How to Cook Lobster Tail

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

How to Cook Lobster Tail

Recipe Science

  • Steaming lobster tails minimizes direct water contact, keeps the meat tender, and enhances flavor retention.
  • Baking, broiling, and grilling lobster tails use dry heat to intensify flavors through the Maillard reaction. Grilling adds a smoky taste.
  • Boiling lobster tails cooks them evenly and quickly, preserving their moisture and delicate texture using high-temperature water.

Lobster is regarded as the most elegant, high-end type of seafood. It’s often 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, it is a blissful feast.

Cooking lobster tails at home might seem intimidating, but I will teach you easy tips for preparing and cooking using your preferred technique. I’ll go over each method step-by-step to ensure delicious results every time!

Tips for Purchasing Lobster Tails

  • Two Types: Warm-water lobsters and cold-water lobsters can be sold either fresh or frozen. I prefer cold water because the flavor is slightly sweet and briny with a tender texture. Warm-water lobsters tend to have a mushier texture, which may not be indicated on frozen products. If possible, ask the clerk in the seafood section about the variety displayed.
  • Size: About half the weight of a lobster tail is actual meat after cooking. 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.

How to Defrost Frozen Lobster Tails

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 fresh, cold water. Repeat the process until the flesh is flexible and no longer icy. Now, you can select which method you’d like to use to cook the thawed lobster tails.

How to Butterfly Lobster Tails

The most elegant and impressive way to serve lobster tail is to butterfly it.

Butterflied lobster tail

Step 1: Cut Open the Shell 

Cut the tail down the middle lengthwise, using sharp kitchen shears to open up the shell. Check to see if a dark digestive tract is running down the length of the tail meat. It may not always be present, but remove and discard if it is. Rinse and dry the lobster tail.

Step 2: Crack the Shell

Flip the tail over to expose the underside. Press with your thumbs to crack the ribs that run parallel to the abdomen.

Step 3: Remove the Meat

Carefully pull out the lobster tail meat sticking to the shell, leaving a small part attached at the end of the tail fin. Layer the meat on top of the shell.

Pro Tip: The shell appears reconnected when cooked, with the meat gorgeously sitting on top. This makes it much easier to season and eat the flesh!

Ways to Cook Lobster Tails

The best method depends on how the dish will be served and taste preference.

  • 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. I personally prefer broiling as a quick and flavorful technique.
  • Grilling – Adds a bit of smokiness and char to the meat and shell.
  • Boiling – Quickly cooks the meat in hot water, but the flavor can get diluted.

How to Steam Lobster Tail

Steamed lobster tail on a basket inside a pot.

Step 1: Prepare the Steamer

Add 2 inches of water to the pot, place the steamer basket inside, cover, and boil to generate steam. Steaming is a quick way to cook the lobster using superheated moist steam. The meat can be kept in the shell or butterflied. The high heat effectively cooks and releases the meat from the shell, making it easier to remove if left inside.

Step 2: Steam

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

How to Bake Lobster Tail

Two baked lobster tails.

Step 1: Heat the Oven

Set the oven rack to the middle position and the temperature to 425ºF (218ºC).

Step 2: Season

I recommend butterflying the lobster tails for a more attractive presentation and efficient cooking. Brush with melted butter or olive oil, then season with salt, pepper, and paprika.

Step 3: Bake

Baking with water or wine on the bottom of the baking dish gently steams the lobster, giving it a tender, almost poached texture. This method works great for larger lobster tails that need more cooking time. It takes about 1 to 2 minutes per ounce to thoroughly cook.

How to Broil Lobster Tail

Broiled lobster tail on a foil lined sheet pan.

Step 1: Season

Butterfly the lobster tails, then place them flesh-side up on a foil-lined baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and season with salt, pepper, and paprika.

Step 2: Broil

Place the baking sheet about 10 inches away from the top heating element. The high heat radiating from the broiler lightly browns the shell and meat, adding new layers of flavor. The dry heat cooks the meat very quickly. Check the doneness frequently after every minute of cooking, about 1 minute per ounce of lobster tail.

How to Grill Lobster Tail

Grilled lobster tail on a barbecue.

Step 1: Heat the Grill

Preheat the grill over medium heat for 15 minutes. Target 350 to 400ºF (177 to 204ºC). I like to clean the grill and grease the grates with olive oil to prevent sticking.

