A freshly cooked lobster on a white platter. Learn how to cook lobster at home!

The Complete Guide To Cooking Lobster

Fresh Atlantic Lobster is a truly delicious thing indeed when properly prepared. Tender and rich in flavor, what was once considered poor man’s food and used as fertilizer, lobster is now a gourmet delicacy around the world. Luckily, learning how to cook lobster at home is as easy as boiling a pot of water.

The best and freshest lobster in the world is fished of the East Coast of Canada, (I may be a little biased since I do live here!). One of the mainstays of economy in the Atlantic Provinces, lobster (and seafood in general) is exported around the world, as far away as China and Japan. You can buy it in the airports here to take home a live lobster!

A traditional sign of summer in Atlantic Canada, lobster is consumed at family gatherings, BBQ’s, special occasions and even served as a special item at New Years. Serve freshly cooked lobster with old fashioned potato salad, coleslaw or kale slaw, drawn butter, and a fresh dinner roll for a true East Coast summer feast.

An Atlantic lobster freshly boiled and displayed on a white platter with lemon and parsley

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What Is A Lobster?

If you don’t know what lobster is, (outside if it being a weird looking ocean going animal) fear not I’m here to fill in the blanks.

Contrary to the hundreds of pictures you see on menus and the internet, live lobsters are not actually red, but a dark greenish brown color, and only turn bright red when cooked. This is due to the fact that lobster (and certain other shell fish) contain a various bio-chemicals in their shells that react with temperature changes.

In this case astaxanthin is the culprit. A pigment that is bright red in color, and can actually absorb blue light. While the lobster is alive this pigment is trapped in a membrane called the crustacyanin . When cooked, this membrane breaks down, allowing the astaxanthin to show it’s color.

A Little Anatomy

Lobsters are a large marine crustacean (specifically part of the arthropod family) that roam the cold waters of the Atlantic ocean eating small fish, worms and plant life.

the various basic body parts of an atlantic lobster

Lobsters have a large meaty tail, a body, and five sets of legs, two of which are the long arms made up of knuckles with large claws at the end. These claws are quite strong and can do some serious damage if one isn’t careful.

The larger claw is the ‘crusher’ with rounded bumps meant to hold and crush prey, while the smaller claw is the ‘cutter’ with very spiny, sharp teeth meant to tear and cut. This is why lobsters are usually sold with elastics around the claw so they can’t get at your fingers!

Lobsters also have a stomach which is located right behind the mouth, (don’t eat it, it’s full of gross stuff!) as well as the tomalley (which is edible), and functions as it’s liver.

a cooked lobster cut in half with the various edible and inedible parts shown

On occasion you will get a female lobster who’s tail is filled with roe. When fully cooked the roe turns a bright red color and can be eaten. Any roe that remains in the body and not the tail, usually won’t fully cook and looks like a black slimy goo. If you see this uncooked roe in your home cooked lobster, simply scoop it out and discard it.

Is It A Male Or Female Lobster?

Male and female lobsters are easily told apart by flipping the lobster onto its back and looking at their underside.

  • Females are generally larger and have a wider tail then male lobsters. This is to accommodate roe (also called coral) and the eventual eggs. When fully cooked the roe turns a bright red color (hence the name coral) and is considered a delicacy. Female lobsters will have two small ‘feelers’, smaller then the rest, where the tail joins to the body. These small feelers are much softer and more translucent then the rest.
  • Male lobsters tend to be much smaller in appearance due to a narrower tail. The first set of feelers in male lobster are hard and pointy and covered in shell.

The Lobster Fishing Season

The best tasting Atlantic Lobster is obviously fresh lobster. Here in Prince Edward Island, fresh lobster can be found for sale year round, though it is always cheapest during the fishing season.

The price of lobster can vary depending on the success of the season, and has been known to range from $7/lb to $13/lb -Chef Markus Mueller

Lobster season in Prince Edward Island runs from May 1st to June 31st and then again from August 1st to October 31st. The gap between the two fishing seasons is due to the warmer water of summer during which the lobster shells are softer.

What Size Lobster Should You Choose?

