When partially cooked lobster meat is needed for a dish, parboiling is the perfect option. Use this method for a recipes calling for lobster not to be fully cooked. Parboiling, or blanching, cooks the lobster just enough so that the meat can be removed from the shell slightly undercooked so it may cooked again without making the meat tough.
Why parboil lobster? There are a two reasons. First, if you plan on adding lobster meat to a recipe, this will prevent the lobster meat from being overcooked and dried out. For example, adding lobster meat to mac and cheese or a dish like lobster risotto. Second, if you cannot cook your lobsters within 24 hours you can parboil them and finish cooking at a later time.
You are basically undercooking the lobster so you can chill down the meat, refrigerate and cook at a later time. Parboil allows you to remove the meat intact. If you are looking to pick the lobster meat out of the shells, this is the time to do it when the lobster is still warm. Allow the lobster to cool for a minute or two before handling.
Difference between Blanching and Poaching
Blanching is cooking lobster at high heat usually by boiling or steaming and then placing the lobster in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. The chilled meat meat is used later in a dish that calls for further cooking. Poaching, on the other hand, is gently cooking your lobster. Both techniques par-cook the lobster. You would parboil or blanch the lobster meat so you can gently poach the lobster meat at a later time.
Parboil Lobster Before Grilling
Some chefs will also parboil a lobster before finishing on the grill. Again, this allows you to infuse the lobster with the flavors of the grill without drying out the meat. See our post on how to cook whole lobster on the grill.
Blanch Live Lobster When You Cannot Cook Right Away
Live lobster should be cooked the day it brought home—alive. Keep the lobster cold and alive until you cook it. See our tips for storing live lobster. The lobster can survive in the refrigerator for an additional 24 hours if properly refrigerated and kept moist with seaweed or sea water soaked newspapers. If you have to hold over your lobster for more than a day we suggest par-cooking.
Blanch Before Freezing a Whole Lobster
If you want to store lobster for a longer period of time in the freezer we suggest blanching first. Blanching a whole lobster in the shell in high heat and salt water kills bacteria growth. If you do not parboil the lobster before freezing you risk bacterial growth and loss of meat quality when thawing.
Directions for How to Blanch Whole Lobsters
Time needed: 5 minutes
The idea behind blanching lobster is to make it convenient to cook at a later time. By parboiling the lobster you are also heating it up without drying it out or turning the meat into rubber.
- Boil Lobsters
Follow cooking instructions for boiling whole lobsters and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Be sure to add a pinch of sea or kosher salt for each gallon of water. The water should taste salty.
- Stop Cooking Process
With tongs, carefully remove lobsters from the pot and plunge them in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.
- Remove the Meat
While the lobster is still warm you can remove the meat. Optionally you can cut or breakdown the lobster for the grill or other cooking methods. If you do not plan to remove the meat or breakdown the lobster chill for at least 10 minutes.
Drain excess water and pat dry. Place whole lobsters in zip lock bags and store on their backs as not to lose any juices and water and to prevent them from drying out. Refrigerate for no more than 1-2 days before you plan to finish cooking.
Freeze whole lobsters if not using the blanched lobster within a couple days.
Be sure to thaw frozen lobsters in the refrigerator for at least 24-36 hours before reheating them. If you do not completely thaw it, the meat can be difficult to remove from the shell.
- Finish Cooking
Your cooking method will depend on your recipe. To grill lobster follow our instructions. Depending on the size of the lobster, cut the time to only 2-3 minutes to get a quick sear on the meat side. To boil a whole blanched lobster bring a pot of water to a full boil and drop the lobsters in the pot. Heat through for 1-2 minutes, just long enough to warm up the lobster meat. Be careful to remove them promptly, so they don’t over cook!
More Way to Cook Whole Lobster
Besides blanching or parboiling lobster, there are plenty of other ways to cook whole Maine lobsters at home.