When people think of lobster, they usually associate it with extravagance. According to Business Insider, restaurants typically charge $30 to $45 for a single lobster.1 These prices can turn many people away from lobster, which is delicious and contains astaxanthin,2 a carotenoid with various health benefits.3
The expensive prices are attributed to the simple fact the crustaceans are harvested from the wild because there are no commercial lobster farms. Fishermen have to wait for lobsters to mature, which takes about seven years before they are legal harvesting size.4 In addition, once gathered, lobsters must be kept alive and fresh — thus adding to shipping costs — because they are susceptible to bacterial disease, which can spoil the meat quickly if the lobster dies.5
How to Prepare Lobster Tail
If you’ve decided to purchase lobster to cook at home, the tail is a good place to start. The process starts with choosing the best meat first. According to BBC Food, there are two main species of lobster used for cooking: the American (or Maine) or European lobster. Maine lobster is considered the largest and the best, while the European lobster is smaller. However, both can be used in recipes depending on what you can find.6
Buying lobster tails requires discerning eyes so you can get the most out of your money — after all, lobster is an expensive food. When looking for lobster tails, first make sure they come from reputable harvesters, then follow these additional tips:7
- Cold water lobster tails are commonly sold in grocery stores and restaurants in North America. They are generally more expensive because of the higher-quality meat compared to warm water lobster tails.
- An alternative to American lobster tails are warm water lobster tails, usually from the spiny Caribbean or rock species.
- To manage your budget, keep an eye on the weight of the lobster tail. The heavier the package, the more expensive it becomes.
- Avoid lobster tails that look yellow or gray. Avoid meats with glazing as well (a process where water is injected to the tail to increase shelf life during shipping).
Once you’ve purchased lobster tails you’re satisfied with, here’s how to prepare the meat to get the most out of your purchase, according to Better Homes & Gardens:8
- In one hand, hold the lobster tail. With the other hand, cut lengthwise through the center of the shell and the meat using kitchen shears. Stop cutting as you reach the end of the shell, which is the wide end of the tail.
- Spread the cut further apart, then loosen the meat with your fingers.
- Separate the meat using your thumbs, but keep some of it attached near the end of the tail.
How Long Does It Take to Cook Fresh Lobster Tail?
The cooking time for fresh lobster tail depends on the recipe, the size of the lobster tail and your chosen cooking method. Working Mother offers the following approximates for cooking lobster tails:9
- Boiling — Lobster tails are generally boiled for three minutes and 30 seconds to four minutes.
- Steaming — Lobster tails usually cook for eight to 10 minutes when steamed.
- Broiling — It usually takes 10 to 15 minutes to broil lobster tails.
- Grilling — Grill the lobster tail flesh side down for two to three minutes, then flip with the shell side down and cook for another six to eight minutes, transferring it to a cooler part of the grill.
How Long Does It Take to Cook Frozen Lobster Tail?
Better Homes & Gardens recommends placing your lobster tail in the refrigerator overnight for eight to 10 hours.10 If you’re in a hurry or forgot to thaw your lobster tails overnight, Working Mother indicates that you can quickly thaw your tails in a bowl of water and defrost them in an hour or so.11
Ideally, lobster tails should be thawed because it results in more tender meat once cooked. However, you can still cook your lobster tails frozen, although you will need to add a few minutes to your cooking time. Larger tails may need double the cooking time, if cooked frozen.12
Various Ways to Cook Lobster Tails
Lobster tails are not well-known just because they’re expensive — many people like them for their flavor and the myriad ways they can be prepared. If you haven’t cooked lobster tail before, the following guides can help you get started.
Grilled Lobster Tail
Lobster tails can be grilled, but they require certain preparations to cook them appropriately. Here’s a recipe adapted from the book “Simply Grilling: 105 Recipes for Quick and Casual Grilling” to help you enjoy grilled lobster tails in the best way possible:13
Grilled Lobster Tails With Drawn Butter
- To make the drawn butter, melt it in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until the solids have separated. Discard the milk solids, leaving behind the drawn butter.
- Heat the grill to medium-high. Brush the grill lightly with coconut oil.
- Boil the lobster tails in high heat for six minutes.
- Butterfly each tail by cutting on the underside of the shell without damaging it. Spread the halves to expose the meat, then brush the flesh with oil. Sprinkle seasoning on top.
