

The Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association claimed a record when they caught “Big George” in 1974 off Cape Cod. The lobster weighed 37.4 pounds, with a total length of 2.1 feet.

Do lobsters chase crabs out of traps if they get there first?

If a lobster gets into a trap first, crabs would not enter the “parlor” or holding section. This is because if a crab starts up the entry to the parlor, the lobster will make aggressive displays which make the crab back down. Crabs do not keep other crabs out, nor lobsters, so if a crab got in first, lobsters would still come in. In general, crabs are less aggressive than lobsters.

Have Maine lobsters been successfully transplanted to the West Coast?

Attempts have been made to do so, but with limited success. In 1973 the Canadian government discontinued a six-year-old experiment to rear lobsters in the waters off British Columbia. The decision to drop the project was evidently dictated by economics.

Other Fun Facts Pages

  • Fun Facts Home
  • Fascinating Fish
  • Shocking Sharks
  • Amazing Atlantic Salmon
  • Interesting Invertebrates
  • Luscious Lobsters
  • Surprising Seals
  • Wonderful Whales
  • Terrific Sea Turtles

While taking a stroll on the beach and you may happen upon some washed-up lobsters, crabs, or crawfish. You may wonder if it safe to consume these languished crustaceans or if there are consequences. Is there a safe way to prepare and enjoy decaying shellfish meat?

Lobsters, crabs, and crawfish can only be eaten a short time after death, or you are at high risk of contracting food poisoning. These crustaceans have a form of Vibrio bacteria that line their shells, which after multiplying rapidly after death, cannot be fully eliminated by cooking.

Bacteria grow more rapidly in these crustaceans compared to mammalian meat and it’s important to know whether the meat is spoiled before consuming it. Due to this rapid bacterial growth, the time between when a lobster, crab or crawfish died and when it is cooked is crucial in determining if the meat is safe to eat. There are strategies though to elongate this period to ensure your health and consume these shellfish safely.

How to Quickly Determine If the Lobster, Crab or Crawfish Is Spoiled

Occasionally, you may come across an already expired crustacean and ponder if the meat inside is still viable for human consumption. This is particularly significant in a survival situation when desperation makes food options limited. However, these tips also apply to meat you have caught yourself or when selecting your dinner at a fish market.

As with any meat, the biggest indication of freshness emanates from your sense of smell. Decaying shellfish will have a strong scent of ammonia and this a clear sign that the bacteria has started to decompose the flesh. Even if the scent isn’t strong, but has even a mildly sour aroma, it is best to avoid.

Do note, that with frozen crustaceans, the ammonia smell may not be apparent until it is cooked. If it smells fresh, then food poisoning is likely to be avoided. Be aware, however, that unfarmed crustaceans may have parasites that you won’t be to detect by visual inspection. If ingested, you may not be aware of your exposure for months.

A couple of other observations can assist you in determining if the meat is spoiled:

  1. Look at the integrity of the shell of the expired marine creature. If it is cracked, then in all likelihood it has been dead for several hours.
  2. The texture of the cooked meat is a clear indicator as to the viability of the shellfish. If the cooked flesh is in any way mushy then the meat is teeming with bacteria and should not be eaten under any circumstances.

Consequences of Eating Spoiled Lobster, Crab or Crawfish Meat

Eating crustaceans that didn’t die within the hour, or frozen immediately after death is a common source of food poisoning. This is due to the Gram-negative family of bacteria called Vibrio that is present in the waters (especially coastal waters) where lobster, crabs, and crawfish live.

Consequently, the bacteria usually enter and reside in the lining of the crustacean’s shell and divide rapidly once the shellfish has died. If ingested, these bacteria can cause you to contract a foodborne infection, vibriosis, aka, food poisoning. The resulting gastroenteritis symptoms will develop in 12-24 hours and last 1-7 days. These can include fever, chills, vomiting, abdominal cramping, and nausea.

If you are already dehydrated or otherwise have compromised health, these symptoms can become life-threatening. The CDC reports around 52,00 cases for vibriosis can be attributed to eating contaminated seafood each year in the United States alone.

Vibrio bacteria aren’t just harmful if ingested, they can also infect open wounds. For this reason, do not go scavenging for shellfish if you have a cut, rash or seeping flesh. It’s best to go further and avoid brackish or saltwater with broken skin to ensure your safety. Specifically, Vibrio vulnificus can cause a skin infection that can develop into the life-threating condition of sepsis.

