If you are new to making lobster at home, you absolutely should start with lobster tails! All of the good stuff, less of the work, and less stress in the kitchen.
That’s why I recommend cooking lobster tails for the crustacean beginners among us, and for those of you who are trying to have a more romantic, less messy date night. For a simple side, try a Mixed Greens Salad with Pears and Balsamic Dressing, Roasted Carrots with Spinach Parsley Pesto, or The Best Parmesan Roasted Potatoes.
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How to Cook Lobster Tail: There are several super simple ways to cook restaurant-quality lobster tail at home.Tweet This
Cooking Lobster Tail at Home
There are actually a number of ways to cook lobster tail. The four main ways are grilling, steaming, broiling, and roasting, and all yield utterly delicious lobster meat.
Boiling is also a possibility, but it’s best to save that method for when you are cooking a whole lobster in the shell so that the delicate, delicious flavor of the meat doesn’t dissipate into the cooking water. Baking also works, but I prefer the blast of high heat you get from roasting or broiling, which seems to give the lobster a little bit of extra sweetness and possibly caramelization.
The main lobster cooking tip? Don’t overcook it. It’s that simple.
(While I don’t understand people who think that “eating” a whole lobster is too much work, I know they are out there. It is true that eating a whole lobster is rarely a delicate or clean endeavor — I have to know the person sitting across from me is quite fond of me because watching me dismantle a lobster is not pretty. No morsel stays in the shell, and those little wipes aren’t enough for me at the end of the meal. Think more along the lines of a Silkwood shower.)
- Lobster tail – Use 8-ounce lobster tails here. Read on for tips on how to choose the best lobster tails.
- Butter – Use unsalted butter and combine it with garlic to dress your lobster tails up right and make them taste as gorgeous as they look.
- Garlic – Can’t have garlic butter without garlic!
- Salt – Just because that butter isn’t salted…
How to Choose Lobster Tail
Picking the best seafood is just as important as knowing how to cook it — especially when you are going for something pricey, like lobster. There are a whole set of things to look for when you are buying whole, live lobsters, but let’s focus on the tail here. Basically, you’re looking for a hard shell, the harder, the better. This means the lobster has fully filled out its shell, and you will get a larger amount of tender, sweet, firm meat.
Buy from a reputable source. Either go to a quality fish store or buy from a place that sells lots of lobster tails with high turnover, like a price club. There are lots of online sources for lobster tail, too — read the company reviews before buying.
Avoid lobster days with any grayish discoloration or dark spots, which could indicate the day (warm water lobster tails also have spots, but this is presuming you are looking for cold water lobster). Make sure there is no yellowing of the meat itself. Look or ask to see if there is extra water or any other product injected into the lobster before buying — you want pure lobster meat.
Best Ways to Thaw Lobster Tails
More often than not, the lobster tails you see at the market, the fish store, or Costco have been frozen or are frozen. That’s fine — in general, most seafood is frozen at some point in order to maintain peak freshness — unless you are getting something air-flown or you live right near the water, and you’re getting it fresh off the boat. Here’s how to defrost your frozen lobster tails (and it works for whole lobsters, too).
- Thawing Lobster Tails in the Refrigerator – The best and easiest way to thaw lobster tails is in the refrigerator, in their packaging, or transferred to a sealed container. Lobster tails should thaw in 1 day, unless you have really large ones well north of 1 pound each (in which case, lucky you, and what is your address?).
- Thawing Lobster Tails in Cold Water – You can also place the lobster tails in a well-sealed zipper-top bag and place that bag in a bowl of very cold water. Make sure the bag is tightly sealed so that the water doesn’t soak into the lobster meat. And make sure the water stays cold. This should take about 2 to 6 hours, depending on the size and amount of lobster tails.
How to Cook Lobster Tail
There are many methods for cooking lobster tails — as many as there are ways to heat things up! However, not all cooking techniques are made equal.
- Don’t microwave your lobster tails; you’ll likely end up with tough or unevenly cooked lobster meat.
- Boiling is fine for whole lobsters but not great for lobster tails. Some of the flavors will just end up in the water instead of in the meat where it belongs, and they can become rubbery. Here are the best methods for cooking lobster tails.
