How to Cook Lobster Tail

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Learn how to cook lobster tail five different ways! I’ve got all the popular methods covered like boiling, steaming, baking, broiling, and grilling. I’m here to make sure you nail the perfect crustacean for your special occasion.

How to Cook Lobster Tail

Lobster is regarded as the most elegant, high-end type of seafood that’s usually reserved for special occasions at pricey restaurants. The tail, or abdomen, is the prized section due to its abundance of meat, and when dipped in rich melted butter is a blissful feast.

Making lobster at home might seem a little intimidating, but I’m going to teach you easy tips to prepare, season, and cook using whichever method you prefer. Let’s go over the tips below to ensure delicious results every time!

The taste of the cooked lobster is slightly sweet and briny, and because of its long muscle fibers surrounded by connective tissue, it has a similar texture as shrimp. Like other fish and crustaceans, lobster flesh cooks in just a few minutes and can turn tough and rubbery if overdone.

How each cooking method varies

  • Boiling – Quickly cooks the meat in hot water, but the flavor can get diluted.
  • Steaming – Rapidly yields a clean flavor for those who like to customize their toppings
  • Baking – Gives a delicate texture due to gentle steaming at a consistent temperature in the oven.
  • Broiling – Lightly browns the shell and meat for more depth in flavor.
  • Grilling – Adds a bit of smokiness and char to the meat and shell.

Preparing and thawing frozen lobster tails

You can defrost frozen lobster tails overnight in the refrigerator. Alternatively, place them in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes. For larger tails, drain the water after 30 minutes and add new freshwater. Repeat the process until the flesh is flexible and no longer icy.

Whole tails should be rinsed and dried before cooking. When cutting open the shell you may notice a dark line running down the center of the flesh. That’s the digestive tract and it needs to be removed. Wash and dry after cleaning.

Butterflied lobster tails

Butterflied lobster tail

The most elegant and impressive way to cut and prepare the tail is to butterfly the lobster. Cut the tail down the middle, open up the shell and pull the meat out. Just make sure to leave a small part attached at the end of the tail fin.

The meat is then layered on top of the shell. When cooked the shell appears to be reconnected with the meat gorgeously sitting on the top. This makes it much easier to season the flesh and eat it too!

Seasonings

Depending on the cooking method, you can season the meat before or after it’s cooked, or both! When broiled, grilled, or steamed, brush the flesh with melted butter and sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika, or your desired seasonings. When boiling the lobster, remove it from the shell and season or serve with melted butter and lemon wedges.

Boiled lobster tail

Boiled lobster tail

Cook whole uncut lobster tails in boiling salted water. Boiling efficiently cooks and tenderizes the flesh, however, it can dilute some of the briny flavors. That’s why I add some salt to the water for seasoning. This is also a great way to parboil large lobster tails before broiling or grilling to kick start the cooking so that the meat cooks more evenly, and prevents over-cooking.

Add enough water to a large pot to cover the lobster tails. Bring the water to a boil, then carefully add the tails to the pot. Cook until the meat is translucent, pinkish-white, and shells are red, about 1 minute per ounce. Drain and allow to cool just enough to handle before opening the shell to remove the meat.

Steamed lobster tail

Steamed lobster tail

Steaming is a quick way to cook the lobster using superheated moist steam. The high heat effectively cooks and releases the meat from the shell, making it easier to remove if left inside. The meat can be kept in the shell, then shell cut open, or shell cut open and meat placed on top.

The only downside is that this method yields a bland flavor, which can then be seasoned further after cooking. It only takes about 45 to 60 seconds of cooking time per ounce. Keep a close eye on the lobster, it can overcook easily if left too long.

Baked lobster tail

Baked lobster tail

Prepare lobster tails by splitting them in half with a chef’s knife, or cutting the top of the shell down the center and placing the flesh on top for a more attractive presentation. The tails are cooked in a baking dish at 425ºF (218ºC) with a small amount of water or wine.

