Cooking Lobster

You’ve come this far. You’ve procured the best Maine lobster in the sea, but hold your shell crackers…you ruined it! The cooking part was all wrong! We’ll walk you through every step of making sure your prized catch is cooked perfectly.

Cooking Lobster Instructions
Every lobster order includes step-by-step cooking guide.

Perfectly cooked lobster is surely one of life’s simplest—and most delicious—pleasures. And it’s not hard! Live Maine Lobsters are a snap to cook, with steaming and boiling being the two most common cooking methods.

But before you can cook your lobsters, you need to be careful handling them. If you have never handled live lobster before, keep the bands on! Some lobstermen insist on removing the claw bands before cooking. The rubber bands, they say, impart an off taste to the water and to the lobster. Only salty and experienced lobster lovers should remove them before cooking. Whether you’re having lobsters shipped to your door or are picking them up at the local pound, learn the best way to handle live lobsters and keep them fresh before cooking.

How do You Cook a Live Lobster Humanely

How to Prepare Maine Lobster

Is there a humane way to kill a lobster? What’s the best way to kill a live lobster for cooking? There is endless debate on whether lobsters feel pain or not, but whether the answer is yes or no, we believe it’s our responsibility to give lobsters as pain-free and dignifying death as possible.

The most common method for killing lobsters humanely is setting live lobsters in the freezer for ~15 minutes to help them drift in a numb sleep, then plunging them head-first into boiling water for a quick, kind death. There are a handful of other methods, which you can read about in our article: How to Kill a Lobster Without Feeling Bad About It.

Cooking Live Lobster at Home

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. Never overcook your lobster. This makes the meat tough and stringy (a huge bummer!). We find most of the cooking time suggestions found on the internet are way too long.

We’ll give you detailed lobster cooking times, but it is important to know how the time of year impacts timing. In the winter, lobsters have a harder shell and therefore require more time to cook. In the summertime lobsters have a softer shell and require less time to cook.

How Big a Pot Lobster

What Size Lobster Pot?

How big of a lobster pot do you need? The answer is: BIG.

Whether you steam or boil, pick a pot with lots of room. Do not crowd the lobsters in the pot, as the heat will not circulate evenly around the lobsters—you want even circulation for even cooking. 

If you do not have a large pot, we suggest cooking lobsters in batches, or using a couple of pots. If you add the same amount of water in each pot, the lobsters should cook at about the same time. A 4-5 quart soup or pasta pot will work well for a couple of small lobsters. A 19-quart pot will cook about 5 to 6  1- 1/4 lb. live lobsters. The pot does not have to be heavy-duty, because the water will actually boil faster in a lighter gauge metal pot.

Should you steam or boil your lobster? Pulling crustaceans out of a big pot of boiling water can make a mess. With steaming there is less chance of a boil over. Both of these traditional cooking methods have both pros and cons described below.

Confused about what size lobsters to order? Check out our tips for picking the perfect lobster to cook up at home.

Lobster Cooking Tips TImes

How to Steam Lobsters

First, is steaming lobster better than boiling? Not necessarily. It all comes down to how you like to cook. Steaming cooks whole lobsters more slowly than boiling, so it reduces the chance of overcooking and offers more control. It also makes less of a mess! Go with steaming if you plan on serving whole lobster at a sit down dinner. 

Keep the lid on tight to keep in the steam. A steamer rack is not a necessity; it just keeps the lobsters from getting charred on the bottom of the pot. You can also use a vegetable steamer rack or an upside colander inside the pot.

Reasons to steam lobsters:

  • Yields a more tender lobster than boiling.
  • 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 Steam Live Lobsters

Steaming Instructions:

  1. Use a pot large enough to comfortably hold the lobsters and fill with water so it comes up sides about two inches. (Feel free to use a steaming rack to place the lobsters on or just add directly to the pot.)
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of salt for each quart of water. If you have sea salt—even better.
  3. Bring the water to a rolling boil, and put in lobsters, one at a time.  Bring water to a rolling boil over high heat. Place lobsters in the pot (head first), cover tightly, return to a boil as quickly as possible and start counting the time.
  4. Steam a lobster for 7 minutes per pound, for the first pound. Add 3 minutes per pound for each additional pound thereafter. See chart below for approximate cooking times. Regulate the heat if the froth starts to bubble over.
  5. Carefully remove lobsters from the pot with tongs. Be careful, they are very hot. Set in a large bowl for five minutes to cool before cracking.