- Grill the lobster with the flesh facing down. Cook for three to four minutes per side. Remember to close the grill after flipping.
- Serve with the drawn butter on the side.
Baked Lobster Tail
If you’re looking to explore a new way of cooking lobster tails, baking is the answer for you. Here’s an overview on how to prepare lobster tails for baking:14
- Thaw lobster tails and heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Pat the tails dry with paper towels and prepare the tails by butterflying them.
- Sear the lobster tails first by grilling them in a hot pan for three to four minutes, then transfer them to the oven in a baking pan, with the meat facing upward.
- Bake the lobster tails for 10 to 12 minutes or until the meat is opaque.
Boiled Lobster Tail
Boiling is one of the most common ways of cooking lobster tails, as it’s an easy way to prepare them. Here’s an overview on how to boil lobster tails according to Better Homes & Gardens:15
- Thaw the lobster tails first, then dry with paper towels. Prepare the shells by cutting and spreading them apart.
- Boil 6 cups of filtered water (with Himalayan salt) in a 3-quart saucepan. This amount is good for four 8-ounce lobster tails.
- Simmer the lobster tails for eight to 12 minutes, without the cover, or until the shells become bright red and the meat is tender. Drain.
Steamed Lobster Tail
Steaming lobster tails is quite similar to boiling them. The difference is that you don’t need to watch over the water you’re boiling. To try this method, simply follow these steps:16
- Insert a steamer rack into a large pot for your lobster tails.
- Bring water to a boil, then place the lobster tails inside.
- Cover the pot and cook for eight to 10 minutes.
Fried Lobster Tail
Lobster tails aren’t usually fried, but it’s doable. By frying, you can dip the tails in breading, creating a crispy food reminiscent of fried fish. Here’s a simple recipe adapted from Just a Pinch Recipes:17
Fried Lobster Tail
- Lobster tails (the amount is up to you)
- For the egg wash, 1 egg and 1 cup of buttermilk
- Coconut oil for frying
- 1 cup arrowroot flour
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot starch
- 1 and 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt
- 1/2 teaspoon organic cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon organic garlic powder
- 2 sticks raw grass fed butter
- Beat the eggs and buttermilk. Set aside.
- Mix all tempura batter ingredients. Set aside.
- Cut the lobster tail meat into bite-sized chunks, then dip them into the egg wash. Afterward, dip them into the tempura batter.
- Fry each piece for three to four minutes in hot coconut oil.
- Remove from the pan and transfer to a paper plate.
- Melt the butter in a separate saucepan under low heat. Let stand for five minutes, skimming the foam on top into a dipping container. Discard the milky solids.
Lobster Tail Recipe: Garlic Lobster Tails
Aside from the other recipes mentioned above, here’s a keto-friendly lobster recipe you can try, adapted from Top Notch Nutrition. It has few ingredients and very little cooking time, making it perfect for beginners:18
Lobster Tail Recipe: Garlic Lobster Tails
- Two 4- to 6-ounce lobster tails, fresh
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Paprika to taste
- 2 tablespoons melted raw grass fed butter (for dipping after cooking)
- Heat your broiler on low.
- Cut the shell of the tail down the center.
- Open the shell to lift up the meat. Once it loosens, place the meat on top of the shell and close the shell under the meat.
- Drizzle the lobster meat with coconut oil. Sprinkle on the garlic powder and paprika.
- Put the shells in a baking pan and place the minced garlic under the tails.
- Broil the tails for one minute per ounce.
- Dip the lobster tails in melted butter while eating.
Enjoy Lobster in Many Ways
Lobster tails are one of the most diverse foods you can cook. Learning how to cook lobster tails will help you expand your culinary knowledge and give you a delicious meal to enjoy.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cooking Lobster Tail
Q: How can you tell when lobster tail is done?
A: It’s always important to cook lobster properly, as undercooking can expose you to foodborne pathogens. The best way to tell if lobster tails are cooked properly is if the flesh is opaque.19
Q: Should you thaw lobster tails before cooking?
A: Thawing lobster tails results in more tender meat once cooked.20
Q: How do you defrost lobster tails?
A: Lobster tails should be thawed in the refrigerator overnight.21
Q: Do you cut the lobster tail before you steam it?
A: Yes, you can butterfly lobster tail before cooking to help cook the meat better. This is explained in the different recipes listed in this article.
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