Baking with water on the bottom of the pan in the oven gently steams the lobster, giving a tender almost poached texture. This works great for larger sized lobster tails that need more time to cook. It takes about 1 to 2 minutes per ounce to fully cook using this method.

Broiled lobster tail

Broiled lobster tail

Cut the tails in half or butterfly and place the meat on top of the shell. Place the baking sheet about 10-inches away from the top of the broiling element. Due to the high heat radiating from the broiler, the shell and meat lightly brown, adding in new layers of flavor.

The dry heat cooks the meat very quickly, so make sure to frequently check for doneness after every minute of cooking time. About 1 minute per ounce of lobster tail.

Grilled lobster tail

Grilled lobster tail

Prepare the lobster tails by either cutting them in half down the center into two pieces, cut down the center with meat left inside, or butterfly the tails to have the meat placed on top. A skewer can also be placed through the center of the halved tails to prevent the seafood from curling.

Preheat the grill then cook the lobster tails over direct medium heat between 350 to 400ºF (177 to 204ºC). Place the lobster cut side down first for 4 to 5 minutes then flip over to finish.

If butterflied, leave the flesh side up the entire time. This method provides a nice smoky charred flavor. You can also cook butterflied lobster tails on a cedar plank for extra flavor.

How to know when lobster is done cooking

The best way to know when the lobster is done cooking is to insert an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the tail. When the internal temperature reaches between 135 to 140ºF (57 to 63ºC) the lobster is ready to eat.

Visually, the dark shell will turn bright red due to the coloring agent astaxanthin transforming when heated. The flesh will turn from translucent to opaque pinkish-white color that is firm to the touch.

What to serve with lobster tails

  • Fresh lemon wedges
  • Chopped parsley or chives
  • Melted butter for dipping, or homemade flavored butter

Lobster selection and yield after cooking

About ½ the weight of a lobster tail is actual meat after cooking, although larger lobsters typically have a slightly better yield. Be aware that yields can vary by season. The weight generally varies between 3 ounces to 1 pound on larger tails. A 3 to 10-ounce tail is considered a good individually-sized portion.

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How to Cook Lobster Tail

Learn how to cook lobster tail five different ways! I’ve got all the popular methods covered like boiling, steaming, baking, broiling, and grilling.
Pin Print Review
3.88 from 50 votes
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time25 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine American

Ingredients

Boiled Lobster Tail

  • 4 lobster tails
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Steamed Lobster Tail

  • 4 lobster tails

Baked Lobster Tail

  • 4 lobster tails
  • ½ cup water of white wine
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Kosher salt, for seasoning
  • Black pepper, for seasoning
  • Paprika, for seasoning (optional)

Broiled Lobster Tail

  • 4 lobster tails
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Kosher salt, for seasoning
  • Black pepper, for seasoning
  • Paprika, for seasoning (optional)

Grilled Lobster Tail

  • 4 lobster tails
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Kosher salt, for seasoning
  • Black pepper, for seasoning
  • Paprika, for seasoning (optional)

Lemon Garlic Butter Topping (Optional)

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Instructions 

Defrost lobster tails

  • Defrost tails in the refrigerator overnight, then rinse with cool water and dry with paper towels.
  • For a quick thaw method, submerge lobster tails in a bowl of cool water for 30 minutes. For large tails discard the water and refill the bowl another 30 minutes, or until flesh is flexible and no longer icy.

Butterflied Lobster

  • For a beautiful presentation with the meat on top of the shell. Works for all cooking methods except boiling.
  • Using sharp kitchen shears cut the top part of the shell lengthwise. Start from the exposed meat side down to just before the tail fin.
  • Remove any dark-lined digestive tract that runs down the middle of the tail if present and discard. Wash the tail with cool water and dry thoroughly.
  • Flip the lobster tail over with the abdomen facing up. Use your thumbs to gently press the ribs to crack them. This will make it easier to open the top part of the shell and remove the meat.
  • Open the shell starting at the wide base of the tail, run your fingers between the meat and shell to release. Carefully lift the meat out, but keep it attached to the tail end. Lay the lobster meat on top of the shell.