Step 2: Season

Prepare the lobster tails by either butterflying or cutting them in half down the center into two pieces. To prevent the seafood from curling, a wooden skewer can be placed through the center of the halved tails. Brush the lobster with melted butter and season with salt, pepper, and paprika.

Step 3: Grill

Cook the lobster tails over direct medium heat. If butterflied, leave the flesh side up the entire time. This method provides a nice, smoky, charred flavor. For extra flavor, you can also cook butterflied lobster tails on a plank like my grilled cedar plank salmon. If halved, place the lobster cut side down first for 4 to 5 minutes, then flip over to finish.

How to Boil Lobster Tail

Metal tongs lifting a boiled lobster tail out of a pot of water.

Step 1: Boil the Water

Boiling is ideal for whole lobster tails that are not butterflied. Add enough water to a large pot to cover the seafood. Boiling efficiently cooks and tenderizes the flesh but can dilute some of the briny flavors. That’s why I add salt to the water for seasoning. Bring the water to a boil.

Step 2: Boil

Carefully add the tails to the pot. Cook until the meat is translucent and pinkish-white and the 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. Make sure to devein and rinse before seasoning.

Pro Tip: You can parboil large lobster tails before broiling or grilling them. This kick starts cooking for even heating and prevents overcooking later.

Checking for Doneness

The best way to know when lobster is done cooking is when an instant-read thermometer registers 135 to 140ºF (57 to 63ºC) in the thickest part of the tail. 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, and firm to the touch.

Lemon Garlic Butter Sauce

Two lobster tails on a white plate with lemon garlic butter sauce.

If you’d like to enhance the lobster’s flavor, try making my lemon garlic butter sauce. It combines melted butter, minced garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, and lemon juice. Drizzle the sauce on top or use it as a dip!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I cook frozen lobster tail without defrosting?

Because of its long muscle fibers surrounded by connective tissue, lobster has a similar texture to shrimp. Like other fish and crustaceans, lobster flesh cooks in just a few minutes and can turn tough and rubbery if overdone. It’s best to defrost the tail first, to ensure even cooking.

How do I devein a lobster tail?

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. Make a shallow cut down the length of the tail, then pull out the dark vein. Wash and dry after cleaning. If boiling with the shell on, cook, then remove the tract and clean it before serving.

How should I season lobster tails?

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, devein, and then season. Alternatively, serve with melted butter and lemon wedges.

Is it better to steam or boil lobster tails?

Boiling is a rapid cooking method to tenderize the seafood. I always season the water with salt as some flavor is lost in the liquid. Steaming is a quick cooking method that utilizes super-heated moist steam. Because the lobster tails are not submerged in liquid, they do not lose as much of their sweet and salty taste.

What should I serve with lobster tails?

I always serve my lobster tails recipe with fresh lemon wedges and vegetables like mashed potatoes and asparagus. Squeezing lemon juice over the seafood adds a beautiful citrus flavor. Melted butter, or clarified butter, is great for dipping. Garnish with fresh parsley, chives, or basil. For a heartier meal, serve with steak like my surf and turf recipe.

Make it a Complete Meal

Now that you know How to Cook Lobster Tails if you have tried any of these methods, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below!

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.
4.76 from 625 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

Steamed Lobster Tail

  • 4 lobster tails
  • water, for steaming

Baked Lobster Tail

  • 4 lobster tails
  • ½ cup water, or dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • kosher salt, for seasoning
  • black pepper, for seasoning
  • Paprika, for seasoning

Broiled Lobster Tail

  • 4 lobster tails
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • kosher salt, for seasoning
  • black pepper, for seasoning
  • Paprika, for seasoning

Grilled Lobster Tail

  • 4 lobster tails
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • kosher salt, for seasoning
  • black pepper, for seasoning
  • paprika, for seasoning

Boiled Lobster Tail

  • 4 lobster tails
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Lemon Garlic Butter Sauce (Optional)

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Instructions 

To Defrost Lobster Tails

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

To Butterfly the Lobster Tails

  • Cut Open the Shell – For a beautiful presentation with the meat on top of the shell. Do not butterfly if boiling the lobster tail. Using sharp kitchen shears, cut from the top part of the shell lengthwise. Start from the exposed meat side down to just before the tail fin.
  • Devein the Lobster – Remove any dark-lined digestive tract that runs down the middle of the tail. If needed, make a shallow cut lengthwise in the flesh to remove. Wash the tail with cool water and dry thoroughly.
  • Crack the Shell – Flip the 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.
  • Remove the Meat – Open the shell starting at the wide base of the tail and run your fingers between the meat and shell to release. Carefully lift the meat out, keeping it attached to the tail end. Lay the lobster meat on top of the shell.