If the roe inside a female body is blackish and appear gelatin-like, instead of the customary red, it may undercooked. Put the lobster back into the pot until the roe is red. The roe is edible, but can be rinsed out. Learn more about lobster eggs, also called tomalley.

Steaming Lobster Times

How Long to Steam Lobsters?

See chart to avoid over- or under-cooking. For steaming time, use the weight of your individual lobsters, not the total weight of all lobster being cooked. Start your timer when the steaming water returns to a boil.

Another common mistake is adding to the cooking time just because you are cooking more than 1-2 lobsters in the pot.

Lobster SizeSteaming Times
1 lb.-1-1/4 lbs. 7-9 minutes
1-1/2 lb. 9-11 minutes
2 lbs. 11-12 minutes
3 lbs. 12-14 minutes
5 lb. 22-24 minutes
Time is for all lobsters in the pot!

Cooking Clams with your lobsters? Place the netted bag of clams on top of the lobsters and steam both at the same time.

How to Boil Lobster

The shell of the lobster flavors the bubbling water, which in turn, flavors the lobster meat!

How to Boil Live Lobster

For cooking a bunch of lobsters, boiling gives you even fast cooking. However, boiling lobster tends to water-log them. If you are shelling lobsters ahead of time, go with boiling. Why boil lobsters?

Reasons to boil lobsters:

  • Best for cooking 4 or more lobsters at a time.
  • Cooks lobsters more evenly than steaming.

High, intense heat cooks the meat quickly, making  it easier to remove from the shell. So boil your lobsters if you plan to pick the meat to make homemade lobster rolls or other dishes.

My Family is Passionate About Our Seafood
I live in Texas, and I am a personal chef here. I have been a chef for 20 years now. I grew up in Long Island NY, and my grandfather was a lobster fisherman in the Long Island Sound in Cold Spring Harbor. I never in my whole career thought that I could have lobsters better than the one’s we had with my grandfather, but the lobsters you sent were as fantastic as my childhood memories.

Thank you So Much!
T. Steinhart
Order Maine Lobster

Boiling Instructions:

  1. Fill a pot (large enough to hold the lobsters) anywhere from one-half to two-thirds full with water. Use about 1 gallon of water per lobster so it is deep enough to submerge the lobster by at least 3 inches.
  2. 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.
  3. Place the live lobsters in 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. Keep the underside of the body away from you, just in case the lobster flips the tail splashing boiling water all over you.
  4. 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.
  5. Carefully remove lobsters from the pot with tongs. Be careful, they are very hot. Set in a large bowl for five minutes to cool before cracking.

When you boil lobster, the shell retains a lot of water. Pierce the body and tail with a knife to help drain the water and keep you from making a mess.

Hold the underside of the body away from you, because the lobster have a tendency to flip the jointed tail, splattering water. You can cook more than one lobster in a pot as long as there is enough room and water to cover the lobsters. (If you do not have a big enough pot use two smaller pots or cook your lobsters in batches.)

Boiling Times for Lobsters

How long to boil lobsters?

See chart to avoid over- or under-cooking. For boiling timing, use the weight of your individual lobsters, not the total weight of all lobster being cooked. Start your timer when the steaming water returns to a boil.

Lobster SizeBoiling Times
1 lb. Lobster 5-6 minutes
1 ¼ pound 7-8 minutes
1-1/2 lb. 8-9 minutes
2 lb. lobster 10-12 minutes
3 lb. lobster 12-14 minutes
5-6 lb. lobster18-20 minutes
Time is for all lobsters.

How to Microwave Lobster?

In a pinch to cook lobster and don’t have a pot? Yup, you can zap them in the microwave. It actually steams the lobster in its own shell—not the most elegant way to get the job done, but it works well in a jiffy.

First things first, humanely dispatch the lobster immediately before microwaving. Second, only microwave one lobster at a time!

Does microwaved lobster taste the same? Microwaving a lobster cooks it in its own juices and the shell imparts extra flavor. To the surprise of… well, everyone… it’s actually not a bad way to cook lobster. It also stays hotter longer since it cooks in a thick shell and the bag. 

