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  • Rock Rousseau

HOW TO Cook and Eat Fresh Lobster

Updated: Aug 29, 2019



Perfectly cooked lobster is surely one of life’s simplest pleasures, but many of us unsure on how to perfectly boil, steam, or grill whole lobsters. 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. Below are plenty of tips for how to prepare, cook, and then eat amazing lobster at home.

How to Pick and Prepare Lobster before Cooking



Perfectly cooked lobster is delicious, but if not done properly it can be a great expense and ruin your dinner plans.

When you pick out your lobster...

They should look healthy and lively with tails straight and claws up. Live lobsters will be have a brown or black color, which is their natural color. They don't turn bright red until they are cooked. Sometimes lobsters get tired from the cold temperature or traveling, but at the very least the small legs underneath should be moving. If you have a lobster that is not moving, set it on its back for a couple minutes to see if it starts to move.

When storing lobster before cooking...

The two most important things to keep in mind are temperature and moisture. Keep lobster in a refrigerator or walk-in cooler. If you are using a cooler, make sure to use adequately frozen gel packs and keep the temperature ideally at 40 degrees F during storage. Do not put ice on the lobsters or keep them in tap water- fresh water kills lobsters.

When putting a live lobster to sleep...

We know that killing a creature at home can be very uncomfortable for many people. If you follow our recommendations there will be nothing to feel awkward about. This can be a fun experience for the whole family without having to separate someone who may feel uncomfortable about the event. This instruction is purely to educate those that wish to prepare live lobster in a manner that is humane. Before you begin cooking any live lobster, please place the lobsters in the freezer for 20 minutes. This puts a lobster to sleep first and then dies. This is painless and does not incur any suffering on the lobster. After 20 minutes, take the lobster bands off before cooking.

Before you handle any food...

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Clean your kitchen work area and pull back your hair or wear a cap. You want to avoid contaminating your meal with harmful bacteria that could cause food illness. If you wish to butterfly a lobster tail, this would be a the time to separate your tail and cook it separately than the claws. Simply pull the tail apart from the center carapace, or cut with knife. The claws would cook about the same time as the normal cook time of the live lobster.If you plan on butterflying a lobster tail, you will need seafood shears to cut the lobster tail.

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, you may cook lobsters in batches, using a couple of pots. A 4-5 oz. soup pot will work well for a couple small lobsters. A 20-quart pot will cook about 6 of the 1.5 lb lobsters. 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 quarter pound lobster. For timing, use the weight of individual lobsters, not the total weight of all lobsters being cooked

When lobster is fully cooked...

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.

It's better to under-cook than overcook...

If you overcook them, your going to be eating tough lobster. If you under-cook your lobster 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.

Methods for Cooking Lobster

Steaming and boiling are the two most common ways to cook lobsters, but you can also grill and smoke them as well. It's important to never overcook your lobster as it will make the meat tough and stringy. 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.


How to Boil Fresh Lobster

I strongly recommend boiling lobster. This is the easiest technique, especially for beginners. This best way to boil in that saltwater flavor is adding a 1/4 cup of sea salt in the boiling water. Boiling actually adds weight to the lobster meat. Some methods like grilling would tend to dry out the lobster meat.

To boil fresh lobster:

  1. Fill a large stock pot with water. Allow three quarts of water per 1.5 pounds of lobster. Lobster should be totally submerged in water.

  2. Add 1/4 cup of Sea Salt for each gallon of water. (4 quarts = 1 gallon). This adds significant flavor to the lobsters.

  3. Bring the salt water to a rolling boil. While your water is boiling, remove your lobster from its packaging and place on the counter for a few moments.

  4. Leave the rubber bands on the lobster’s claws when you cook them. Don't take a chance of getting pinched. If the lobster has already been put to sleep, it's OK to take the bands off before cooking.

  5. Wearing silicone gloves, grab the lobster behind the claws with the palm of your hand over its back.

  6. Carefully slide the lobster head-first into the water and cover the pot with the lid.

  7. If you hear a whistling sound when the steam starts escaping from the shells, that’s normal. Some will say this is the lobster screaming which is a myth. Lobsters can’t scream. This is the release of steam from the shell similar to a teapot whistling when the tea starts to boil.

  8. When the water returns to a full boil, set your timer using the cooking time recommendations below. This will aid in making sure you don’t overcook your lobster.

1 lb. lobster = 9 minutes in boiling water

1 ¼ lb. lobster = 10 minutes in boiling water

1 ½ lb. lobster = 11 minutes in boiling water

2 lb. lobster = 12 minutes in boiling water

3 lb. lobster = 15 minutes in boiling water

4 lb. lobster or more = 18 minutes in boiling water

9. After the time goes off, check to make sure your lobsters are a deep red color, which means they are cooked.

10. Using silicone gloves, carefully remove your lobsters from the boiling water and place them on a flat surface lined with paper towels where they can drain. Turn over after a few minutes to ensure all residual water is drained.

11. Let lobster sit for 5 minutes. This will allow the juices to settle and allow the lobster to retain its natural flavor.

If you are boiling lobsters at a higher elevations...

It 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. Basically, increase the cook time not the heat. Add 2 minutes to the lobster cooking times. Also, cover the pot tightly when cooking. To avoid overcooking and under-cooking 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.


How to Steam Fresh Lobster

Steaming lobsters is an age-old Northeastern tradition that true lobster lovers have long enjoyed. Below, we'll show you how to perfectly steam your lobsters right at home.

To steam fresh lobster:

1. Fill a large pot with about two cups of cold, salted water. This should allow about 2 inches of water at the bottom of the pot.

2. Place a steaming insert or high-temperature-resistant colander in the pot. Be sure that the water line is below the steaming insert, otherwise you’ll end up boiling your lobsters.

3. Cover your pot with a secure lid and bring the water to a boil.

4. Leave the rubber bands on the lobster’s claws when you cook them. Don't take a chance of getting pinched. If the lobster has already been put to sleep, it's OK to take the bands off before cooking.

5. Wearing silicone gloves, grab the lobster behind the claws with the palm of your hand over its back.

6. Carefully slide the lobster head-first into the water and cover the pot with the lid.

7. If you hear a whistling sound when the steam starts escaping from the shells, that’s normal. Some will say this is the lobster screaming which is a myth. Lobsters can’t scream. This is the release of steam from the shell similar to a teapot whistling when the tea starts to boil.

8. Be sure that your lobsters are far enough apart to ensure that the steam can move freely between them. Overcrowding your lobsters can result in imperfect cooking.

9. Use the chart below to gauge how long you should steam your lobsters based on their weight.

1 lb. lobster = 10 minutes

1 ¼ lb. lobster = 12 minutes

1 ½ lb. lobster = 14 minutes

1 ¾ lb. lobster = 16 minutes

2 lb. lobster = 18 minutes

2 ½ lb. lobster = 20 minutes

3 lb lobster = 24 minutes

3 1/2 lb lobster = 28 minutes

4 lb lobster = 30 minutes

How to Grill Fresh Lobster:

Grilling really ads that distinct flavor to your lobster that any grilling connoisseur will love. If you love grilling steaks, you will definitely love a grilled lobster. The tricky thing is just like grilling any food, you have to make sure you get all parts of the lobster cooked, which is why some people cut them in half so they don't know to cook longer times on lower heat to thoroughly cook the center. It is common to cut lobsters in half for grilling. But again, just to drive this point home as mentioned before, its better to under-cook than to over-cook, you will really kick yourself when you've scorched the meat. So cook at a shorter time, take a look, if its not done, throw it back on for a few more minutes. Grilling is also a great opportunity to try some butter and spices.