How to Safely Prepare and Store Lobster, Crab, and Crawfish for Consumption

The closer a crustacean is cooked after the time of death, the safer it is to eat. This is why many chefs choose to cook these species alive.

Boiling live lobsters is a practice that humans have been performing for thousands of years, started by the Roman cook Caelius Apicius during the first century. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century though that the connection between boiling live lobsters and limiting food poisoning was made. The lobster boiling practice had been solely due to the appearance and taste of the meat until then.

If you are unable (or unwilling) to boil your seafood alive, then there are measures you can take to halt or reduce the production of the vibrio bacteria.

  • The first is the use of cold, either by storing the culled meat on ice or freezing the meat immediately. If you opt to keep your lobster, crab or crawfish cold, you have 2-3 hours maximum to cook the meat before the bacteria renders the meat unsafe. For blue crab, it is recommended that they are kept on ice for only an hour prior to cooking.
  • A second practice to elongate the time between killing and cooking is to decapitate the crustacean immediately after death. This will preserve the desired meat longer as the head includes most of the viscera and gills which are more bacteria-rich then the body, tail and/or claw meat.

Final Thoughts

Generally, do not eat any lobster, crab or crawfish that hasn’t come from a reputable source. Even in survival situations, it is probably safer to forgo food than eat a crustacean you have found dead on the beach. To avoid consuming the illness-inducing bacteria, either cook shellfish live, or keep them on ice immediately after death and cook the meat within two to three hours postmortem.

Related Questions

Do lobsters suffer when boiled alive? Although it’s currently inconclusive whether lobsters can feel pain, studies have demonstrated that it takes a lobster 2-3 minutes to die in boiling water, which is observable by the tail twitching; a curled lobster tail is indicative that it was alive when cooked. The hormone cortisol is also released into their bloodstream when boiled, which is the same response humans have when hurt or stressed. Currently, it is illegal to boil a lobster alive in Switzerland and New Zealand, where it is required that lobsters are killed by stunning before cooking.

What part of the crab is poisonous? The lungs of crabs have a reputation for being toxic. However, these organs are simply indigestible and have an unpalatable flavor. Other parts of the innards of crabs have an unsightly appearance yet are some of the most sought after elements of the crustacean. The green liver (tomalley) is a delicacy, as are the bright orange roe (eggs) found in female crabs.

All of today’s lobster roll and lobster paella talk has probably put you in the mood to kill a crustacean. No? Well it should.

There are two opinions on the most humane way to go about it. One advises you to steam it until it’s dead. The other calls for piercing its head (behind the eyes) with a sharp knife. For the squeamish, we recommend the first method, pictured below. **

  1. Pour water into a large pot fitted with a steamer basket to a depth of 1″ and bring to a boil. Put lobsters in pot; cover. Steam 3 minutes and take pot off heat. Carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape, then lift out lobsters–their shells now a mottled red–with tongs. Transfer to a bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking. Drain.
  1. Place each lobster, belly side up, on a cutting board with the tail closest to you. Hold down tail with one hand; using a cleaver or chef’s knife, and starting at the center of the lobster where the tail meets the body, cut in half lengthwise. Rotate lobster so that the head is closest to you; repeat, cutting through body and head.
  1. Separate the halves. The lobster is now ready to use in our Grilled Lobster Paella. Leave the lobster in the shell: It infuses the entire dish with flavor while at the same time protecting the meat and keeping it from drying out. No time for paella? Finish directly on the grill, brushing occasionally with butter.

–Kay Chun

Photographs by Zach DeSart

How to Butterfly a Lobster Tail

Nothing quite compares to a skillfully prepared steak, or a lobster cooked the day it’s caught. While the delicious taste speaks for itself, these foods deserve a little extra effort spent on presentation. The old adage is “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but appearance does matter, both with books and with premium dishes.

One of the ways to make lobster more aesthetically pleasing and easier to eat is to butterfly the tail. This method isn’t just reserved for restaurants, you can do it in your own home! Through this lobster tail guide, you’ll learn how to properly store lobster, the step-by-step instructions for butterflying lobster tails, and the benefits of this practice.

What Does It Mean to Butterfly a Lobster Tail?

Though you’ve probably eaten lobster before, you may not know what it means to butterfly a lobster tail. Basically, it involves cracking open the hard top shell so the meat underneath can come through. As it cooks, the lobster meat will start to puff up over the shell. High-class restaurants love this showy presentation.

