Grilled Lobster Tail: A Step-By-Step Guide

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There is nothing like that mysterious kiss of smoke and fire from grilled lobster tail that takes an already luxurious ingredient to the next level. As the flames lap at the crimson shell, the natural sweetness of the lobster concentrates while gaining another layer of flavor. If you’ve ever wondered how to cook lobster on the grill, this easy guide will walk you through the process so you can feel like a total grill master in your own backyard. Move over Hank Hill!

How to Grill Lobster tails at home.

Grilled lobster tails will instantly transform any barbecue into a true event. Grilling is a full sensory experience, from getting your charcoal going and feeling the heat of the fire to that distinct smell that instantly gets the taste buds happy. This method of cooking lobster tails is easy, rewarding, and once you have the process down sure to become a favorite way to celebrate this mighty crustacean.

Understanding Lobster Tails

Before you can light the fire and get to cooking lobster tails on the grill, you have to pick the perfect lobster tails. The top three things you need to look for are quality, species, and size. A good grilled lobster tail recipe starts with picking the perfect tails.

Types of Lobster Tails: Cold Water vs. Warm Water Lobster

When you’re cooking lobster on the grill, the final flavor and texture will be affected by the type of lobster. Warm water lobster tails are a more delicate texture while having a less sweet flavor. Cold water lobster tails such as Maine lobster is not only firmer, holding up well to grilling, but it has a sweeter, richer flavor. Keep in mind that the high heat of grilling lobster tails will concentrate that flavor.

Selecting the Right Lobster for Grilling

When it comes to grilled lobster tail, size matters. Avoid small lobster tails and aim for at least medium sized lobster tails, or 6-7 ounces or larger.

Because of the high temperature cooking associated with grilling you’ll want to pick medium or 6-7 oz. lobster tails and larger. You run the risk of overcooking small lobster tails because of the high heat cooking. Larger lobster tails will not only make it easier to grill lobster, but it will also give you more options on how to prepare your lobster tails.

You can find lobster tails ranging from medium-sized 6-7 oz. to colossal 16-20 oz. options, depending on your preference.

Preparing Lobster Tails for the Grill

Once you have selected your lobster it’s time to prep it for your grilled lobster tail. This includes cutting your lobster tails, cleaning it, and then deciding on a recipe for grilled lobster tail. Before you decide on how to cook lobster tail on the grill you want to make sure that it’s properly defrosted. Let it sit in the refrigerator on a plate or baking sheet overnight, so it gently defrosts. This will give you the best texture.

Cutting and Cleaning Lobster Tail for Grilling

  • Decide on how you want to cut your lobster tail. Different methods of exposing the meat will not only make a difference in the final visual appearance, but are also suited to different styles of bbq lobster tail.
    • Piggyback lobster tail is probably what most people associate with high end dining experience. This is where the top of the shell is split and the lobster meat is carefully freed from the shell and allowed to rest on top of the shell. This method of preparing your lobster tail is suited for smoked lobster tail and also indirect grilling. Because the meat is only attached at the bottom the lobster will grill in this position the entire time. You can’t sear the meat.
    • Butterflied lobster tail cuts through the top of the shell and the meat, but doesn’t cut through the bottom. The lobster tail is then fanned out, or spread out, like a butterfly. This method gives you more surface area for seasoning and also basting. In addition it also allows you to sear the lobster tail meat side down creating the texture of a crust.
    • Split lobster tails are just that, a lobster tail that has been completely split in half. This is especially good for larger tails. In addition it also makes it easy for portioning and serving.
  • Once you have cut your lobster you will need to remove the vein that runs down the center of the tail, similar to removing the vein in shrimp. The tip of a knife makes easy work of this. Then give your meat a quick rinse and pat it dry. Learn more about what is inside parts of a lobster.

Marinades and Seasonings for Grilled Lobster Tails

A lobster tail recipe can start with something as simple as just brushing olive oil on your prepared lobster tails and then seasoning it with salt and pepper, or it can be something far more elaborate like brushing it with homemade pesto while the grill heats up or seasoning them with your favorite barbecue seasonings.

  • Classic – Keep it simple. Brush your lobster tail with olive oil and lightly season it with fine sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Barbecue – Use your favorite barbecue seasoning. Sweet heat flavors will compliment the natural flavors of the lobster while also adding a kick. Traditional Texas SPG, or salt, pepper, and garlic is another great option that is savory and won’t overpower the flavors of the lobster tail.
  • Chipotle – Add chipotle powder to your seasoning mix or a finely minced chipotle in adobo to your basting butter. This will double up on the smoky flavor.
  • Garlic Butter – Another classic choice is basting your tails with garlic butter. Add finely minced garlic to your melted butter along with minced fresh parsley. You can brush the tails prior to grilling and throughout the grilling process.
  • Herb Compound Butter – Make a compound butter. Add your favorite herbs to softened butter along with garlic and lemon zest and mix to combine. You can place the butter underneath the meat if making split lobster tails as well as use it for basting. Parsley, chives, dill, tarragon, and chervil all work well with lobster.
  • Pesto – Brush your favorite homemade or storebought pesto onto the lobster meat prior to grilling.