Grilled Lobster Tail
Grilling lobster or lobster tail is a seasonal endeavor, unless you are a hard-core year-round griller. The amount of time it takes is about the same as for the broiler method, 8 to 10 minutes for an 8-ounce tail.
You can flip the lobster tail once during the grilling if you want grill marks on the top of the lobster. You will probably want to give it one final more baste on top of the lobster meat with the garlic butter (or just plain melted butter) when you take it off the grill, if you flip it upside down, so it stays on the meat, and doesn’t drip off into the fire.
Steamed Lobster Tail
Bring a pot of water with a steamer insert to a boil. Place the lobster tails in the steamer basket. You can leave the shells intact, or cut them down the top as directed below. Steam for 8 to 10 minutes until the meat is opaque, keeping the pot covered.
How to Roast Lobster Tail
- Preheat: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Cut open tails: Using kitchen scissors, cut the top of the shell down the middle of the spread and open the shell a bit to expose the meat. This might be easy or hard, depending on how attached the meat is to the shell — it’s all fine.
- Season: Place the lobster tails on a rimmed baking sheet or other baking pan, and brush with garlic butter (see recipe below).
- Roast: Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes until the meat is firm and opaque (white) and an instant-read thermometer registers 140 degrees in the center of the tail.
How to Broil Lobster Tail
- Preheat and prep the oven: Preheat the broiler, and place the rack about 6 inches away from the heat source.
- Cut open shells: Using kitchen scissors, cut the top of the shell down the middle and spread open the shell a bit to expose the meat. This might be easy or hard, depending on how attached the meat is to the shell — it’s all fine.
- Butter it up: Brush with the garlic butter.
- Broil: Broil for about 6 minutes until the meat is firm and opaque (white) and an instant-read thermometer registers 140 degrees in the center of the tail.
The cooking time depends slightly on the method but doesn’t vary too much. A 4-ounce lobster tail will take from 5 to 8 minutes. An 8-ounce lobster tail will take from 8 to 10 minutes. You want the lobster meat to be opaque (white) throughout, not translucent, and firm. Be careful not to overcook lobster tail, which can cause it to become tough and rubbery. Look for an internal temperature of 140 degrees.
Make sure you are buying cold water lobster tail, unless you are intentionally looking for warm water lobster. This is the kind of quintessential lobster most of us think of when we think of a traditional shore dinner, with a sweet, clean taste and dense texture. Warm water lobster usually doesn’t get as firm when cooked, and the texture can be a bit grainy.
Definitely not! If you boil lobster tails you risk cooking them too long, which will turn them to that dreaded rubbery consistency. And some of the flavor will leach out into the cooking water. It’s safer to go for one of the other methods like roasting or broiling.
When you steam lobster tails, it doesn’t matter when you split the shells — you can either do it before or after. The steam will get to the meat regardless!
You definitely should thaw your lobster tails before cooking them. This makes sure that the lobster meat cooks evenly and all the way through. If you cook them straight from frozen, you risk them turning out rubbery on the outside and/or raw at the center!
Sometimes your lobster tails have been treated with preservatives in order to freeze them, so it’s a good idea to rinse them with cool water after defrosting them.
The most important tip of all — don’t overcook it!
If the shell is split before they are cooked, it’s easy to pry open the shell and pull out the lobster meat. If you haven’t cracked or split the lobsters before cooking, you’ll want to offer up lobster crackers or nut crackers for diners to use to crack the shells. Then just pull out the meat, cut it into bite-sized pieces and enjoy!
What to Serve With Lobster Tail
More Stunning Seafood Recipes
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How to Cook Lobster Tail
- 2 8-ounce lobster tails
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon finely minced garlic
- Kosher salt (to taste)
- Preheat the broiler, and place the rack about 6 inches away from the heat source. Using kitchen scissors, cut the top of the shell down the middle and spread open the shell a bit to expose the meat (this might be easy or hard, depending on how attached the meat is to the shell — it’s all fine).
- In a small bowl, melt the butter with the garlic and salt. Brush the tops of the lobster tails with the butter mixture. Broil for about 6 minutes until the meat is firm and opaque (white), and an instant-read thermometer registers 140 F in the center of the tail.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.