Not only does butterflying a lobster tail make it look more attractive on your dinner plate, but it also helps the meat cook evenly. Lobster tails in the butterfly style can be baked, broiled, roasted, or grilled, which offers flexibility. Whether you’re a barbecue master or you’re more comfortable cooking with the oven, your lobster tail will come out beautiful and thoroughly heated. It may seem like a complex method of preparation, but with these instructions, you’ll learn how to butterfly a lobster tail with ease.

Frozen vs. Fresh Lobster

First we will tackle the age-old question: which is better, frozen lobster or fresh? Though many people prefer purchasing a live lobster when they’re cooking for themselves, each type has its pros and cons.

For instance, if you’re an expert chef, you can utilize every part of a whole lobster if you buy it live. The different parts all have their own unique, delicious flavor, and you have the benefit of gathering the leftover shells and roe to make lobster stock. On top of that, ordering a fresh, live lobster is often cheaper than buying frozen tails.

With any sort of frozen food, but especially with seafood such as lobster, you never know how long the product has been sitting around at the grocery store. You run the risk of old, tough or freezer-burned lobster meat if you purchase it frozen. Not to mention, with frozen lobster tails you are more than likely unsure of their origin. Seeking out live lobster gives you a better chance of knowing where and how it was raised.

However, frozen lobster isn’t always inferior. Sometimes, farmers raise lobsters in less than ideal conditions, crowded together in dirty, poorly maintained tanks. Various kinds of seafood are subject to fostering parasites, including lobster. Though many people say fresh lobster tastes superior to frozen, lobsters are frequently frozen right after they’re caught, so it may still taste fresh when thawed and cooked.

Both frozen and fresh lobsters have their advantages and setbacks. If you have sensitive taste buds, you want to use every piece of a lobster rather than just the tail, or you want to save a little money, go with a live lobster instead of frozen.

Lobster Tails vs. Whole Lobster

Now you’re probably wondering, why do some people prefer lobster tails? After all, the entire lobster has tasty meat you could enjoy. Yet this preference extends from households to eating establishments, where you may see specials on lobster tails that are more expensive than whole lobsters! It doesn’t seem to make sense.

The truth is, the lobster tail is simple to prepare and highly satisfying. While buying a whole lobster may sound like less hassle on the surface, the cooking process creates a lot more mess. By the time you’re finished, your meal will be getting cold – and lobster isn’t something you want to pop in the microwave! Let’s face it: tails by themselves don’t require as much effort. Not to mention, if you’re squeamish, working with a live lobster in your kitchen may be too much for you to handle.

Even if you’re able to overcome that hurdle for the allure of a more substantial meal, you’ll just be disappointed. Most of the meat in a lobster’s body isn’t the greatest quality; the claws are good, but the best meat by far is in the tail. There’s a much larger quantity of it, and it’s incredibly delicious. On top of that, while other parts of a lobster are hard to deconstruct, you can easily pull the meat out of the tail with a fork. As you might imagine, butterflying lobster tails simplifies this even more!

Storing Lobster Tails

Maybe your lobster is going to function as a side dish instead of the main course, or you’re hosting a party and you want a little bit of lobster for everyone. In that case, you should buy lobster tails on their own. They can be found in the seafood section or freezer cases of your local grocery store, or you can purchase lobster tails or meat from online suppliers such as Maine Lobster Now. Look for the most substantial, high-quality tails you can get.

Lobster tails should be fresh and raw for cooking. When you bring home frozen tails, thaw them in the refrigerator before you do anything with them. Much like live lobster, a lobster tail will keep in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, if it’s kept in a tightly covered container. However, if you want to save it for a special occasion in the future, you can place the tail in a heavy-duty freezer bag or airtight plastic container and put it in your freezer. Frozen, it will keep for up to 6 months.

Learn How to Butterfly a Lobster Tail

As we mentioned, before you begin the process of butterflying or cooking, the lobster tail should be at the right temperature. If it was just inside the freezer, make sure it defrosts completely so you can use it. In terms of cutting implements, you’ll need kitchen shears to get through the lobster’s thick shell.

  1. Cut Open the Shell

Place the lobster tail shell side up on the table. Line up the bottom blade right under the shell, not within the meat itself. Hold the tail with one hand while you slowly cut down the center of the shell with the other. Continue cutting the upper-shell all the way to the base of the tail. Do not touch the tail fan or under-shell, they should be left attached and intact. If you don’t own kitchen shears, you’ll also be able to cut through the shell with a sharp knife, but be exceptionally careful so you don’t slice through the bottom of the shell.

