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!


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.

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.
4.75 from 624 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time25 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine American


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


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.


  • 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. 

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. Mark Murdy says

    This is the first time I have baked lobster tails and they came out FANTASTIC!
    It was nice having the step by step instructions, I own an INSTANT READ THERMOMETER, which was a great help. Pulled them out at 137 degrees, wonderful!
    Thank you,

  2. Matt Pramik says

    I just love this site. I’m not a cook. Never had, to never did. I’m an old dog and after losing my wife last year I’m learning a lot. This site walked me through broiling the lobster tail like there was someone looking over my shoulder. It turned out great. Telling my daughter’s about my accomplishment they were impressed but it was the details in the instructions that made it work. Thank you.

  3. Deborah Hopper says

    These lobster tails will make a great meal for mother’s day, I will follow your directions, Thank you.

  4. Little Dora says

    This is absolutely terrific!! Great job on everything and thank you for sharing your knowledge. We are cooking lobster tails for Mother’s Day for my mom. Happy Mother’s Day to you! My bff is also from the Bay area and frequented Oakland Chinatown with her parents (we met at Princeton) and now has 5 young sons! I will share this blog with her!

  5. Monica says

    I baked lobster tail for the first time on Mother’s Day using your recipe. Perfection! I’m making surf & turf again tonight. 🙂

  6. Brenda says

    I baked 4 lobster tails. Great recipe! It worked on 3 of the 4. The 4th one didn’t cook up, it was just a mushy mess?

  7. Deanna Nolan says

    Jessica. Oh my goodness these are fabulous! I was so nervous to cook lobster tails for the first time. I followed your instructions for broiling the tails and they were amazing! Thank you so much for sharing!

  8. Sharon says

    Thank you so much for your perfect instructions for lobster tails. Going to try one today under the broiler, if I’m successful I’m planning a special dinner with my daughters., surf and turf.

  9. aura says

    First time here surfed the web for “what to make for dinner on his birthday” and came across lobster typed in “How to cook lobster tail” and clicked on that and BAM! here i’am step by step ingredients I’m very pleased and will post results on Ig page and will update with how it all turned out for his birthday dinner. 8/03/20

    best regards.
    Aura Clouds

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. Lindi says

    Hi Jessica, your lobsters are quite different to our Aussie ones, I will have to check out their heads and front claws, it looks like your lobsters could be quite chunky, going by its tail. The flesh looks the same. Depending where you live here will depend on what we call them, Cray(fish) or Lobster, I have always steamed/boiled and serve with melted garlic butter or my home-made seafood sauce. But I might try your baked dish. Never had baked, grilled or barbqued before as I have always had fresh with very little done to them.
    One of your methods im not to sure what it is, Broiler. What is it please…

    • Jessica Gavin says

      I would love to hear more about the seafood sauce you make, sounds delicious! Broiling is in the oven. the upper element is very hot, cooking the surface of the lobster very quickly with dry heat. You have to keep a close eye on it, it cooks fast!

  13. David Bewers says

    Jessica, I’ve cooked lobster every way you’ve mentioned, so here’s a new way to cook the perfect lobster tail that I’m sure you will try. Air fryer lobster tails. Honestly, it’s so simple and the lobster is to die for. Just one more thing to cook in this wonderful appliance.

    • Barry says

      How do prepare the lobster tail for Air Frying. How long do you Air fry them for. I am making 6 – 4 oz tails. What temp?
      Thanks for your reply

  14. Jennifer Huennekens says

    I had 2 Lobster tails and used your baking method. One of them turned out great but the other one had the consistency of a mashed potato…is that something I did or is it the tail?

  15. Mark says

    I did the baked tails and whereas I am a big fan of whole steamed lobster and not of tails, this was the best tails we have ever had. Four 4 oz tails took about 20 m at 425 to get to 145 degrees internally.

    I split the top shell, took the tail out, put shavings of butter in the bottoms of the shells, put the tails back in the shells, put shavings on top of the tails inside the shells, sprinkled Old Bay seasoning, put the tray in the oven, then poured 1/4 cup white wine on the tray and baked. Very pleased with how well that worked.

  16. Sofia says

    I tried your recipe different ways and each and every time it’s came out absolutely delicious!!! The presentation is beautiful!!! I learned how to butterflied the lobster tails and it’s was easy to do, with your very detailed instructions. Thank you very much. I am definitely will be back for more recipes.

  17. Richard Jacobs says


    The term “broiling“ is generic for a type of cooking method. Many ovens have different temperature settings for broiling. Which temperature do you recommend using this method?

    Thanks, Richard

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Broiling can be around 500ºF and up to 550ºF. However when broiling, the upper heating element turns on, quickly browning the surface, this is different than baking at around 550ºF. So just keep an eye on color change if you are going the baking route, as it may need a little more time.

  18. Susan Swafford says

    This is such a useful article. I’ve used the oven and about 20 minutes for 2 13-14 oz lobsters. I forgot to up butter on top but of course served with butter. I heated my leftovers the next day and it cooked a little more, and of course I put butter on top. I thought it was better. I was confused if the time for cooking was per lobster weight, or the total weight. Maybe I’ll settle on per lobster weight + 10%, and I found my thermometer, so I’ll look for 135-140 degrees.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thanks for your feedback! Use the weight that is provided by the seafood section. However, using your thermometer and visually checking is the best way to gauge doneness.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      You can remove the digestive tract after cooking, then rinse and dry very well after removing. You could also cook it butterflied, but keep a close eye on it.

  19. Allyn says

    Thank you the clear instructions and great ideas for serving with the lobster tail.
    We used fresh parley and it was excellent.

  20. 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

  21. 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!

  22. 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!

    • 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.

  23. 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!!

  24. 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.

  25. 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!

  26. 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!

  27. 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!

  28. 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🕴️🕴️🕴️