Steaming Method

  • Prepare the Steamer – Add 2 inches of water to a large pot, then place the steamer basket on top. Cover and bring the water to a boil.
  • Steam – Once the steam has formed, add the 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. The internal temperature should reach 135 to 140ºF (57 to 63ºC). Add desired seasonings.

Baking Method

  • Heat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the middle position and preheat to 425ºF (218ºC).
  • Season – Brush the lobster with melted butter, and season with salt, pepper, and paprika.
  • Bake – Place lobster tails in a baking dish, then add just enough water or wine to cover the bottom, about ½ cup. Bake until the flesh is firm and pinkish-white, about 1 to 2 minutes per ounce. The internal temperature should reach 135 to 140ºF (57 to 63ºC).

Broiling Method

  • Season – Place tails, flesh-side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Brush the flesh with melted butter and season with salt, pepper, and paprika.
  • Broil – Set the oven rack to the upper position, about 10 inches from the broiler. Broil on high setting until the shell is red in color and the flesh is firm and pinkish-white, about 5 to 8 minutes, depending on the size. After 4 minutes of cooking time, check every minute after to prevent overcooking. The internal temperature should reach 135 to 140ºF (57 to 63ºC).

Grilling Method

  • Heat the Grill – Preheat the grill over medium heat for 15 minutes, between 350 to 400ºF (177 to 204ºC). Clean the grill and then grease it with oil.
  • Season – Brush the lobster with melted butter and season with salt, pepper, and paprika.
  • Grill – Place the butterflied lobster tail flesh-side up on the grill. Cook until the flesh is pinkish-white, at least 10 minutes. More time will be needed for larger tails. The internal temperature should reach 135 to 140ºF (57 to 63ºC).
    Alternatively, if cooking lobster in the shell that is cut in half for two portions, grill flesh-side down. Cook until lightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip and cook until the flesh is pinkish-white in color.

Boiling Method

  • Boil the Water – Add water and salt to a large pot. Make sure there is enough to cover the lobster tails, add more as needed. Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
  • Boil – Carefully add the tails to the pot. Cook until the meat is translucent, pinkish-white, and the shells are red, about 1 minute per ounce. The internal temperature should reach 135 to 140ºF (57 to 63ºC). Cool slightly before opening the shell to remove the meat. Devein, rinse, and dry. Add desired seasonings.

Lemon Garlic Butter Sauce (Optional)

  • Make the Sauce – In a medium bowl, melt butter in the microwave in 15 to 30-second intervals. Alternatively, melt over medium-low heat in a small pot on the stovetop. Once melted, whisk in garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, and lemon juice. Serve with the cooked lobster tails.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Checking for Doneness: The lobster tail is finished cooking when the thickest part of the meat reaches an internal temperature between 135 to 140ºF (57 to 63ºC). Cook times will vary depending on size and method.
  • Storing: Cooked lobster can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. It can also be removed from the shell and frozen for up to 6 months.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 74kcal (4%)Carbohydrates 1gProtein 10g (20%)Fat 3g (5%)Saturated Fat 2g (10%)Cholesterol 88mg (29%)Sodium 268mg (11%)Potassium 127mg (4%)Sugar 1g (1%)Vitamin A 87IU (2%)Calcium 53mg (5%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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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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64 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Hank Dannecker says

    Tonight I made broiled, butterflied, lobster, just like you have taught and it was the most tasty, delicate lobster we have ever eaten and I have eaten a lot of lobster! My 14 year old daughter said “it was the best she has ever had”!
    Thank you very much🕴️🕴️🕴️

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You’re so welcome, Hank! I’m happy to hear that you found the tutorial helpful, and now can make your own restaurant quality lobster!

