How to Cook Lobster Tails

Lobster tails are a delicacy in theory but a nightmare when done wrong.   Check out this page to not only learn how to cook lobster tails but everything else you need to know to choose, purchase and serve these delectable seafood treats. 

You'll also find some interesting lobster tidbits and an informative selection of how-to cooking videos. 

A Tail of Two Lobsters

Lobsters come from all parts of the world. The most prized part of the lobster is the tail because it is a large succulent bite of heaven.  Packaged lobster tails are often more expensive than the live crustacean. 

Cold Water Lobster TailCold Water Lobster Tail
Warm Water Lobster TailWarm Water Lobster Tail

Cold water lobsters
are generally found in the frigid North Atlantic and have large heavy claws and creamy, sweet, tender meat. 

Similar crustacean found in the warm waters of Florida and the Caribbean are not related to the American lobster.  They have long spiny antennae, no claws and firmer, less tender meat. 

These creatures are called spiny lobsters, rock lobsters and slipper lobster.

image of a cold water and warm water lobsterSorry, we have NOTHING in common

Most connoisseurs swear the only lobster tail to purchase is from Maine (cold water). However, the uncooked tails of the spiny and rock "lobsters" are usually what you will find in the freezer section of your local grocer. 

Depending on place of origin, warm water lobster tails will be dark brownish and may have little spiny protrusions and/or yellow or white spots. 

cold water tails are generally brownish greenish red with a smooth shell. 

If there is no indication of the origin of the product, assume it is from warm waters.

Although you will pay less per pound for the warm water lobster tails you may take the chance of serving tough, inedible rubber erasers!  You decide.  

Take care no matter where you purchase any type of lobster tail.  The quality and texture varies considerably depending on handling and the packaging company or purveyor.  Make sure to ask if the seafood is from cold or warm waters.  If the seller is not sure, shop elsewhere.  

Frozen lobster tails are generally available in your local grocers seafood case at 2-8 ounces per tail.  If you purchase from a seafood purveyor or order online,  you may find cold water colossal tails of up to 24 ounces.

An online search shows that you will pay anywhere from $12 to $80+ for one lobster tail, depending on size and where it comes from. Shop wisely!

Lobster Recipes

How To Cook It...

  • No matter how you cook frozen lobster tails, they will be more tender if thawed before cooking--not cooked from frozen

  • Place tails on a plate in their original wrappings and thaw in the refrigerator about 8 to 10 hours.  Drain away any excess liquid and pat dry with a towel if necessary. 

  • In a pinch, quick thaw by placing tails in a thick plastic bag and submerge bag in a bowl of cold water for about 30 minutes.  The lobster is completely thawed when it easily bends

  • The general rule of thumb for any cooking method is 1½ minutes of cooking time per ounce of tail weight

  • Lobster tails cook quickly so stay close to the stove or grill.  Otherwise, you might as well eat your spare tire!

  • For best results, cook to an internal temperature of 145°F
  • Lobster tails can be split completely in half with a sharp knife.  You can also cut the top shell only, down to the top part of the fin.  The meat is then coaxed out of the shell and positioned on top.  See the video below for instructions. 
  • You can also run a thin metal or wooden skewer through the length of each tail to prevent excessive curling and create a nicer presentation

  • Keep seasonings simple to let the seafood flavor come through.  Salt, pepper, paprika, lemon juice and butter is all you need

  • One 8-ounce lobster tail = 4-ounces of cooked meat or one serving.  Start here to calculate amounts for lobster recipes

Bake/Roast: Heat oven to 375°F.  Either split tails in half or position tail meat on top of shell.  See the video below for instructions. Brush tails with melted butter or olive oil.  Bake 12-15 minutes depending on size of the tail.  Remove from oven and baste with more butter or oil. 

Broil: Brush tails with melted butter and place tails shell side up about 5 inches below flame. Broil 2 minutes, turn and spread flesh with additional melted butter and broil 3 more minutes or until meat just turns white.

Steam: Add sea salt into the water pan and place tails in the steamer flesh side down down and cook about 5 to 8 minutes or until the lobster meat becomes opaque. Remove tails and brush with melted butter or olive oil, if desired

Grill: Prep a grill. Baste tails with melted butter and season with salt and pepper. Place flesh side down on a hot grill and cook 3 to 5 minutes.  Flip to the shell side.  Baste and cook for about 3 minutes until the lobster meat is opaque and firm but tender.

How to Cook Lobster Tails

These videos give great instructions on grilling, roasting and broiling lobster tails.

How to Serve It...

Plan on at least an 8-10 ounce lobster tail per guest, depending on what else is being served. 

Freshly, perfectly prepared lobster tails need nothing more then warm melted butter with a pinch of sea salt. Ummm!  Depending on the occasion, your guests and your post-lobster purchase budget, you may either want to keep it simple or pull out all the stops. 

The taste and texture of lobster is sweet and delicate.  A mixed green or Lemony Green Bean and Tomato salad with a tangy vinaigrette would be light and refreshing.  Any of these broccoli salads would also fit the bill.  

Gently steamed, sauteed or roasted vegetables are an elegant accompaniment served with Roasted Garlic Thyme Butter spread on your favorite bread, roll or baguette.

Seafood and rice are a satisfying combination and any of these rice pilafs would be delicious. 

Round out a lobster tail menu with a light or decadent dessert.  It could go either way!  Think fruit, chocolate and cream to contrast or compliment the rest of your menu. 

The Surf and Turf Dinner Party Menu is a good example of a delicious lobster tail menu for an elegant dinner party menu


Lobster Recipes

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