Boiled Lobster Tail

  • Add water and salt to a large pot making sure its enough to cover the lobster tails.
  • Bring the water to a boil, then carefully add the tails to the pot.
  • Cook until the meat is translucent, pinkish-white, and shells are red, about 1 minute per ounce.
  • Drain and allow to slightly cool before opening the shell to remove the meat. Add desired seasonings.

Steamed Lobster Tail

  • Add 2 inches of water to a large pot, then place the steamer basket on top.
  • Bring water to a boil, once the steam has formed add the lobster tails and cover. Do not overcrowd the pot, work in batches if needed.
  • Cook until the meat is firm, pinkish-white in color, and the shell is red, about 45 to 60 seconds per ounce. Keep a close eye on appearance change as it can overcook quickly. Add desired seasonings.

Baked Lobster Tail

  • Set the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 425ºF (218ºC).
  • Brush the lobster with melted butter, and season with salt, pepper, and paprika if desired.
  • Place lobster tails in a baking dish, then add just enough water or wine to cover the bottom of the pan, about ½ cup.
  • Bake until the flesh is firm and pinkish-white, about 1 to 2 minutes per ounce.

Broiled Lobster Tail

  • Brush the flesh with melted butter and season with salt, pepper and paprika if desired.
  • Place tails, flesh-side up on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  • Set the oven rack to the upper position, about 10-inches from the broiler.
  • Broil until the shell is red in color and meat is firm, pinkish-white and cooked through, about 5 to 8 minutes depending on the size.
  • After 4 minutes of cooking time, check every minute after to prevent over-cooking.

Grilled Lobster Tail

  • Preheat the grill over medium heat for 15 minutes, between 350 to 400ºF (177 to 204ºC).
  • Clean the grill and then grease with oil.
  • Brush the lobster with melted butter, season with salt, pepper and paprika if using.
  • If cooking lobster in the shell, grill flesh-side down if cut in half, cook until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the flesh is pinkish-white in color.
  • If cooking butterflied lobster tail, place on the grill flesh-side up. Cook until the flesh is pinkish-white, at least 10 minutes. More time will be needed for larger tails.

Lemon Garlic Butter Topping

  • In a small bowl melt butter in the microwave in 30-second intervals, or melt over medium-low heat in a small pot on the stovetop.
  • Once melted, whisk in garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, and lemon juice.
  • Serve on the side with cooked lobster tails.

Notes

  • Cutting lobster tail for in the shell presentation: Use kitchen shears to cut down the top of the tail, stopping just before reaching the tail fin.
  • Cutting lobster tail in half: Cut tail in half lengthwise down the center using a chef’s knife to yield 2 portions.
  • Make sure to remove the dark veined digestive tract. Rinse and dry lobster before cooking.
  • Doneness temperature of lobster tail: When the internal temperature reaches between 135 to 140ºF (57 to 63ºC). Cook times will vary depending on size and method. 

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Nutrition Facts
How to Cook Lobster Tail
Amount Per Serving
Calories 74 Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Fat 3g5%
Saturated Fat 2g10%
Cholesterol 88mg29%
Sodium 268mg11%
Potassium 127mg4%
Carbohydrates 1g0%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 10g20%
Vitamin A 87IU2%
Calcium 53mg5%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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19 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Pam Mizzi says

    I used your instructions to steam lobster for a lobster salad and they came out perfect! I added a little salt to the water, which I think seasoned them a little.

  2. Pat says

    I used your instructions for oven baking the lobster tails a couple of weeks ago. I cut the shell and pulled the tail out to sit on top while they baked. I used water in the bottom of the pan, and cooked them as you suggested around 2 minutes per ounce. Each tail was about 5-6 oz including the shell so I cooked them for 12 minutes and they were perfect!! They looked so pretty and fancy and it was easy to pop that last link from tail to shell when it was time to eat them. The meat was so tender, and moist, not at all like whole steamed lobsters are when I have the fish store steam them. I’m making them again this weekend. Love your site!

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