Needed materials:

  • One-gallon plastic food-safe zippered freezer bag per lobster for 1 ¼
    or 1 ½ pound or a 2-gallon freezer bag for 2 pound lobster
  • Lemon half to spear on the rostrum above the eyes*
  • Rockweed to add flavor or 1/4 cup of water

Cook at the highest setting of the microwave, this will vary.

Microwaving lobster instructions:

  1. Place lobster in the microwave-safe freezer bag with ¼ cup of water.
  2. Place the lemon half or spear on the rostrum.
  3. Close up the bag—seal it tightly!
  4. Cook at the highest setting of your microwave (timings will vary).

Microwave Cooking Times

Lobster SizeCooking Times
1 pound 6 minutes
1 ¼ pound 7 minutes
1 ½ pound 8 minutes
1 ¾ pound 9 minutes
2 pound 10 minutes
Time is for all lobsters.

Get Creative: A Few Options for Microwaving Lobster

  • Raw In Shell — You can microwave lobster that’s raw and still in its shell (usually claws or tails).  Follow above instructions (16 ounces per pound).
  • Reheating — In a pinch, you can quickly microwave pre-cooked lobster meat to reheat it. Simply place in a freezer bag, place on a microwave-safe plate, and microwave a pound or two, on MEDIUM heat for one minute, 30 seconds. Others suggest heating in 30 second increments and re-adjusting pieces each time. Use a finger touch to ensure it is warmed to your liking. It should be steamy. Using a thermometer, the internal temperature of a large piece needs to be between 135 and 140 degrees F.
  • Raw Out of Shell — Spread fully thawed meat over the bag area, add water, and start cooking. Check for 135-140 degrees F with a thermometer. It won’t take quite as long as lobster that’s raw in shell.

How to Bake Lobster?

Baking or roasting a whole lobster is an easy, hands-off way to get the job done, and works especially well if you’d like to add a crust or stuffing (though we contend that exceptional lobster needs no stuffing!). 

Here’s one of our favorite baked lobster recipes: Baked Lobster with Garlic and Herbs.

Lobster Baking Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Place the lobster on its back and make a deep, sharp cut through the entire length of the body and tail. Remove the roe and stomach.
  3. Lay the lobster shell side down on a roasting pan.
  4. Brush butter or oil over the exposed lobster meat.
  5. Bake the lobster in the preheated oven for 22 to 27 minutes.

Baked Lobster Cooking Times

Lobster SizeCooking Times
1 pound22 minutes
1 ½ pound25 minutes
2+ pound27 minutes

Time is for all lobsters.

How to Broil Lobster?

Enjoy a more caramelized lobster meat almost like what you’d get in a hot grill—but don’t have a grill? No problem! Broiling lobsters achieves a thin layer of sear atop the lobster, giving it something like a crisp smoky flavor. Broiling is also a great option if you plan on adding a flavorful crust to the top of the meat.

Here’s one of our favorite broiled lobster recipes: Turn the Heat Up: Broiled Lobster Tails with Jalapeno Butter.

Broiling Instructions:

  1. Put the lobster on its back and make a deep, sharp cut through the entire length of the body and tail with a heavy sharp-pointed knife or lobster shears.
  2. Spread open and remove the black roe and the stomach. Crack the claw shells with a mallet.
  3. Place in a broiler, shell side down. Sprinkle with olive oil or melted butter. 
  4. Broil slowly about 15-18 minutes or until the fresh is lightly browned.  Be careful not to overcook. Serve with melted butter.

Broiled Lobster Cooking Times

Lobster SizeCooking Times
1-2 pounds15-18 minutes

Time is for all lobsters.

Are Big Lobsters Tough When Cooked?

Let’s dispel the longstanding belief that bigger lobsters, over 2 lbs., are tough when cooked. This simply is not true. We’ve cooked plenty of 5-6 pound lobsters and they can be every bit as tender and sweet as the small size lobsters. That’s if the lobster is not overcooked. 

It is very easy to overcook seafood, especially big lobsters. The issue we see again and again is the recommended cooking times are often too long. Overcooked lobster will be tough and chewy no matter if you steam or boil them. When in doubt, use a meat thermometer to help you ensure you’re not overcooking those large lobsters.

Reheating Cooked Lobster

If you’re anything like us, it’s easy to cook more lobster than you can eat in one sitting—who can blame you when it looks and smells so good? Thankfully, it is possible to reheat cooked lobster without it losing its rich flavor and tender texture as long as you’ve used the live lobster storage best practices.

