How to Boil…Lobster

How to Boil…Lobster

Don’t be intimidated! Follow these tips for how to buy, boil and crack lobster perfectly every time!

Don’t stare at those sweet little beady eyes too long. You just might get attached.

The whole point of today’s post is not how to make friends with the lively lobster that you have brought home. I’m here to help you indulge in morsels of sweet and perfectly prepared lobster meat. I don’t mean that callously. Really, I don’t. I know there are many people out there who cringe over the idea of cooking these hard shelled crustaceans – some call it murder. Actually, in the Northern Italian town of Reggio Emilia, it is actually considered illegal to boil lobster, yielding a €495 fine for offenders. Know that I am sensitive to the debate. But I will not lie, I adore lobster, especially when prepared right.

I can’t be there to hold your hand in the kitchen and provide therapy as you prepare your lobster dinner, however I can give you some tips to make it as painless as possible…for both you and your spiny friend.

Over the years, we have cooked lobster in so many different ways. There are many methods (steaming, boiling, grilling, etc.) and of course, even more applications, be it salad, soup, lasagna, and even macaroni and cheese. Today I’m going to focus on one of the simplest: boiling. There are no knives or decapitation involved, and it is one of the quickest methods for cooking, as well.

Let’s get started!

Lobster Tips

Buy fresh. I know, that should be a given, but that can be a challenge when most of our country’s lobster supply comes from Maine. I have tried mail order and that has worked well for us, but I still prefer being able to select my lobster from a trusted fish monger who has them swimming (I hope happily) in a tank.

Bigger isn’t better. I’ve learned this the hard way. For me, the optimal lobster weighs 1.5 lbs, no bigger than 2 lbs maximum. I have found that the larger (older) behemoths yield gnarly meat. Stay on the smaller to average size for tender lobsters.

Cook as soon as possible. If you can, pick them up from your fish monger moments before cooking. Let the lobsters hang out in the kitchen sink as you get your water to a boil. Do not submerge them in fresh water.

If the lobster’s feelings are truly a concern, some say placing the lobsters in the freezer before cooking makes them sleepy and perhaps numbs the pain. But really, the dip in the boiling water will make the process fast. I wouldn’t worry.

How to Boil Lobster

Bring a large stock pot (or if you have one, a lobster pot) of water to a rolling boil.

Carefully drop your lobsters head first in the boiling water. Use your tongs to submerge them if needed. Within seconds, the deed will be done. You can wipe your brow now.

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.

When the water returns to a boil, begin your timer. Boil the lobsters for approximately 8-10 minutes, or until the lobster is a fiery shade of orange-red. Do not over boil, as this will give you rubbery lobster.

Using tongs, retrieve the cooked lobsters and submerge then in the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Let them rest on a platter.

How to Crack Lobster

Manicure time! Before you serve them, it helps to give those claws a little trim. With strong kitchen shears, snip off the tips of the lobster claws as you hold the lobster claws down. Excess liquid will drain, and do give the lobster a good shake or two to get as much out as possible. This will help make the lobster feast less messy for your guests. No one likes a puddle on their plate.

Remove each claw by bending and twisting it off the body. Crack the claw and knuckle and remove the meat.

Separate the tail from the body by grabbing hold of the body and snapping it backwards to remove.

Snap off the tail flipper by cracking it upwards.

Working from tail to head, use your thumb to push the meat out of the cavity.

For the rest of the body, separate the part with the flippers from the shell. Split lengthwise to reveal the meat.

Enjoy!

Comments

    • Liren

      I can imagine all the wonderful things you can create with lobster, Cristina! I’m so glad this was helpful!

  1. jenjenk

    I’ve heard that piercing the head relieves pressure or something?

    The last time i did lobsters, I had to run out of the kitchen b/c the high pitched noise nearly undid me.

    that was 20 years ago… :)

    Reply
    • Liren

      Aww, Jen! What a memory! I have actually never heard the lobster scream I hear so much about, that must have been awful :( Hope you do try again one day…boiling is definitely easier than piercing the head, I think!

  2. Maggie @ Loaded Kitchen

    My husband used to vacation in Maine every summer as a kid and we visited there a few years ago. You’re right, there’s nothing better than a fresh lobster and we were lucky to get them right off the boats!

    Thanks for the info and beautiful pictures! :)

    Reply
    • Liren

      Oh lucky! The best lobster I have ever had was on a family trip up to Maine as a child. It doesn’t get any better than that!

