Fresh Lobster Article -
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Fresh Lobster

Live lobster is delicious and easy to prepare at home. Follow these tips to buy, store, and cook these crustaceans.

Fresh lobster can be had in several forms: live, freshly cooked, or frozen. Choose the one that is best for your recipe.

Picking Out Lobster

Live Lobster

  • Invariably, lobster quality is higher if it's alive at purchase and cooked the same day. Many markets and grocery stores have live lobsters available, or there are mail-order businesses that will ship live lobster to your door.
  • Any live lobster should be active in the tank, and curl its tail when lifted out of the water.
  • Once home, cook as soon as possible, or refrigerate, covered with a damp towel. Don't keep them in water or cover with ice; you don't want them to drown.

Freshly Cooked

  • Many fishmongers sell freshly cooked whole lobster. This is a great way to get the lobster if you don't have the time or inclinations to buy live.
  • Make sure the lobster is freshly cooked. If left in the shell for too long, the quality of the meat can degrade.

Frozen Tails

  • Frozen tails are good choices for quick, fresh lobster.
  • Available in a variety of sizes, these are perfect for throwing on the grill, or chopping into a sauté.
  • Due to the freezing process, these won't be quite as good as whole lobster, but they can certainly be worth the convenience.

Canned Lobster

  • Not recommended

Boiling, Steaming, Broiling

Though classically cooked by boiling, there are other ways to cook lobster.


  • Use two quarts of water for every pound of lobster.
  • Use enough salt to approximate seawater--about one tablespoon for every quart of water.
  • Put lobsters in the boiling water; when it returns to a boil, time for eight minutes. It will continue cooking in the shell, so when in doubt, removing early is better than overcooking.


  • Use a couple of inches of salted water in a large pot, and cook according to the directions for boiling.
  • Dry flavorings, such as chili powder or Old Bay™ seasoning can be added to the lobster as it steams.

Broiling and Grilling

  • After preparing the lobster for grilling (see sidebar), split it down the middle with a heavy chef's knife.
  • Use basting sauces, herbs, and spices for extra flavor when grilling or broiling.
  • Cook for ten minutes on a hot grill. The shell will turn a charred red as it cooks; if it still seems underdone, tent the lobster with foil to allow it to fully cook off the direct heat.


Cooking live lobster takes some preparation.

  • Keep the rubber bands on the claws if you are boiling or steaming. The bands will survive the cooking, and keep the lobsters from getting a hold of each other or, more importantly, you.
  • As steam escapes the shells, it creates noise. This is the infamous "scream" heard when boiling lobster. You can kill the lobsters with a knife before boiling or steaming, if you prefer.
  • Preparing for the grill involves killing the lobster first. They can either be boiled for 2 minutes, or you can use a knife. Take a sharp, heavy knife, place in the horizontal groove at the head, and cut with quick, downward force. This will sever the "spinal" chord, killing the lobster humanely.

    Get Cracking

    There is simply no dainty way to crack and eat whole lobster, but it might be possible to avoid an immediate trip to the dry-cleaners.

    • Pre-crack lobster for guests. Cut lengthwise through the underside of the tail with scissors. Don't cut the meat, just the shell underneath. Also, crack the claws ahead of time, just to save some of the pounding at the table.
    • Bibs. They might seem silly, but they more than make up for themselves when the lobsters start cracking.