Tips on Seasonings and Marinades

  • Never leave lobster in any acidic marinade for an extended period of time. The acid will begin to cook the lobster and change the texture making it rubbery.
  • If using salted butter don’t over salt the lobster tails, especially if you plan on serving the lobster with more melted, salted butter.
  • If you plan on serving your lobster with the same melted butter you basted it with, reserve some of the butter for that prior to basting. This will prevent cross contamination.

Grilling Techniques

Whether you’re new to cooking lobster on the grill or looking for how to grill lobster tails on a gas grill, this easy guide will walk you through all of the steps. It doesn’t matter if it’s a gas grill or a classic kettle burning charcoal, grilled lobster tail is easy and delicious.

How to Grill Lobster Tails – A Step-By-Step Guide

  • Prepare your grill for two zone cooking. Bank your charcoal to one side of the grill leaving a cooler zone. Allow your grill to heat to between 400-450 degrees. Make sure your grates are clean. You can lightly oil them if desired.
  • Prepare your defrosted lobster tails. Cut them and clean them.
  • Brush the lobster tails with olive oil, melted butter, or your favorite melted flavored butter. Season lightly.
  • If grilling split or butterflied lobster tails, place them flesh side down over direct heat. If grilling piggyback lobster tails, place them flesh side up over direct heat and close the grill.
  • For split and butterflied lobster tails allow the first side to grill for about four minutes before flipping. Brush the meat with melted butter if desired.
  • Allow the second side to grill for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from the grill when the internal temperature is between 135-140 degrees.
  • For piggyback lobster tails leave the grill closed for 12-15 minutes, basting halfway through if desired.
  • Remove from the grill when the internal temperature is between 135-140 degrees.
  • Because basting with butter can cause flair up, move the tails to the indirect side if you experience a flair up.

To Remove Tails from Whole Lobsters

Use a small pair of culinary shears to remove a tail from a whole lobster. Holding the tail with the hard out shell down in the palm of your hand, snip around the outside edge of the thinner under shell to expose the tail meat.

How to Insert the Skewer into a Lobster Tail

Make sure the skewer pierces the hard shell at both ends. Put as many lobster tails as will fit on a skewer and repeat.

Tips for Grilling Lobster Tails on a Gas Grill

The method for lobster tail on the grill is the same for a gas grill or a charcoal grill. Just like you set up two zone cooking on a charcoal grill you will do the same on a gas grill. Preheat your gas grill to 400-450, not lighting all of your burners. You will grill lobster tails over the direct heat side, but have that indirect side to use in case you experience a flair up.

While using a gas grill is easy and convenient you won’t achieve the same flavor profile as a charcoal grill. You can easily add that wood fired flavor by using wood chips. Either add dry wood chips to a smoke box, placing it over direct heat at the time you preheat your grill, or create a foil pouch. You will want about half a cup to a cup of wood chips. Here are some steps for lobster tails on the gas grill.

  • Snap tails off live lobsters. Remove and discard the under shell on the tail section. Insert skewer lengthwisde through the tail at both ends to prevent curling as it cooks or clam tighly in a doubnle wire broiler.
  • Place lobster tais shell side down on the grill grates set in high position. Grill for 5 minutes (depending on the tail size) on mediumheat. Turn tails during cooking, grill the other side for 5-6 minutes. Return tails to shell side down postion and baste meat with melted butter mixed with lemon juice.

How Long to Grill Lobster Tails for Perfect Texture

How to cook lobster tails on the grill and achieve that perfect tender texture isn’t so much about timing as it is temperature, and temperature control. The actual timing of cooking will vary depending on the size of your lobster tails as well as how you cut them.

How long to grill lobster tails depends on several factors. Butterflied lobster tails and split lobster tails will cook faster than piggyback lobster tails. What doesn’t change however is what temperature to cook your lobsters too. Just like steak has carryover cooking, so does lobster, especially when the meat is resting on those hot shells. Always cook your lobster to between 135-140 degrees. As the lobster rests it will finish at around 145 degrees.

Grilled Lobster Tail Recipes

The method for how to grill lobster tails will remain mostly the same but the way you decide to flavor it up will vary depending on your favorite flavor profile, the occasion, and how you plan on serving them.

