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A guide to cooking lobster safely at home.

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How to Cook Lobster at Home

How to Cook Lobster at Home

Perfectly cooked lobster is surely one of life’s greatest pleasures. But, have you ever felt overwhelmed trying to cook it yourself? We are here to help! Live Maine lobsters are simple to cook and delicious to eat. Learn the best way to cook live lobsters and keep them fresh before you begin.

Lobster can be boiled or steamed to cook thoroughly. Either way, cooking lobster is an art, and if you do not get the timing just right, you might be in for a tough or chewy lobster. Which one is best for you? Let’s start by understanding the differences between boiling and steaming.

• Best for 4 or more lobsters at a time
• Cooks more evenly than steaming
• Cooks more quickly
• Easier to remove from shell

• Yields a more tender lobster
• Lobsters are less diluted with water
• Makes less of a mess
• Timing is more accurate since the water returns to a boil faster
• Preserves the ocean fresh taste of lobster
• Cooks lobster a little slower with less chance of overcooking

How to Boil Lobsters:
To boil, fill a pot ½ - ⅔ full of water. Use about 1 gallon of water per lobster so it is deep enough to submerge the lobster by at least 3 inches. Add 2 tablespoons of salt for each quart of water. (If sea water is available, even better. Skip the salt.) Bring the water to a strong boil over high heat.

Place the live lobsters in the pot one at a time, headfirst, completely submerging them. Pick up the lobster by holding the upper side of the thorax between your thumb and middle finger. Hold the underside of the body away from you, because lobsters tend to flip the jointed tail, splattering hot water.

Cover the pot tightly and return to a boil as quickly as possible. AFTER the water boils, start timing and regulate the heat to prevent water from boiling over, but be sure to keep the water boiling throughout the cooking time. Melt some butter while you wait.

Carefully remove the lobsters from the pot with tongs. Be careful, they are very hot. Set the lobsters in a large bowl for five minutes to cool before cracking. Or you can place them in ice water to cool quickly if used in cold preparation, like salad.

When a lobster boils it retains a lot of water. Pierce the body and tail with a knife to help drain the water.

Boiling Times:
Size — Times
1 lb. Lobster — 5-6 minutes
1¼ lb. — 7-8 minutes
1½ lb. — 8-9 minutes
2 lb. lobster — 10-12 minutes
3 lb. lobster — 12-14 minutes
5-6 lb. lobster — 18-20 minutes

How to Steam Lobsters:
Use a pot large enough to comfortably submerge the lobsters with water that covers them with 2 extra inches. Add 2 tablespoons of salt for each quart of water. If you have sea salt — even better. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Place lobsters in the pot (headfirst), cover tightly, return to a boil as quickly as possible and start counting the time.

Steam a lobster for 7 minutes per pound, for the first pound. Add 3 minutes for each additional pound thereafter. See chart below for approximate cooking times. Regulate the heat if the froth starts to bubble over.

Carefully remove lobsters from the pot with tongs. Follow the same cooling instructions as the boiling method. If the roe inside a female body is blackish and appear gelatin-like, instead of the customary red, it may be under-cooked. Put the lobster back into the pot until the roe is red. The roe is edible but can be rinsed out.

Steaming Times:
1-1¼ lbs. — 7-9 minutes
1½ lbs. — 9-11 minutes
2 lbs. — 11-12 minutes
3 lbs. — 12-14 minutes
5 lbs. — 22-24 minutes

We know cooking lobster at home can be intimidating, so here are the answers to some of the most common questions to help inform you before you dive in!

How to Tell if My Lobsters are Cooked?
Lobster is cooked when the shell is entirely red. When properly cooking lobster, the meat becomes a creamy white color all the way through–no translucent areas. Some chefs say when the antennae pull out easily, lobsters are done, but this is not always the case. Insert an instant read thermometer in the underside of the tail closest to the body. The internal temperature should read about 135°F-140°F.

I thought lobsters were red in color?
Lobsters come in just about every color but red. The shade varies from lobster to lobster, but they are generally a dark blue-green or a greenish brown-black color uncooked. The lobster’s color is caused by pigments in the shell. When the lobster is cooked, all the color pigments are masked except the red background color.

If my Maine lobster dies on the way home from the supermarket, is it ok to cook? If not, why?
Yes. If there isn’t an unusual odor, cooking and eating the lobster is probably OK. However, there are a couple of things to watch for to be certain. If the Lobster is safe, the tail will be curled tightly after cooking, and the meat inside will be firm. If either of these conditions are not present, don’t take the risk!

What is the red stuff in the lobster?
This is the roe, or the eggs of the female lobster. The roe will be black and will appear gelatin-like if your lobster is under-cooked. It is edible but can also be rinsed out.

How do you remove the claw bands before placing the lobster in boiling water without getting pinched?
Do not remove the claw bands before cooking! The cooking time for lobsters is short enough that the binder will not burn or melt. They are easily removable after cooking.