Most lobsters are sold by the pound and come as canners (between .5lb and .75lb ), or market lobsters. Market lobsters are sold by the pound and can range in size from 1lb, 1.5lb and 2lb lobsters. Most lobsters you’ll get in a restaurant are 1-1.5 lb unless otherwise advertised.

When purchasing live lobster, make sure the lobster is moving, and curls it's tail back up when straightened out. They can be quite feisty! Lobsters that don't move at all are dead and should be thrown out. - Chef Markus MuellerClick To Tweet

While canners can be substantially cheaper there is hardly any meat on them. Canners are great though if you are using the meat in a recipe such as lobster cakes or lobster bisque where  you only need a little amount of meat. In a lobster bisque even the shells are used, making canners the perfect utility lobster!

For a regular lobster feast or boil, where the lobster is the main meal would recommend choosing 1lb – 1.5lb market lobsters. They cook fairly quickly, have a decent amount of meat on them, without being to large for the table.

Related:  Kale Slaw (With A Creamy Lemon Garlic Dressing)

How To Cook Lobster At Home

There are generally three main ways to cook lobster. Well four if you include baking, but even then the lobster is usually boiled first

  • Boiling
  • Steaming & Poaching
  • Grilling
  • Baking & Broiling

Do I have to remove the rubber band before cooking?

Yes and no. Any Chef, myself included will say to remove the bands. Boiling especially can cause the water to take on a plastic taste, but I have found this to be more of an issue if you are cooking large amounts of lobster in the same water.

If you are not comfortable removing the rubber band prior to cooking it’s ok to leave them on. -Chef Markus Mueller

Boiling

The most popular way of cooking lobster is by boiling it. Probably the easiest and most economical way to cook large amounts of lobsters, boiling lobsters simply requires a large pot a heat source and some salt.

A large propane turkey cooker is ideal for boiling lobster, especially in big quantities. No fishing smelling kitchen and a strong heat source thas easily brought camping, to the cottage or a potluck.

A propane lobster cooker and pot in the garden

How big of a pot do I need?

The size of the pot required to cook lobster depends on how many lobsters you want to cook. If you’re cooking two 1lb lobsters an 8 Quart (7.5 Liters) Pot is probably large enough. If your having a large lobster boil though and are cooking 10+ lobsters you’ll probably want something in the 32 Quart range.

As a rule of thumb you want the pot to be large enough to completely cover the lobsters with at least 2 inches of water.

How long do I boil lobster for?

Bring the water to a boil and add plenty of salt to the water ( about 3 tbsp of salt per liter of water), better yet use fresh seawater for best results.

Add the live lobsters to the boiling water and then bring the pot back to a boil as quickly as possible. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook the lobsters for 10 to 12 minutes.

A pot full of lobsters boiling away

As a general rule of thumb you should boil lobster for 7 minutes per pound. This is based on the lobster size though and not the combined total weight. So if you are cooking 1.5 lb lobsters you should simmer them for about 11 minutes, if you are cooking 2lb lobsters 14 minutes and so on.

The number of lobsters is irrelivent as long as the pot is not over crowded and all the lobsters are properly submerged in the water.

Steaming & Poaching

Steaming lobster is just as easy as boiling, but requires a large pot with steam insert or a commercial steamer. The end result is much the same as boiling lobster, though since there is no salt added in the cooking process, the lobster may not be as well seasoned.

Poached lobster is similar to boiled lobster, but only the tail, knuckles, and claws are generally poached, and these are cooked in a flavorful poaching liquid to flavor the lobster as it cooks. This can be a white wine, and herb infused liquid, a butter and stock based liquid or even a tomato based poaching liquid.

How To Steam Lobster

  1. Start by placing a cup or two of water in the bottom of a wide pot. Place  steam rack or insert in the pot and cover it with a lid.
  2. Bring the water to a boil, and then using oven gloves and tongs open the lid being careful not to burn yourself on the steam,. Place the lobster on the steam rack.
  3. Steam the lobster for about 10 -14 minutes, again depending on the size of the lobster itself. Same as when boiling lobster, you should steam lobsters for about 7-8 minutes per pound.
  4. Remove the lobster with heat proof tongs and serve immediately or cool in an ice bath for later use.

Steaming lobster is great if you do not have a large pot to boil lobster in and are only cooking a small amount at home.

