3 Ways How to Cook Lobster Tail Perfectly Every Time!
Updated: Feb 6
Lobster tail, the defacto standard for white-tablecloth steakhouse staple menu items. Many AWG Private Chefs private dining clients orders this delicacy on the regular because it's something "fancy and hard to make at home". The truth of the matter is, cooking lobster tails at home is quick and very easy, and oh so tasty!
Best Ways How to Cook Lobster Tail at Home Perfectly Every Time!
Preparing lobster tails should never be a daunting task. The main mistake that home cooks often make while making lobster at home is that they tend to overcook the poor lobster tail to death, resulting in tough, rubbery, and unappealing meat texture and flavor. There are three primary preferred methods of cooking lobster tails that if followed precisely, will result in a perfect, tender, and tasty experience, every single time!
Different Types of Lobster:
There are two main primarily utilized types of lobster sold here in the US. Cold water, and warm water lobster.
Cold water lobster is the most predominant lobster served in most U.S. restaurants. Cold water lobster meat is traditionally has a denser texture, a sweet clean flavor, and cooks up beautifully. American Cold water lobster for the most part originates in Maine, and on the eastern seaboard of the United States.
Bother types of lobster still cook up red. American warm water lobster originates primarily from Florida, The Caribbean, and Latin America, and tends to have much more of a delicate protein structure, and often cooks up with a texture a bit more on the grainy side.
As private chefs, we often find that most of our clients that enjoy warm water lobster tails live outside of the United States, as they tend to eat more warm water lobsters abroad.
Tips When Shopping For Lobster:
Whenever you're at the local fishmonger or the seafood counter at your favorite grocery store, always ask to visually inspect your lobster tails before you buy them. There are some important key points you want to check for before spending your hard-earned money on these little beauties that you may not be able to see from behind the glass:
Avoid lobsters with meat that is discolored (yellowish, green, etc) uncooked lobster meat should be milky white and opaque.
Avoid lobsters that have been advertised as "enhanced, extra moist, or water added" as this is nothing more than draining your wallet by the producer adding a solution of salt water to the product to increase its weight. Remember you pay for lobster by the pound!
Avoid lobsters that have highly discolored spots on them. While natural spots occur, like the photo above, grossly discolored spots could perhaps indicate that the lobster has been injured and/or may have some other anomaly that possibly could have degraded the meat quality.
How to Properly & Safely Thaw Lobster
When you purchase your lobster, chances are it will be pre-frozen, unless you're purchasing straight off the fishing dock or out of a live lobster tank. The two safe methods in which to properly thaw frozen lobster are:
Thawing Lobster in Cold Water
This is the quickest way how to thaw lobster the same day. Take your lobster tails out of their packaging, and give them a quick rinse under the tap with cold running water. Then place the lobster in a freezer grade zip top bag, adding a couple of butter knives to the bag with the lobster, slowly lower the lobster tails into a large pot of water leaving just about 3/4 of an inch of the zipper open. This is known as the displacement method and will remove the maximum amount of air out of the bag to give the lobster the most contact with the water, without it getting soggy. Once you've displaced as much air out of the bag as possible, seal it. The butter knives will act as weights to hold the entire bag underwater. Let your tap run in a slow and steady stream for 1-2 hours. Your lobsters should be thawed beautifully. Important. NEVER THAW WITH HOT WATER! Not only can this begin to cook the lobster ineffectively, but it can also breed harmful bacteria and can make you very sick.
Thawing Lobster in the Fridge
Thawing lobster in the refrigerator is the best method when you have 24 hours ahead of time before you wish to cook them. Simply take a small rimmed sheet pan (baking sheet with a lip on it), place a pad of 4-5 paper towels under the original packaging that the lobsters came in. Place the lobsters on a shelf in the middle of your fridge, and let the fridge do the work for you, slowly and safely thawing the meat. The paper towels will absorb any meltwater liquid that comes out of the lobsters during the thawing process and will speed cleanup for you.
How long do I cook lobster tail for?
Average lobster cooking times will vary depending on the size of lobster tails you have.
For a 4 ounce lobster tail, cooking time will range from 4-8 minutes.
For a 6 ounce lobster tail, cooking time will range from 6-9 minutes
For a 8 ounce lobster tail, cooking time will range from 8-11 minutes
For a larger than 8 ounce tail, consider yourself blessed! Cooking time will range from 11-15 minutes
Lobster Tail Cooking Methods:
Steaming Lobster Tails:
Steaming lobster tails is my most preferred method of cooking lobster. Steaming provides a more gentle heat and cooking method, which will result in much more tender lobster tail meat, while still cooking the tail all the way to the proper doneness. Add approximately 3-4 inches of water into your pot, and place over high heat, with a pair of kitchen shears, make a cut in the top of the lobster tail from the head end to tail end, making sure to cut only the shell and not the tender meat below. This will aid in steam penetration, and allow for faster cooking without the risk of the lobster meat getting tough on you. Add the lobster tails in the bamboo steamer, close the lid, and steam with time limits listed above, or until meat is opaque and white in color, and using an instant read thermometer internal temperature registers approximately 140 degrees. DO NOT OVERCOOK IT!
Oven Roasted Lobster Tail
Place the lobsters on a rimmed baking sheet tray lined with heavy duty aluminum foil (for easy clean up) and again, cut the top of the shell as indicated above paying special attention as to not cut the flesh of the lobster while creating the cut. Spread open the shell approximately 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch or so to expose the flesh below. Brush the lobster tails with melted drawn butter (also known as clarified butter, or ghee), add some minced garlic & herbs if you wish, and roast in a 450-degree oven utilizing the suggested cooking times above. Again you are looking for a target lobster internal temperature of 140 degrees F.
I'm sure you're asking yourself hey Chef, "but what about how to broil lobster tail". My answer is a simple resounding NO. Broiling is an ultra high heat cooking method that can quickly take your lobster tail meat from tender and delicious, to dried out rubbery pencil eraser texture in just a minute or two. Average household oven broilers will run at a temperature anywhere from 500-600 degrees F, but some high output broilers can reach 800+ degrees F. These cooking temperatures for lobster are far too high.
BBQ Grilled Lobster Tail
There is certainly something to be said about the flavor that a BBQ grill imparts into food. With that being said, it's also a quick way to overcook these tender crustaceans. So now is not the time to walk away from the grill going in search of another tall frosty cool adult beverage. To grill lobster tail, simply cut a slice in the shell as previously indicated, using your kitchen shears. Run a bamboo skewer thru the center of the lobster tail, this will prevent it from curling during grilling, if you don't have a skewer, you can always use the handle of a stainless steel teaspoon. When you grill your lobster tails, always use the thermometer temperature test method, again looking for no more than 140 degrees F. I prefer to grill lobster tails over indirect heat to drastically help reduce the risk of overcooking.
Key Points When Cooking Lobster Tail At Home:
Always inspect your lobster for discoloration, & unusual spots
Never cook lobster more than 140 degrees F internal temperature
When grilling lobster, use a bamboo skewer to prevent the tail from curling
Slice the shell without cutting the meat to allow for more even cooking and a beautiful presentation.
You can never have enough melted butter and lemon with lobster tails!
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About the Author: Certified Master Chef Sean Andrade is Executive Chef/Owner of AWG Private Chefs, voted the #1 Private Chef Company in California, Best Personal Chefs and Best Caterers in San Francisco for multiple years by Expertise. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom-tailored, bespoke private chef dining experiences, select location meal delivery, and event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.