How To Cook Lobster Tails

Lobster is a delicious and decadent meal, but preparing fresh lobsters can be challenging.

You may think it's best to save lobster tails for a weekend dinner party, but easy and quick preparations make it possible to serve any weeknight's supper. While a bit more expensive, preparing frozen lobster is often easier than wrestling with whole live lobsters. Boiled, baked, broiled, or stirred into a pan of lobster mac and cheese (everything tastes good with mac and cheese, right?), Southerners love lobster as much as they love shrimp, crab, and other seafood.

For a simpler and less costly alternative to buying live lobsters, purchase lobster tails. Lobster tail meat, sold fresh or frozen, is firm and tasty. Serve the cooked lobster tails in their shells with a side of warm butter and lemons for squeezing, or add them to a salad. Keep reading for easy-to-follow steps to thawing, preparing, and cooking frozen lobster.

Grilled Spiny Lobster at Bahamian Cookin'

Photo: Graciela Cattarossi

How To Thaw Frozen Lobster

To thaw a package of frozen lump lobster meat, frozen lobster tails, or lobster claws, put the items in a large bowl and place them in the refrigerator to thaw overnight.

To thaw lobster on the same day, set it in a sealed plastic bag and submerge it in cold water. Change water every 15 minutes for 60 to 90 minutes, or until fully thawed. You'll know it's ready when the tails or claws feel flexible.

Either method will slowly thaw the lobster, preventing the meat from sticking to the shell. Don't be tempted to cook frozen or partially thawed lobster—this results in tough meat. If you don't want to worry about pulling the meat from the tail or claw shells, using frozen lump lobster meat is convenient when making dishes such as New England Lobster Salad Burger or seafood casseroles.

How To Prepare a Lobster Tail

The most elegant and impressive way to cut and prepare the tail is to butterfly it. Cut the tail down the middle and open up the shell, leaving a small part attached at the end of the tail fin. The shell appears to be reconnected with the meat gorgeously sitting on the top when cooked.

How To Steam Lobster Tails

Put a steamer insert into a pot large enough for the tails, add water, and bring it to a boil. Once water is steaming, carefully lower the tails into the insert, and steam it for five to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the tails. A good rule of thumb is to cook around 45 to 60 seconds per ounce. Keep a close eye on the lobster, it can quickly overcook, and the meat will begin to shrink and dry out.

How To Boil Lobster Tails

Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Once the water reaches a boil, add the tails and simmer, uncovered, for seven to 10 minutes. After the tails cook, remove them with tongs and drain the pot using a sheet pan or into a colander. Cook until the shells are bright red and the meat is white with no trace of gray.

How To Bake Lobster Tails

Baking lobster tails is quick and easy but looks formal enough to serve at a social gathering. Prepare the tails by splitting them in half with a chef's knife and placing the flesh on top for a more attractive presentation. Place lobster tails on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and spoon one tablespoon of the butter over each. Bake in preheated oven until bright red and opaque—12 to 14 minutes. Serve with herbed butter.

How To Broil Lobster Tails

Broiling is another quick method for preparing lobster tails. As in the other ways above, begin by cutting through the upper shell and pressing shell halves open. Place lobster tails in a baking pan and add seasonings. Add water to the pan and slide under the broiler—tails can be ready in under 20 minutes.

Serve lobster tails with your sauce of choice. Try melted butter with lemon or garlic, an herb sauce, or a soy sauce-based dipping sauce. Make sure the flavors are not so strong or sweet that they overwhelm the natural flavor of lobster.

The Final Steps

The lobster shells will be very hot, so let them cool before handling. Trim the shell away (the tail should come out in one piece), or leave the tail in its shell and serve flesh-up for a beautiful presentation. Serve with melted butter, salt, pepper, and lemon slices to squeeze on top.

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