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Make the Perfect Lobster Dinner

Make the Perfect Lobster Dinner

Feel like splurging today? Serve lobster for dinner tonight. Preparing, cooking and eating a whole lobster or tail isn’t difficult, and the results are fantastic!

Executive Chef John demonstrates how to easily cook, clean and serve a whole lobster!

Cooking Whole Live Lobster

If you can boil a pot of water, you can cook a live lobster! But it's essential that you begin with a live lobster, as precooked lobster doesn't cook as well. Plan on ½ lb. shell-on lobster per person.

  • Steaming: Make a tasty cooking broth starting with 2" of water in the bottom of a pot, then add thyme and bay leaves. Squeeze lemon juice into the water, drop in the lemon rinds, and bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat. Clip the rubber bands off the lobster's claws, quickly plunge the lobster headfirst into the boiling water, then immerse it. Cover the pot and boil for 15 minutes.
  • Broiling or grilling: First steam it as above. Then use knife or scissors to split the shell lengthwise. Crack the shell firmly along the incision, then pull meat up through the shell. Brush all sides of the lobster with a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Place the lobsters on a grill or broiler pan with the meat facing the flame, and cook 4-5 minutes. Turn and cook an additional 4-5 minutes, brushing often with the oil and lemon mixture.

Cooking Times (Boiling or Steaming)

Lobster Weight Cooking Time
1 to 1 1/2 lb.
12 to 15 minutes
1 ½ to 2 lb. 15 to 20 minutes
2 to 3 lb. 20 to 25 minutes
3 to 6 lb. 25 to 28 minutes
6 to 7 lb. 28 to 30 minutes
8 lb. and over 4 minutes per pound


Lobsters turn bright red well before the meat is fully cooked. So make sure it’s all done by following these tips:

  • Tug on an antennae or one of the small walking legs. These come off easily when the lobster is done.
  • The meat should be firm, white and opaque. The tomalley, which fills much of the body cavity, should be greenish-yellow.
  • The roe (eggs) inside female lobsters should be firm and bright orange-red. If the roe is a dark greenish-black with an oily, tar-like consistency, the lobster is undercooked.
  • The internal temperature of the lobster meat should be 180°F.

Cooking Lobster Tail

The tail is the tastiest part of the lobster and makes up the bulk of the lobster’s meat. Lobster tails can be boiled, steamed, baked, broiled or grilled. These methods do not require the tail meat to be removed from the shell. But, when grilling or broiling larger lobster tails, cut down the length of the underside of the shell so the meat cooks evenly and doesn’t dry out.

  1. Thaw frozen tail, either in a refrigerator overnight or under cool running water.
  2. For a beautiful “cauliflower” effect:
    • Use sharp scissors or shears to cut down the center of the top of the tail shell. Do not cut all the way down — stop when you reach the fan end of the tail.
    • Gently pull the shell apart, working down the length to open up your cut. Once you’ve worked it open, use your fingers and thumbs to pull the meat up and away from the shell. You should be able to use your fingers to free the meat from the shell with the tail whole and intact.
    • When you reach the tail fan, pull the tail out of the shell (it will still be attached at the base) and lay it on top of the shell. You may want to trim the ragged edge of the tail at the opposite end.
  3. Brush the meat with butter and tarragon, salt and pepper or other spices. Lobster meat dries out easily, so use the butter to keep it moist when you broil, and be aware that cooking times are very short.

The Best Part: Eating Lobster!

You'll need a nutcracker and a lobster or other small fork, whether you’re digging in to a whole lobster or just the tail.

  • Legs: Grasp the lobster by its back and gently twist the legs to detach them at the base. Break the legs at the joints and suck on the ends to enjoy meat and juice. Use your fork to remove strings of meat.  
  • Arms: Twist the claws so they come away from the lobster at the base, and break off each arm from its claw at the point of connection. Use the fork to remove the meat inside the arm. You may need the nutcracker to get at the meat fully.
  • Claws: The claw looks like a mitten, with a "thumb" opposing the rest of the claw. Separate the thumb from the claw with your fingers, and then pull the meat from the thumb with your fork. Use the nutcracker to crack and remove the tip of the claw. Insert a finger or your fork into the hole at the tip of the claw, and push the meat out of the hole you've made at the wrist.  
  • Tail: Before eating the tail of a whole lobster, peel off the digestive tract which runs down the middle of the back of the tail. Firmly grasp the top of the lobster's back with one hand and the tail with the other. Twist the two parts of the lobster in opposite directions until they separate. Then choose one of these methods for getting the tail meat:
    1. The underside of the tail is covered in a white or translucent plastic-like material. Use a sharp knife to cut down the middle of the tail underside, along its length. Split the tail open and remove the meat. Tip: Start at the wide end of the tail and work your way down to the fan.
    2. Pull the fan flippers off of the tail to create a narrow hole at the end of the tail. Insert a finger or fork and push the tail meat through the widest section of the tail. Tip: Each section of the tail fan contains a bit of delicious meat. Break open the shell of each section and snag the meat with your fork.