      Dec. 2, 2009 6:57 pm
      Where can I get 2 to 3 lbs Lobster from whereever to Phoenix, AZ E.Martinez
      Tom Z 
      Dec. 25, 2009 9:21 am
      Sometimes when I cook lobster tails the skin between the meat and shell sticks to the meat and can be tough and chewy. If I try to peel it off it also removes much of the meat. What can I do to assure that this shin will come off with the shell and not stay with meat. thanks. Tom Z
      Lorrine G. 
      Feb. 21, 2010 6:07 pm
      I want to prepare lobster bisque. All recipes I come across state "cooked" lobster meat. How would you suggest I "cook" the lobster to use for bisque? Thanks for your help!
      May 13, 2010 2:32 pm
      Lorrine, boil or steam the lobster according to the directions above using only salt, no other spices like Old Bay, as this might interfere with the taste of your bisque.
      Jun. 30, 2010 5:19 pm
      to Tom Z used to have that problem like the vidoe says soak them in an ice bath to stop the cooking
      Aug. 13, 2010 9:44 am
      I have whole flash frozen lobster. What would be the best way to prepare them. I was thinking of steaming them in the oven from their frozen state. Does anyone know the temp or for how long?
      Oct. 2, 2010 3:36 pm
      Can anyone tell me how to make the dipping butter you get at some of the resterauants? Thank you in advance!!
      Nov. 17, 2010 2:31 pm
      i just use garlic butter bought @ any grocery store.
      Dec. 24, 2010 5:34 am
      cooper-the butter served in most restaurants is clarified butter; you simly melt butter an skim off the whitish, opaque milk solids, leaving the clear golden liquid. this is also very good for sauteeing because it has a higher burn point.
      Feb. 11, 2011 8:08 am
      Lobsters do not feel pain when boiled. If the meat is sticking to the shell, it is probably overcooked. If the shell of the lobster is soft when you squeeze it you must reduce cooking time. Steaming is best!
      Mar. 20, 2011 3:50 am
      To avoid being 'tough' always ask if they are hard-shelled, no not buy soft-shelled, they are molting then and not nearly as good.For those wantingt lobsters shipped, they will be packed in ice and seaweed and are fine for at least 3 4- days, but cook as soon as you get them. Clearwater Fisheries is my best bet.
      Mar. 20, 2011 3:53 am
      3 to 4 days NOT 34 days lol
      Mar. 20, 2011 3:57 am
      No kill the lobster instantly, curl the tail under, and put in boiling water head first. To me chpping their heards off is worse and I have lived in Nova Scotia all 69 years of it.
      May 27, 2011 2:53 pm
      Patches, do you prefer boiling or steaming your lobster?
      Jun. 27, 2011 6:14 pm
      I had 4 one-pound steamed lobsters leftover from a birthday dinner. After I removed the meat from the shells, and refreigerated them in a plastic storage bag. I wanted to make a lobster salad...unfortunately I steamed them on Saturday but won't be able to get to make the salad before Wednesday. Is Saturday to Wednesday too long to keep the cooked lobster before using it to make lobster rolls?
      Dec. 26, 2011 10:06 am
      Hi Edwardo, go to your local cosco or supermarket and get uncooked frozen tails. It will give you the most bang for your buck. The tails will be a little tougher compared to live cooked, but most folks dont eat lobster enough to tell a difference. Especially if you are cooking chowder or dunking them in an oil slick of margarine. If you like the soft tender texture of properly cooked lobster, and enjoy it for its natural taste, then pay the extra money for live lobster shipped overnight from the east coast. Tom Z, you didn't specify what cooking method. If I am grilling lobster, boil first for two minutes in salted water, then make small slices along the dorsal surface of the tail and side of claws to allow some drying of the meat during grilling. Don't over grill...five min is enough if you boil first. 48 hours max in a fridge for cooked lobster. After it gets stringy and gamey. Freeze lobster meat uncooked for the best outcome, second of course to live lobster cooked immediately.
      Dec. 31, 2011 5:38 pm
      I really enjoy my lobster in tail form due to cost and I find it very taste, I completely take it out of the shell and broil it on the middle rack watching it very carefully, I've heard for health purposes some people use cocktail sauce, I use real butter and skim off the top layer of stuff making it golden, I also add a lot of garlic, but that's just me, soon ill try steaming, I hear it is the best. Hope someone trys my take out of the shell method, simply seems to cook much more evenly,, ENJOY
      Feb. 8, 2012 11:28 am
      Does anyone have a good Lobster mango salad recipe. I want to serve it to the girls on Valentines Day.
      Aug. 4, 2012 3:43 am
      Years ago, I read a newspaper article in the cooking section, that explained cooking Lobster by starting them in cold water and letting them stay relaxed and mesmerizing as the water warms, then to boiling until done. Has anyone else ever heard this?? I lost the article somehow....
      Aug. 10, 2012 7:26 pm
      These instructions for boiling lobster were great. The local seafood market, , had lobster for a special price, so I bought three. I followed the instructions and boy was my lobster good! I saved on until tomorrow for my dad by using the instructions for preparing and storing. has not let me down yet! Thanks a bunch.
      Aug. 19, 2012 4:01 pm
      Rubber bands should always be removed while cooking so it doesn't give a rubber taste to the lobster. Also I put cold water in a pot with my lobsters and then bring it to a boil.
      Pat Deveau 
      Sep. 20, 2012 8:12 am
      I always remove elastic bands from lobster claws as I find the bands throws off their flavoring the water and the lobster. I have cooked lobster many times and have never seen lobsters bite each other in the pot.
      Dec. 12, 2012 5:55 am
      I have always boiled my whole lobster by putting them in boiling water, then reducing to a simmer for about 15 minutes. They always turn out, BUT there is always so much water trapped in the shell no matter how long I drain them, making them very messy to serve and eat. Does anyone have a fix for this problem?
      Jan. 1, 2013 1:28 pm
      I need an approximate time to steam a 3 lb lobster and also how much liquid in the pan
      Jun. 27, 2013 7:22 pm
      It's been established in the last years that lobsters do feel pain when dropped in a boiling pot alive, I wish people would keep that in mind.
      Jul. 26, 2013 8:49 am
      nam - To drain the lobster after boiling take it out of the pot and put it on it's back in the sink or in a plastic basin. Use a heavy knife to slit the stomach from the tail all the way up to the chest. Turn the lobster over and drain it. Also crack the claws and pull the head off to allow more draining if you don't need the fancy presentation. Don't do this on a plate or you will have water everywhere.
      Sep. 24, 2013 2:00 pm
      there is a simple way to get tail out of shell pull tail off of body of lobsterholding it bottom side up insert a fork tines down as far as you can with a pushing motion on fork towards the tail end of the shell and a pull at the same time the tail will come right out of the shell if it gives you any trouble pull off the little fins at the end of the tail and it will release even easier all depends on how long you cooked the lobster. Try it you'll never do it any other way good luck.
      May 28, 2014 11:06 am
      I heard that you can put the live lobsters in the freezer for like 10 minutes, them put them in boiling water, as a more humane way of cooking them alive...
      Dec. 11, 2014 6:49 am
      Can I keep live lobsters in the fridge for about 20 hours? Need to pick them up from the store Christmas Eve, but cooking them Christmas day.
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