How To Poach Lobster

  1. Start by creating a flavorful poaching liquid to cook the lobster meat in.
  2. Bring the poaching liquid to a simmer, and then place the raw lobster tails, claws, and knuckles in the liquid.
  3. Poach the lobster for about 10 -14 minutes, again depending on the size of the lobster itself. Same as when boiling lobster, you should poach lobsters for about 7-8 minutes per pound.
  4. Remove the lobster with heat proof tongs and serve immediately or cool in an ice bath for later use.

A freshly cooked lobster on a white platter. Learn how to cook lobster at home!

Grilling

When it comes to grilling lobster there is a little bit of controversy that comes along with it.

As lobster needs to be cooked from raw to prevent tough meat, lobster is traditionally grilled by cutting the live lobster in half and immediately placing it on the hot grill. Many folks say grilling lobster is in-humane though and I agree it can be unnerving especially if you have never grilled a lobster before. Personally I wouldn’t look at this any differently then boiling live lobster, cooking mussels, clams, or even eating oysters, all which are live first as well.

So how do I grill lobster if I don’t want to cut it in half while live?

two blanched lobsters grilling on a BBQ is just one of the many ways lobster can be cooked

The simple solution and the one advocated by most chefs these days is to blanch the lobster in a pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes and then immediately placing it in ice water to stop the cooking process. This is enough to kill the lobster without the risk of overlooking the meat. Once cooled the lobster is then cut in half and grilled meat side down until the meat is fully cooked.

Related:  Grilled Atlantic Lobster Brushed with Garlic Butter & Herbs

How Long Do You Grill Lobster For?

When grilling lobster care needs to be taken that the claws are fully cooked. The tail meat will cook quite quickly as it is exposed directly to the grill, but the claw meat is protected by the shell. Blanching the lobster before grilling is a sure fire way to make sure the claws are fully cooked.

After the lobsters have been blanched the tails can be removed and grilled separately from the claws, or the lobster can be grilled whole. Grill the blanched lobster for 5 to 8 minutes or until the meat is fully opaque and has nice grill marks.

Grilled lobster is quite delicious and the charred grill marks adds great flavor to this delicious seafood. I love my lobster grilled and brushed with garlic butter and sprinkled with fresh herbs.

four grilled lobsters garnished with fresh herbs on a white platter

Baking & Broiling

Lobsters can also be baked. I wouldn’t really consider this a way to cook lobster so much as a way to prepare lobster. Before baking, the lobster is usually either fully cooked by boiling, or blanched just as when grilling lobster. The meat is then removed from the body and tail, seasoned, and stuffed back into the lobster shell before being broiled or baked.

A traditional dish served at New Years, Lobster Thermidore is a great example of baked lobster. The meat is then stuffed back into the lobster body and topped with various ingredients before baking.

Have you cooked or tried cooking lobster at home?? Comment & Rate the guide below, then take a picture and tag me on Facebook & Instagram: @earthfoodandfire . For more from scratch recipes follow me on Instagram & Pinterest

A freshly cooked lobster on a white platter. Learn how to cook lobster at home!
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How To Cook Live Lobster

The complete guide on how to cook lobster at home, including different cooking methods, availability, and identification of parts.

Course Entree
Cuisine Canadian
Keyword how big of a lobster pot do i need, how to boil lobster, how to buy live lobster, how to grill lobster, how to steam lobster
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 11 minutes
Total Time 21 minutes
Servings 4 Cooked Lobsters
Calories 420.1 kcal
Author Chef Markus Mueller

Ingredients

  • 4 whole 1.5 lb Atlantic Lobsters
  • 16 quarts water or 17 liters
  • salt

Instructions

Boiling

  1. Boil a large pot of water, large enough to cover the live lobsters with at least two inches of water. Heavily season the water with salt, it should taste salty like seawater.

  2. Drop the live lobsters into the boiling water and return the water to a boil as fast as possible. Boil the lobster for 7 to 8 minutes per pound .

