How To Cook Lobsters

Tara Williams

Food Writer & Editor For KitchenSanity

Tara Williams is a seasoned food writer and editor who's been with KitchenSanity since its beginning. With a knack for experimenting with food and creating delicious recipes, she's your go-to for straightforward kitchen advice and practical tips from personal experiences. As a mom of two, Tara understands the value of time. She crafts articles that enhance your cooking skills and free up time for what matters most—like family moments.

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Cooking lobster, whether whole or just the tail, requires focus and a good timer. Get your table set with the proper tools, have your side dishes and beverages ready, and block out all distractions so you can focus on this delicious dish.

No matter if you’re preparing whole lobster or lobster tail, you’ll need to provide your diners with the right tools. Lobster crackers, forks and shears are available in a wide variety of themes and materials.

Make sure your guests have the right tools to get at this delicious meat in a fun and informal way, and don’t forget a bowl for the shells!​

Related | How To Eat Lobster

Cooking Whole Lobster

When handling whole lobsters, whether you plan to boil or steam them, do not remove the rubber bands. One claw is a pincher and one is a crusher, and they came by those names honestly.

The first thing to consider when learning how to cook lobsters? Don’t get pinched!​

How to Boil Lobster

Per Elise Bauer with Simply Recipes one eight quart pot will take one lobster. Two or three lobsters can be cooked in a sixteen quart pot. Depending on how many you’re cooking for, you’ll need to prepare the lobsters in shifts.

how to boil lobster

The water should be heavily salted, similar to sea water. For each quart of water, add two teaspoons of salt. Fill the pots no more than three quarters full.

For example, an eight quart pot can hold six quarts of water and will need twelve teaspoons of salt.​

Once the water is at a rolling boil, carefully lower the lobster headfirst into the pot. Determination of how long to boil lobster is made by weight, so it’s important to purchase uniformly sized lobsters whenever possible.

Lobster Cooking Times​

Weight Of 1 LobsterApprox. Cooking Time
1lb12 – 15 minutes
1.5lb15 – 20 minutes
2 – 3lb20 – 25 minutes

* Approximate cooking times, actual cooking times may vary

Your lobsters will be a vivid red when done cooking. However, large lobster shells turn red before the flesh is done, so rely more on the timer than the color.

Under-cooked lobster is not good to eat, and over-cooked lobster will get rubbery.

Once the cooking time has been reached, remove the lobster from the pot with some sturdy tongs and put them on a plate to drain until they’re cool enough to serve.

How to Steam Lobster

You’ll need a large pot, a steaming rack, and, if you’re steaming more than one, lobsters of a similar size so everything is done at the same time. Add an inch of water to the pot and bring it to a rolling boil.​

how to steam lobster

Experts at suggest a clever replacement for a steamer rack. Crumple aluminum foil into a long rope to add bulk and coil it inside the pot in a figure eight. Your lobster will nest on the foil and steam until cooked.​

Settle your lobster on the steamer rack and cover the pot. Reheat to a full boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle boil for fourteen minutes, or until your lobster is bright red.

Lobster cooking times vary by weight. To confirm the lobster is done, pull on the antenna. If the lobster is cooked, the antenna will come out easily. Remove the lobster from the pot with tongs and allow it to drain and cool before cracking.

The question of how long to steam lobster can be touchy, as they will continue to cook in their shells. Your safest plan is to have everything (table setting, side dishes, and beverages) ready to go as soon as the lobsters go in the pot.​

How to Cook Whole Frozen Lobster

It’s possible to purchase frozen whole Maine lobsters, though generally when consider frozen lobster, the topic is tails.

Per seafood authority Dexter Britto, thaw your lobsters in a large bowl of cold water.

Skewer the lobsters with a wooden skewer from the tail through the head so the lobster doesn’t curl when boiled.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and boil your thawed lobsters for thirty minutes.​

Cooking Lobster Tails

Lobster tails are easier to cook than whole lobster, and more likely to be frozen when they get to you.

Thawing and cooking lobster tails gives you less to worry about as all the meat is in one place and is of a consistent thickness.

Many frozen lobster tails will be butterflied by the food processor. If not, this can easily be done after thawing.​

How to Select Lobster Tails

The nice thing about cooking whole lobster is that the selection process is fairly simple. You need a live lobster with two claws. The first step in how to prepare lobster tails is to review the condition of the flesh.

See Also: Types of Lobsters​

how to prepare lobster tails

Per seafood experts at What’s Cooking America, inspect the frozen lobster tails for any black spots or a gray color, as this means the lobster was not properly handled before the tail was flash frozen.

SEE ALSO: Flash Freezing​

Raw lobster tails should be white. If you see any discoloration, notify your fishmonger.​

How To Cook Frozen Lobster Tails

In a word: Don’t. Cooking frozen lobster will result in tough, rubbery meat. You need to start by thawing your lobster.

To thaw your frozen lobster tail, you can place them in a freezer bag and soak the bag in a bowl of cold water, or place them directly in the water.

Always use cold water to thaw your frozen lobster, or you risk starting the cooking process.​

Once thawed, the question of how long to cook lobster tails can be answered in a variety of ways.