Please keep these three food safety concerns in mind:

  • Fully-cooked, in-shell lobster only keeps for 24 hours.
  • Par-boiled (semi-cooked) lobster can be kept for 2-3 days.
  • Out-of-shell lobster meat can be kept for 2-3 days.
  • Use a meat thermometer to ensure your lobster returns to 145 degrees F before eating—lobster tastes better when you’re 100% confident it’s safe to enjoy.

Here are the lobster reheating methods we recommend:

  • Reheating lobster in the oven. This method isn’t super quick, but it does a good job of preserving your lobster’s fresh flavors. Simply slide your lobster on a roasting pan, drop some butter or oil on the bottom of the pan, and cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F until a meat thermometer reads 145 degrees F—probably around 10 minutes.
  • Reheating lobster in a saucepan. If you have out-of-shell meat, it’s hard to beat a simple stovetop reheat. Simply toss the meat in some extra butter and saute on medium heat until fully cooked. 
  • Reheating lobster in the microwave. This is probably our least favorite way to reheat lobster because of the toll it takes on the meat’s texture, but if you’re in a hurry, it does work. If your lobster is still in the shell, give it 2-3 minutes of microwave time. If the meat is out-of-shell, it’ll only need 1-2 minutes.

Bonus points for using your reheated lobster in a lobster roll (check out this recipe)!

Cooking Lobsters at High Altitude

Cooking lobsters at high altitude takes more time since water boils at a much lower temperature, and evaporates faster. At high altitude the air has less oxygen and the atmosphere becomes much drier. According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most cookbooks consider 3,000 feet above sea level to be high altitude. At sea level, water boils at 212 °F. With each 500-feet increase in elevation, the boiling point of water is lowered by just under 1 °F. At 7,500 feet, for example, water boils at about 198 °F.

To compensate for the lower boiling point of water, the cooking time must be increased—but not the heat.

How many minutes should you increase the time? Try adding about 2 minutes to our lobster cooking times. Also, cover the pot tightly when cooking. To avoid overcooking and undercooking your lobsters, use an instant read food thermometer to check internal temperature. The FDA recommends most seafood be cooked to an internal temperature of 145ºF. Visit the FDA’s website for more information on cooking lobster at higher elevations.

How to Tell if My Lobsters are Cooked?

Many people will mistakenly boil a two and half pound lobster twice as long as a one and a quarter pound lobster. For timing, use the weight of individual lobsters, not the total weight of all lobsters being cooked.

Unlike white fish, lobster meat has longer muscle fibers, and does not flake when 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.

The most foolproof method to check lobster doneness is to use an instant read thermometer. 

Insert thermometer in the underside of the tail closest to the body. The internal temperature should read about 135-140 degrees F. It is important to note when you take your lobsters out of the pot they will continue to cook. To stop the cooking process, put your lobsters in a big bowl of ice.

How do you know if your lobster is cooked

If you overcook them, you will be eating tough lobster. If you under-cook them you can always heat them up. The reason many people believe larger lobsters are tough is simply because they overcook them.

Just remember to bring your pot back to a rolling boil and regulate the heat. The tail is a good indicator of freshness. It will contract and curl when cooked; and the tail meat will be somewhat firm, not mushy.  Happy cracking!

How Do you Grill Live Lobsters?

While boiling and steaming are the most well-known ways to cook live lobster, grilling is another great option. See our step-by-step guide for grilling live lobster in your backyard. And if you’re cooking frozen lobster tails, we’ve got you covered too. Checkout our tips for boiling, steaming, and grilling frozen lobster tails.

Get the Main(e) ingredient— fresh, live lobsters shipped to your front door no matter where you live!

Shop all live lobsters

Quick FAQS on How to Cook Lobster

How do you cook live lobsters?

It’s easy, we provide a detailed lobster cooking and handling guide with every order. You will also find instructions for lobster tails, steamers, mussels, shrimp, scallops, steaks and more.

I thought lobsters were red in color?

Lobsters come in just about every color but red. The shade varies a little from lobster to lobster, but they are a dark blue-green or a greenish brown-black color uncooked. On rare occasions, one is landed that is orange, yellow, or blue. The lobster’s color is caused by pigments in the shell. When the lobster is cooked, all of the color pigments are masked except the red background color. Learn more about how lobsters get their colors.

