On the East Coast, summer is synonymous with lobster. Fresh lobster is most readily available during the summer months, typically from June to December. This is the best time to indulge in a mouthwatering lobster roll or try your hand at making surf and turf.
And while we love every part of this shellfish, lobster tails are especially sought after. The succulent tail meat is perfect for grilling, baking, broiling, and more. It’s a stand-out delicacy on its own but is also the perfect complement for surf and turf night, seafood boil, or stew.
Luckily, lobster tail is easier to cook than you think. Read on to learn more about how to cook lobster tail including tips for preparation, cooking times, and more.
How to Prepare Lobster Tail
Don’t be intimidated by the thought of cooking a lobster tail! It’s surprisingly easy to prep your lobster depending on how you choose to cook it.
Lobster tail recipes often either call for simply boiling the tail as is or butterflying it to help with even cooking. Here are some tips for how to butterfly a lobster tail:
Use kitchen shears to cut through the top of the shell and through the meat. Stop just before the bottom shell. Don't cut through the wide end of the tail.
Use your thumbs and fingers to gently spread the halves of the tails apart
Separate the meat from the back of the shell. Keep the base attached at the tail, and lift the meat over the shell.
This method is ideal for grilled, broiled, or baked lobster tail.
How to Cook Frozen Lobster Tails
You can likely find frozen lobster tails for sale at your local grocery store or online. This is ideal when you just want to enjoy the meat without worrying about shelling an entire lobster.
The best way to thaw frozen lobster tails is to do so gradually in the refrigerator. Simply place the frozen lobster tails in a resealable plastic bag to prevent any moisture from leaking into your fridge, place the bag in a shallow dish, place the dish into the refrigerator, and allow the lobster tails to thaw for 24-48 hours, depending on their size. Smaller tails will thaw faster than larger ones.
From there, you’re set to prepare your lobster tail however you want!
How Long to Cook Lobster Tail
How long you cook your lobster tail ultimately depends on its size and cooking method. For instance, a grilled lobster tail cooked on high heat will cook faster than a poached lobster tail.
But no matter how you cook the tails, remember that lobster cooks quickly! Small 4-ounce lobster tails can be ready in 4-8 minutes, while larger 8-ounce tails will need 8-11 minutes. In most cases, you shouldn’t be cooking your lobster tails for more than 12-15 minutes.
Overcooked lobster becomes tough and chewy, no matter how you cook them. Avoid this by keeping a close eye on the cooking time, and when in doubt use a meat thermometer. Most experts agree lobster tail should be cooked to an internal temperature of 140 degrees F.
How to Cook Lobster Tails to Perfection
Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for. Here are some of the best ways to cook lobster tail you can try out this summer.
Let’s start out with one of the “Three B’s”. Boiled lobster tail is one of the easiest ways to cook this succulent meat. Minimal preparation is required since all you need to do is butterfly the lobster tail. Next, simply add the tails to a large pot of generously salted boiling water and cook depending on its size, about 1 minute per ounce of tail weight. When done, immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water to stop them from overcooking.
From there, you can easily take the lobster out of the shell. Enjoy the juicy meat with melted butter and a splash of fresh lemon juice or use it in a recipe like lobster mac and cheese or lobster rolls.
Pro Tip: Stick a skewer through the lobster tail in the shell to prevent them from curling once boiled.
Baking lobster tail is another popular and easy preparation option. This method works best with butterflied tails (for instructions on how to butterfly lobster tails, please refer to the earlier section of this blog). You can make a shallow cut through the middle of the lobster meat so that you can peel down the thin layer of meat over the sides.
Before cooking, you can even season them with a simple mixture of butter, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika. Then finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. These flavors let the natural sweetness of the lobster tail shine.
The key is cooking them at a high temperature (450 degrees F) for around 10-12 minutes.
Many people consider broiling lobster tails a fast and foolproof way to enjoy delicious lobster every time. Simply broil butterflied and seasoned lobster tails on high until the shells turn bright orange and the flesh is opaque.
Because the heat is so high, this takes only a few minutes (between 5-10 minutes, or 1 minute per ounce of meat). Make sure to broil the lobster tails on the upper middle rack, not too close to the broiler, so they don’t burn.
Serve with melted butter and a lemon wedge.
Steaming is a classic way to cook lobster and is even faster than boiling it. Use a steaming basket inside a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Small to medium lobster tails take 6-8 minutes to cook while larger tails may take 8-12 minutes.
You can steam your lobster tails in the shell or butterfly them beforehand.
Nothing says summer like grilled lobster. Try your hand at our delicious lobster tail recipe on the grill that comes together in 30 minutes or less. Season your butterflied lobster tails with savory herb butter and grill them for a few minutes on each side and voilà!
If you want something a little more involved, consider poaching your lobster tails. This gourmet method involves slowly cooking the tail in a pot of boiling water (or a mixture of butter and water) that has been seasoned with aromatics, like herbs and lemon slices.
Simply place lobster tails into simmering water and poach for about 5-7 minutes until the meat is opaque and firm. This cooking method rewards a very tender and savory lobster tail.
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Prepare a charcoal grill or preheat your gas grill to medium-high heat (375°F) and scrape clean.
Prepare the lobster tails by using kitchen shears to cut through the top of the shell lengthwise, splitting the tail in half down the middle. Now press down the split lobster tail flat on a cutting board and cut the tail completely in half with a larger “chefs” knife.
Gently detach the meat from the shell to expose the meat, and then lay back down in the shell. This is to ensure the lobster tail will not stick to the shell once grilled.
Pat lobster tails dry, brush with avocado oil, and season with salt and pepper.
In a small pot, mix the butter, minced garlic, lemon juice and zest, chopped parsley, chopped tarragon, salt, and pepper. This can be done on the grill, as well.
Place the lobster tails on the preheated grill, meat side down. Grill for about 2-3 minutes.
Flip the lobster tails over, shell side down, and brush with herb butter generously over the meat, making sure to get some into the shell as well.
Close the grill, and continue grilling for an additional 3-4 minutes, or until the lobster meat is opaque and firm.
Remove the lobster tails from the grill and transfer them to a serving platter. Allow them to rest for a couple of minutes.
Brush the grilled lobster tails with more herb butter.
Serve the grilled lobster tails with lemon wedges on the side to squeeze over the meat before eating. You can also serve them with extra melted butter for dipping, if desired.