Because you’re now working with a single, solid piece of meat instead of varying thicknesses (claw and knuckle meat is delicious, but much thinner than the tail) you can be assured of a more predictable outcome.

When deciding how to cook lobster tails, start simple.​

How to Cut Lobster Tails

Cut through the shell through the top or curved portion of the shell to the fan, but take care not to cut all the way to the bottom.

Your lobster tail meat will be cooking in the shell, so you need to leave the fan portion of the tail intact to keep the shell together.​

How to Butterfly A Lobster Tail

Butterflied lobster tail makes for a beautiful presentation for your guests. Start with fully thawed lobster tails.

Experts at Burhop’s Seafood recommend testing for thaw by curling the lobster tail so the fan at the bottom of the tail curls easily to the top of the tail.​

Cut through the shell down to the fan, but not all the way to the end. Once the cut is made, open the shell enough to free the meat.

You’ll need to be able to coat the meat in oil for the baking process, so give yourself space to work. Then pinch the shell back together so the meat is resting on top of the shell.

This presentation is called the piggyback method, and it’s very elegant on the plate. Spice simply to taste. Salt, pepper and paprika will be beautiful on the white lobster tail flesh.​

How to Bake Lobster Tails (Butterflied)

Bake your butterflied lobster tails at 375 Fahrenheit / 190 Celsius (gas number 5) for one and a half minutes per ounce of tail weight.

For example, a ten ounce lobster tail needs to bake for ten minutes. Then add a pat of butter to each tail, preheat your broiler, and broil the tails at least six inches from the heat source for three minutes.

The goal is to infuse the butter into the lobster tails, so the distance from the broiler is critical or the lobster tails will burn.

Serve with melted butter and lemon juice or other lobster side dishes.

How to Broil Lobster Tails

Lobster tails can also be broiled from start to finish. Per experts at, thaw your lobster tails and cut through the top of the shell to the fan, but don’t remove the meat.

  • Pull apart the shell slightly and season the flesh in the shell.
  • Line your broiler pan with foil, and add butter, salt, pepper and paprika to the lobster tails.
  • Keep an eye on the meat and broil for five to ten minutes, or until meat is opaque.
  • Maintain at least six inches between the broiler and the fish, or the butter will burn and ruin the flavor.​

Please note: Broiling is a delicate process. Many perfectly qualified home cooks have started out broiling and wound up incinerating a blameless piece of meat.

The question of how long to broil lobster tails is doubly challenging because they’re so tasty when cooked in butter!

If you’re not comfortable broiling, you might want to start with another method.​

How to Steam Lobster Tails

Working with lobster tails gives you some unique and easy options for adding flavor.

For example, steaming seafood in beer is a quick and tasty process, and the question of how long to steam lobster tail is simplified because you slice them in half first. This reduces the risk of leaving the center under cooked.​

  • Thaw your lobster tails and cut them in half from top to bottom.
  • Add six ounces of beer to a saucepan and bring it to a boil.
  • Lay the cut lobster tails, flesh side down, in a steamer pan and suspend it over the boiling beer.
  • Let the lobster tails steam for eight minutes.
  • Serve with butter, minced garlic and a bit of lemon. Delicious!

How to Cook Lobster Tails In Oven​

Baking your lobster tail is the best way to make sure it doesn’t get over-cooked. Broiling may be faster, but large lobster tails may dry out or get over-done under the broiler.

Seafood authorities at recommend cutting away the bottom of the shell (as opposed to splitting the top) down to the fan for easy baking.

  • Cut down both sides, and remove this portion of the tail.
  • Loosen the meat inside the shell.
  • Drizzle the flesh with a mixture of butter, lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika.
  • Wrap the tail in foil.​
  • Preheat your oven or gas range to 450 degrees Fahrenheit / 230 degrees Celsius (gas number 8) and bake per weight.

A two ounce lobster tail will need to bake for twelve minutes. For each ounce above that, add four to six minutes of baking time. Once the flesh is white, it’s ready to eat!​

SEE ALSO: How To Clean Baking Sheets​

Final Thoughts – Give It A Try!

Access to whole Maine lobsters can be a challenge if you don’t live in the northeast. If you’ve never cooked lobster before, the risk of losing a live lobster in shipment or destroying a whole lobster while cooking it can be daunting.

For lobster novices, there are many simple methods of cooking frozen lobster tails.​

Prep work for all forms of frozen lobster tail:

  1. Check the flesh for gray discoloration or black spots; these indicate poorly handled lobster and should not be eaten.
  2. Thaw your lobster tails in cold water.
  3. Open the shell, either over the curve on top or by splitting the bottom.​

From there, the processes can vary. Find a simple recipe that works for your taste, your kitchen and your guests, and give it a try!

Lobsters can be found along nearly every seacoast. If you don’t live near the coast, don’t despair!

Frozen lobster tails offer even the beginning chef the chance to prepare this delicious delicacy. Find a simple recipe, clear away distractions, and enjoy.​

Written By Tara Williams

Tara Williams is a seasoned food writer and editor who's been with KitchenSanity since its beginning. With a knack for experimenting with food and creating delicious recipes, she's your go-to for straightforward kitchen advice and practical tips from personal experiences. As a mom of two, Tara understands the value of time. She crafts articles that enhance your cooking skills and free up time for what matters most—like family moments.

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