If my Maine Lobster dies on the way home from the supermarket, is it ok to cook? If not, why?

The answer to your question is probably “yes,” unless of course, the supermarket is in Belfast, ME, and your home is in Berkeley, CA!
Lobster meat does not take long to spoil after the lobster dies. As long as 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 is not present, don’t take the risk!

What is the red stuff in the lobster?

The hard red substance is the roe or the eggs of the female lobster.  It is also called the coral because of the deep red color. 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. Learn more about what’s inside a lobster.

What’s that green stuff in the lobster?

The green substance is the liver, also known as tomalley. It can be rinsed out of the cooked lobster.

How can you tell if your lobster is cooked?

The best Shellfish takes very little time to cook. Cooking a lobster for too long will make it tough and rubbery. Lobster meat should be white, opaque, not translucent. Walking legs will pull out easily from the body. Tomalley (liver) will be green and firm. Roe from a female (lobster eggs) will be bright red and firm. When in doubt, use a meat thermometer.

What if I cannot cook my lobsters right away?

If you need to hold them until later in the day it is best to keep them in their packaging and refrigerate them. If you cannot fit your cooler in the refrigerator, put your lobsters in a paper bag on a drip tray or dish to catch any water that may leak, and don’t seal them in a plastic bag. Please do not put them in the water! Without proper salinity and temperature control, the lobsters will die.

How do you remove the claw bands before placing the lobster in boiling water without getting pinched?

Our strong advice about removing the bands before cooking is:
Don’t do it. The cooking time for lobsters is short enough that the binder won’t burn or melt. The bands are easily removed after cooking.

What temperature should I cook lobster to before eating?

Lobster needs to always be cooked to the safe temperature of 145 degrees F, including when you’re reheating the lobster. At this temperature, any not-so-friendly bacteria are killed (note: only works for fresh lobster—if the lobster’s been dead for long, or cooked more than 2-3 days ago, no amount of heat can fix that).

Comments

    1. Thank you Wen, your instructions were very assuring. I have been cooking lobster for years. Well for my anniversary my husband came home w a 10lb lobster. needless to say I jumped on your site. I love the thermometer test !!! It works GREAT!!!! The lobster was not chewy at all. Another reason why I love maine lobsters so much. Please stay safe an healthy
      KathyW.

  1. Just moved to Nova Scotia Canada after living in the west for 30 years, we love lobster but never had the opportunity to cook it often, we are now in Lobster Heaven! Your instructions are very clear and concise, thanks!

  2. You should get rid of the microwaving instructions. NEVER EVER EVER microwave lobster! EVER! Microwaving many meats turns them into a rubbery consistency, completely ruining the tenderness. Chicken is one of them but it does even worse things to ALL shellfish. DON’T. Just DON’T, ever microwave lobster.

          1. I’ve also had good luck microwaving lobster. I stick the tail with a wooden skewer to stop the curl. Place in a glass 9×13 casserole with 1/4 cup water and nuke 6 min. Check with IR thermometer for temp. Usually see the white foam from joints when done properly.

          2. Great instructions!The water creates the steam! I believe they make a special container to steam lobster in the microwave.

          3. …p.s. oh yeah. Cover Casserole with Saran Wrap. Time is foe a Chic Lobster. They’re usually cheap and great for lobster rolls!

    1. How can I keep my lobster warm if I have to boil in batches because I don’t have enough pots to cook all at the same time? Your website has very good information for someone who is a lobster newbie. 🙂

      1. Hello– to keep your lobster warm just cover your cooked lobster in a aluminum pan. Keep in mind that lobsters will continue to cook after removing them from the pot.

    1. We like to keep it simple and add a little sea or Kosher salt to the water. You can certainly use what you like. Some home chefs love to cook lobsters with Old Bay seasoning.

        1. You can steam them all at once. You want room for the steam to circulate. Your looking at about 10 minutes cook time.
          For a deep pot you might want to move up lobsters from the bottom halfway through cooking process.

  3. We live in Nova Scotia and when the boat in our neighbourhood came in today they sent three 2 lb lobsters to our house (not the first time either). We’ll blanche them with the steamer and the finish them broiled with lots of garlic, jalapeno butter. Raw oysters for an appetizer

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