  1. Pry Apart the Shell

The next step is opening the shell. Grab each side of the lobster shell with your thumbs and fingers to further spread the halves apart. You’ll need to be gentle when doing so, because you want to pry away the shell so it’s loose, but keep the back of the meat connected to the under-shell. After you’ve done this, the meat will be clearly visible.

  1. Pull Out the Meat

Now you’re going to separate the meat. Press down with your thumbs and push the lobster meat apart with the shell halves. Then carefully tug the meat so it comes off the bottom shell, still keeping the back attached near the tail fan. Pull the meat upward, lay it on top of the shell, and squeeze the shell halves close together beneath it. Make a small slit in the top of the meat so you can continue to fold it over the shell.

  1. Marinade and Skewer the Tail

Professionals recommend broiling your lobster tail after you butterfly it, but as we said above, baking, roasting, or grilling are solid choices as well. If you want to cut a few extra slits in the meat for presentation, go ahead. Otherwise, the lobster tail is ready to be brushed with butter and seasoned. Drizzle marinade over the tail before cooking, and consider using a wooden or metal skewer — inserted lengthwise — to keep the meat flat.

  1. Cook the Lobster Tail

The heat from the stove or barbecue grill will cause the meat to puff up even further over the shell halves. About halfway through cooking, you can take out the lobster tail and baste it with more marinade to heighten the flavor. If you’re grilling the tail, the internal temperature of the meat should reach 135°F, while baked tails should be between 140 and 145°F. After cooking is complete, you can remove the skewer and the tail will remain flat.

Why Butterfly Lobster Tails?

The process of butterflying lobster tails is easy, as long as you follow the directions closely, and preparing the tail this way has numerous advantages. Marinating in advance is simple, and basting midway through cooking is a breeze. The meat will retain its own juices, yet fully absorb your marinade, and it will also soak in the smoke from grilling or complementary flavors from broiling, roasting, or baking.

Monitoring the meat in a butterflied lobster tail is no trouble at all. As it cooks, you’ll be able to check the temperature and watch it turn a beautiful golden color. When you take it out of the pan or off the grill, the meat will stay flat and easy to serve for your family or friends. They’ll come away impressed, not only with the taste but with the presentation itself.

Serving Your Butterflied Lobster Tail

It’s completely okay if all you want to cover your cooked lobster tail in is melted butter. There are easy ways to switch it up a little, however. Many people will prepare garlic butter to go with their lobster, using paprika, parsley and two full cloves of garlic. You could sprinkle Cajun spices on top, give the tail a fresh flavor with lemon juice or wedges or brush it with herbs and butter. For the truly daring, use a bit of chili seasoning! Plenty of items on your spice rack will complement lobster tails — just be careful not to stray too far into left field.

When pairing side dishes or desserts with your lobster tail, the key is to find something that will play up the flavors in the lobster without overpowering them. For instance, if you want soup or salad with your meal, go with butternut squash soup, corn chowder, cucumber salad, or Caprese salad. Wild rice, pesto linguine, cheddar biscuits, and Italian bread also make for delicious but understated sides.

Lobster tails are the perfect entree for summer events. A New England favorite, they are best served with a shrimp appetizer or coleslaw on the side. Roasted broccoli, asparagus, corn on the cob or other grilled veggies work well with lobster meat thanks to the contrasting flavor they bring to the table.

Dessert shouldn’t be too heavy, after the rich lobster you just polished off. Offer champagne or sparkling cider to drink, and pile on the fresh fruit or sherbet topped with berries. If you want something a bit sweeter, go with strawberry shortcake, tiramisu or some sort of sponge cake.

Preparing Lobster is a Fun Experience

Just like baking or putting together kabobs, butterflying lobster tails is something enjoyable to try with your family members or significant other. It’s a chance to bond over a shared experience, and you’ll be learning a new kitchen trick in the process. You’ll feel like a chef in a five-star restaurant preparing the lobster and indulging in the delectable finished product.

If you’re hosting a large party or helping entertain several guests, it’s simple to butterfly anywhere from one to twelve lobster tails in advance and store them away. They can be prepared up to six hours before an event, and they’ll cook quickly so your guests won’t be waiting around hungry for long! To make them less complicated for visitors to figure out, spread the shell open a little more so they can easily access the meat.