  3. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle

    I love lobster more than anything…but lobster in Denver is pricier than gold so it’s a very rare occurrence. I’ve only made them once myself…many, many years ago. A neighbor had purchased two of them for us for a girls night out. My wonderful husband had just informed me he was leaving our family because he was in love (I know…I can hear every woman gritting their teeth now) and I was pretty fractured but needed one night away from our two young daughters to be with a friend.

    I didn’t know if I could do it…but when we decided to name them Bill and Kaki (the sweet new couple) I admit I managed it a bit better. Evil I know…but all things considered? Not so much!

    Reply
    • Liren

      What a story, Barb! Sorry to hear about the circumstances, but I think you certainly named the lobster pair appropriately!!

  4. lil @ sweetsbysillianah

    awesome post and amazing photos! i love lobsters… even more so after visiting Bar Harbor last summer – my friends and i had a feast. though i’m glad i wasn’t the one in charge of boiling them… not sure if i’ll ever be able to do it…but will definitely refer to your post if i do! =)

    Reply
    • Liren

      What fun you must have had at Bar Harbor! If you ever need encouragement with lobsters, you know where to find me :)

    • Liren

      I can understand! But if you ever decide to do it, I’m sure you’ll do great!

  5. Emme @foodsamba.com

    Drool! I have totally been craving lobster lately, and I see this post! I hate to admit it but, I have no trouble boiling those little creatures to death! It just tastes soooo much better that way lol! Great post1

    Reply
    • Liren

      Hi Emme :) I know, I remember the first time I saw someone squeal over cooking lobster. Growing up this way, I just took it for granted!

    • Liren

      Thanks Amy! BTW, I don’t see anything wrong about eating the lobster all yourself ;)

  6. norma

    I think you and I went to the same lobster school. I could eat lobster every day any way…Greta tutorial! Come to New York and I will take you to China Town’s lobster store where they have tanks of lobster in all sizes…but bigger is not better..

    Reply
    • Liren

      Hi Norma! I fondly remember the lobsters in China town – I miss buying seafood down there!

  7. eizel

    I luve the pics here – you’ve really captured the blue’s well!

    Yes, lobsters are cute until you get pinched… :P

    Reply
    • Liren

      Thanks, Eizel! Yes, we do need to be careful of those claws!

  8. Kita

    These lobster photos are beautiful. I love the colors. Second, my dad brought home live lobsters once when I was little and I remember them walking around the kitchen before we ate – so maybe I do need you there to hold my hand. Childhood scaring and what not.
    I also never knew about trimming the claws before serving. Thanks for another great post!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Kita, I have a similar memory, but of crabs running across our kitchen floor. I always thought it was a hoot!

  9. sarah

    You pictures are lovely! Our Seattle markets are filled with lobster and I always chicken out. Thanks for the bravery boost!!

    Reply
    • Liren

      Thank you, Sarah! Oh, you must take advantage of having access to fresh lobster! You can do it :)

  10. Sara @CaffeIna

    I don’t know if I will ever have the courage to cook lobsters myself (they intimidate me) but if one day I’ll get the courage I will know where to look for tips. Great post. And great pictures. By looking at the first one I do feel a bit bad at eating them (just a little, though…they are too tasty!)

    Reply
    • Liren

      You can do it, Sara! I do agree, the lobsters can be endearing, but their tastiness wins :)

    • Liren

      Thanks Rebecca, so pleased you liked this post!

  11. Brian @ A Thought For Food

    As you know, we eat a lot of lobster here in New England and all of your points are spot on. Bigger is definitely not better.

    A note… one of my favorite food pairings is lobster and champagne. That’s all I need to be a happy man. Oh yeah… and a bowl of melted butter.

    Reply
  12. Elizabeth @ Saffron Lane

    Growing up in Boston, we ate a lot of fresh lobster. My dad taught me a trick to put them “to sleep” before plunging them into boiling water. Place the lobster on its head and vigorously scratch the shell (between the eyes and first joint of the head). After a minute or two, the lobster’s legs will go limp. We used to have a dozen or so “sleeping lobsters” strewn about the kitchen table. A very fun activity for kids, to be sure.

    Reply
    • Liren

      Hi Elizabeth, that is so fascinating, I have never heard of this before! You can bet I’ll be trying that the next time we have lobster. Thanks!

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