  3. Remove the lobsters from the pot once cooked, and serve immediately, or cool, then shell the meat for later use.

Grilling

  1. Blanch the lobster in boiling salted water for 2 minutes to kill them, then shock the lobsters in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

  2. Once cooled, cut the lobster in half with a large chefs knife. 

  3. Brush the exposed meat with butter or oil, and place flesh side down on a hot grill.

  4. The tail may be removed and grilled separately from the claws or the lobster may be grilled whole. Grill for about 5 minutes or until the lobster meat is completely opaque, with nice grill marks.

Steaming

  1. Prepare a steamer by simmering a cup or two of water in a large pot fitted with a wire rack or perforated steamer insert.

  2. Place the lobster in the steamer, and steam for 7 to 8 minutes per pound.

  3. Remove the lobster from the steamer with tongs, and serve immediately or cool and shell the meat for later use.

Poaching

  1. Start by creating a flavorful poaching liquid to cook the lobster meat in.

  2. Bring the poaching liquid to a simmer, and then place the raw lobster tails, claws, and knuckles in the liquid.

  3. Poach the lobster for about 10 -14 minutes, again depending on the size of the lobster itself. Same as when boiling lobster, you should poach lobsters for about 7-8 minutes per pound.

  4. Remove the lobster with heat proof tongs and serve immediately or cool in an ice bath for later use.

Baking/ Broiling

  1. Blanch the lobster in boiling salted water for 2 minutes to kill them, then shock the lobsters in an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

  2. Cut the lobster completely in half, or remove the tail and use kitchen shears to cut open the top of the tail shell.

  3. Place the lobster on a baking sheet, and top with various flavorings and garnishes such as flavored butter, cheese, salsa, or other appropriate sauces.

  4. Bake or broil the lobster as appropriate for 5 to 8 minutes or until the meat is fully opaque.


© 2018, Markus Mueller | Earth, Food, and Fire. All rights reserved. Please contact Earth, Food, and Fire, if you wish to use any media or other content contained on this site.

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24 Comments

  1. Such a great, informative post about lobster! As a west coaster, lobster is a delicacy, so it’s great to have all of your East coast expertise on cooking this amazing food. Thank you!

  2. Such a well thought-out post! This is so informative and I’ve always been curious about poaching lobster so thank you for including that method as well! Definitely bookmarking these tips!

  3. This is such a great post – full of basically everything you’d need to know to tackle a lobster! I’m sharing this with all my east coast friends!

  4. Neli Howard

    Oh how delicious this recipe looks! I really like. It’s just incredible. Love the unique flavors in this recipe! YUM!

  5. So much information on how to cook your very own lobster! And so many different ways. Making it on the grill sounds really delicious.

  6. Heidy McCallum

    I love all the tips and tricks! I also have to agree your area has the best lobster. I’m in Florida and ours a just — meh at best.

  7. I love lobster, especially boiled and served with lemon butter. And, I’m always on the lookout for a great lobster roll. Your post has so much interesting info I never knew. Nice job!

    • I’m glad it was useful even to a seasoned lobster aficionado like you! I also love a good lobster roll…but how can you not? I will hopefully have a lobster roll recipe up in the next few weeks!

  8. I often make Lobster tails and have always felt intimated to try an entire lobster, but this guide is perfect! Pinned!

  9. Wow! Such great information and details on lobsters. The difference between female & male along with all the tips on preparing to cook are very helpful.
    Thanks for sharing when the high season for lobster is. I just might need to make a trip out there.

  10. Markus- this is fantastic information! I thought I was allergic to lobster for years so I avoided it and have no idea how to cook it! Turns out I’m not so I will definitely be referring back to this. Pinned and shared as well 🙂

  11. This post is so super thorough and helpful! I’ve always wanted to try cooking lobster and now I feel that I can!

  12. What a fantastic post and perfect timing too with the summer season in full swing! I thoroughly enjoyed reading up on this and your tips for cooking the perfect lobster. It’s such a treat to have and now I’m craving it!

  13. Ohh! I’ve never tried cooking lobster before because it seems so intimidating! What a great post- so informative and I definitely don’t feel as intimidated now! Thank you!

  14. I LOVE lobster and miss it so much from when we lived in Boston! I adore your tips and have pinned the post so I can reference it the next time I cook lobster. Thanks!

  15. Great tips! Cooking lobster can be so tricky, thanks for sharing!

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