  2. stacy poli says

    I used this to broil my lobster tail. It was amazing! i needed to add a minute or two to the cook time. It was great! We loved it. Thank you for the broiling instuction!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You’re so welcome, Stacy! I’m happy to hear that the instructions were helpful for broiling lobster tail.

  3. Ursula says

    Thank you! I was so intimidated to try but you made it so easy. Second time to make them and just as delicious! Thank you!

  4. Slicey says

    The broil method worked perfectly for us. I’ve only had home-cooked lobster a couple of times with someone else preparing it. It was either boiled or cooked on the grill.

    My mom bought a cheap surf-n-turf Valentine’s package from the grocery store with a couple of steaks and a couple of lobster tails. I was concerned about the lobster since I hadn’t made it before and thought it would turn out tough.

    I broiled it in the oven with some basic seasoning and brushed halfway with garlic butter sauce. Instead of adding lemon juice to the garlic butter, I followed a different recipe with melted butter, minced garlic, and some fresh herbs. I gut a lemon in half and cooked it cut side down until it got a little charred and nicely juicy. We each got a lemon half on our plate to add our own.

    The cheap, grocery store lobster was delicate, sweet, and perfectly cooked using the broil method w/instant read thermometer. The cheap steaks, however, were terrible. LOL. But I would definitely make lobster at home again – it was so easy and tasty!

  5. John Dertzaugh says

    OK, stupid question: If I have 4 tails at 4 Ozs each what is the cooking time?? Is it 4×4=16 minutes or should it be 4 minutes? Also, I boiled 4 tails for 12 minutes. After they were cooked, I split the tails and tried to extract the meat, however, the meat didn’t want to come in a nice continuous hunk. Did I cook it too long?? It wasn’t a disaster, but I was disappointed that I had a hard time extracting the meat from the shell.

    Think I will try steaming next time since trying to split boiled hot lobster tails and position the meat is pretty challenging 🙂

    Thanks in advance for your recommendations!!!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      It would be 1-2 minutes per ounce of lobster tail, so 4 to 8 minutes, no matter how many. The recipe I tested was for 4 tails. The range is dependent on your oven and how many lobster tails are in the baking dish. I would check at the lowest time point, then each m minute after to not overcook. The key is looking for the flesh to turn opaque when the internal temperature reaches between 135 to 140ºF (57 to 63ºC). When boiling the tails, it helps to use a butter knife or spoon to run between the meat and the shell to help release it after cooking. How was the texture after cooking for 12 minutes? Let me know if you try the steaming method and find it easier to prepare.

  6. Kylene says

    Bought and made frozen lobster tails for first time and they turned out great!!! I used the baked method and cooked until internal temperature was ready. Thanks for detailed instructions for butterflying the meat too!!

  7. Mandy says

    I’ve never cooked lobster before, but it’s my son’s favorite. Our local Fresh Market had them for $9.99, and I couldn’t resist giving it a shot. Thanks to this site, I was able to prepare and broil my lobster to perfection. He said “it’s better than Red Lobster.” It was so EASY, too!! For my seasoning, I used Country Crock plant butter, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and pepper. I watched as it broiled in the oven, and thanks to the on-point description, I knew exactly when it was done!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Wow, you rocked cooking your first lobster. Great job, Mandy! I’m so happy to hear that the recipe tips helped.

    • Jeremy Stuckey says

      I found them market down to $5.99 for two 4oz lbster tails so I bought 3 pkgs
      for 6 total. Cooked them up tonight, slit the back, add garlic and butter, Air fry 8-10
      mins. Was delisious and cheaper than a steak of any kind.
      I have now incorporated a Sea food night, lobster tail, 6 large shrimp, toss in some
      crab legs and we got us a festival down.

  8. Sherrie Johnson says

    Made this for our New Year’s dinner last night. Along with Filet Mignon. Oh my…turned out so perfect!! Your instructions are wonderful. I ended up baking them and they were so yummy. Gonna follow your website! Thanks so much for the best ever instructions!

  9. Sheila M says

    Thank you! I have never made tails, always had someone else make them. Your directions were perfect!
    The tails turned out so good. Sorry I didn’t do a picture, I ate them before I realized I should have! Thank you again! Perfection

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I’m so happy that you had success with the lobster tails! It’s a great technique to master. Bravo!

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