Where You Get Your Lobster Matters

We hope that these tips on how to butterfly a lobster tail have made this cooking idea feel a little more approachable. Just because restaurants are known for it doesn’t mean it can’t be done at home! You just need the right tools, the steps explained in simple terms, and the best quality lobster tail available.

No matter what occasion the lobster is for, it’s important to purchase it from a reputable business. That way you’ll know it’s in top condition and at its freshest. Otherwise, your cooking could turn out tasting bad through no fault of your own. Don’t fall for prices that are unbelievably low, because as the saying goes “you get what you pay for.” Avoid lobster tails that have turned gray, have yellowing meat or discoloration such as black spots. Unfortunately, many sellers out there will try to rip you off, so you need to find a trustworthy source.

How to Cook Lobster Tails

Today, lobster graces the menus of the world’s best restaurants—but did you know that it was once considered a poor man’s food? It wasn’t until the 1880’s that lobster became quite popular, and by World War II it was deemed a delicacy.

There is meat in the front body cavity, claws, and legs of a lobster, but the meatiest part is the tail. The tail is thought by many to be the most delicious part of the lobster and restaurants will often serve it on its own without all the other parts. Cameron’s Seafood sells beautiful, warm water lobster tails that are flash frozen raw. The chunky rich meat on these tails is wonderfully tender and light in flavor.

The nice thing about cooking only the tails at home is that they are less expensive than buying the entire lobster. If your tails are frozen, thaw them for 24 hours in the fridge before you are ready to use them. If you’d like, you can butterfly your lobster tails before cooking them.

To butterfly a lobster tail, you cut down through the top hard shell and most of the meat with kitchen shears. Don’t cut all the way through the lobster tail; you want to leave the bottom of the shell intact. Stop cutting just before you get to the fan of the tail, leaving some of that meat attached to the end of the lobster. Butterflying lobster tails helps the meat cook faster and more evenly.

There are many ways to cook a lobster tail, and these include grilling, boiling, steaming, broiling, and baking. When learning how to cook lobster tails, a good rule of thumb is to cook them for 1 minute per ounce.

Grilling Lobster Tails

To get fancy grill lines on your lobster, cut the tails in half before grilling them. Turn your grill on to medium high heat. Brush cooking oil on the tail halves and put them meat side down on the grill.

Cook for about 8 minutes depending on size, until the shells are red and the meat is cooked but not rubbery. Serve warm.

Boiling Lobster Tails

To boil 4 lobster tails, bring 6 cups of water with 1.5 tsp of salt to a boil in a large pot. Add your lobster tails and cook for 8-12 minutes depending on the size of your tails.

The shells should be bright red and the meat tender when it is ready. To keep your tails from curling up in the water, stick a metal or wooden skewer through the length of them.

Steaming Lobster Tails

To steam lobsters, pour cold water into a steamer pot covering to a depth of about 2-3 inches. Bring the water to a boil.

Add the lobster tails into the steamer basket and cover with the lid. Steam the tails following the 1 minute per ounce method.

Once cooked, carefully remove the lobster tails from the steamer basket with tongs and serve with melted butter.

Broiling Lobster Tails

Preheat your broiler. Cut lengthwise through the top of the lobster tail shell.

Spread the halves apart slightly and brush with butter and perhaps sprinkle with salt and pepper too.

Broil lobster tails until shells are bright red and the meat is opaque, this should take about 5-10 minutes.

Baking Lobster Tails

It’s a good idea to butterfly your lobster tails before baking them for even temperature distribution.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place your lobster tails in a pan with a bit of water.

Brush the tails with butter and bake. Baking them takes a little bit longer than the other methods; go for about 1.5 minutes per ounce.

Lobster Tail Recipes

Here are some recipes you can try at home:

  • Broiled Lobster Tail – Taste of Home
  • Boiled Lobster –
  • Baked Lobster Tails – Tasty
  • Grilled Lobster Tails with Herb Butter – The Neelys
  • Steamed Lobster Tails with Wine, Butter Garlic Sauce – Genius Kitchen

Buy Delicious Lobster Tails Online

Loved learning how to cook lobster tails? You can find premium quality warm water lobster tails on our online store. You will also find steamed whole Maine lobsters on our website as well as a variety of other seafood options.

Don’t forget to check out what we are up to at Cameron’s Seafood! You can keep up with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Also, sign up to our email newsletter to receive exclusive discounts, giveaways, and promotions.