Classic Grilled Lobster Tail Recipe

Keep is classic when deciding how do you grill lobster tails on the grill. It doesn’t get any easier than a garlicky, herbaceous butter to accent the natural flavors of the lobster while still allowing it to shine. Delish’s recipe for grilled lobster tail combines staple ingredients like butter, chives, parsley, and garlic for a simple recipe everyone will love.

BBQ Lobster Tails

Skip the barbecue chicken and fire up the grill to make barbecued lobster tails. The process for how to bbq lobster tails is the same as grilled lobster tails, but with your favorite barbecue flavors. Replace the more traditional sea salt or seafood seasoning with your favorite barbecue rub. Go light because you still want that lobster flavor to shine through. Instead of basting your lobster tails with butter halfway through, you can brush on your favorite barbecue sauce, or a combination of barbecue sauce thinned out with melted butter.

Keep in mind that many barbecue rubs contain sugar. You will want to move your lobster tails to indirect heat to prevent the sugars from burning once you flip them.

Creative Recipe Variations for Grilled Lobster Tails

Looking for more flavor inspiration? Serve your grilled lobster tail up with a green curry-mango sauce or lemon-Fresno pepper butter, both by the grill master himself Bobby Flay. Take a trip to the tropics with grilled lobster tail and jerk sauce from Kelsey Nixon. And there’s nothing like the bold flavors of Mexico Rick Bayless brings to the grill with a lobster tail recipe with smoky garlic mojo.

Serving and Pairing BBQ Lobster Tails

The beauty of having a good grilled lobster tails recipe is that it gives you the ability to create your entire meal outside on the grill. It can be as simple as tossing on some foil wrapped backed potatoes and quickly grilling up fresh asparagus, or something more elaborate.

How to Serve Grilled Lobster Tails

  • Keep it classic and effortless with grilled baked potatoes and a grilled vegetable like asparagus or broccolini. Don’t forget to char the lemons!
  • Use your grilled lobster tails as part of a surf and turf dinner. Because lobster tails cook quickly you can put them on the grill while your steak is resting.
  • Bring the steakhouse experience home. Serve your grilled lobster tails with a wedge salad or Cesear salad. You can even char your lettuce on the grill for additional flavor.

Wine and Side Pairings for Grilled Lobster

  • The light and bright flavors of pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and a dry rose pair well with lobster.
  • Make it an occasion and serve your lobster tails recipe with bubbly. Prosecco, cava, sparkling wine, and champagne are all excellent choices.
  • If wine isn’t your thing many beers also pair well with lobster. Pick complimentary flavors like a blonde ale or pale ale. Lighter beers like lagers, pilsners, and wheat beers are also excellent choices.
  • Pick sides that keep the lobster the star of the show. Fresh and simple sides like grilled corn and coleslaw are classic.
  • Double up on the lobster with either lobster bisque or lobster mac and cheese.
  • Succotash or corn salad will add color and bright flavors to your meal.

Tips and Tricks

Learning how to grill lobster tail is easy and rewarding, especially with the help of a few simple tips and tricks. Skip the burgers and hotdogs and the next time you fire up the grill make sure to toss on some tails instead!

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Grilling Lobster Tails

  • Make sure that your lobster is fully defrosted before grilling. This will allow it to cook evenly and remain tender.
  • Always have a cooler zone. Especially if you’re butter basting you can experience flair ups. Quickly move the tails to the cooler side to prevent the lobster meat from burning.
  • Have fun with your seasonings, but don’t over salt the lobster. You still want to taste that rich, sweet meat.
  • An instant read thermometer is your best friend. Always cook to temperature, not time.
  • Make sure your grates are clean and hot before adding the lobster. This will help prevent the lobster meat from sticking.

How to Cook Lobster Tails on Different Types of Grills

  • Charcoal Grills – Bank your charcoal to one side of the grill to create a two-zone cooking set up, meaning you’ll have a hot side and a cooler side. This will allow you to move your lobster over to the cooler side in case of flare ups.
  • Kamado Style Grill – Use your deflector plate for indirect grilling. This will help prevent any flareups and reduce the risk of over cooking or burning the lobster.
  • Gas Grill – Preheat you grill to between 400-450, but do not ignite all of your burners. Leave yourself a cooler side to move the lobster over to.
  • Pellet Grill – Unless you plan on smoking your lobster tail, preheat your pellet grill to between 400-450. Use pellets that are light in flavor and avoid strong flavored pellets that will overwhelm the delicate flavor of the lobster.
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Grilled Lobster Tails Recipe

How to Grill Frozen Lobster Tails

This simple and delicious recipe will walk you through the process of grilling frozen lobster tails butterfly style. Be careful not to overpower the sweet, delicate flavor of the lobster meat.

  • Total Time: 25
  • Yield: 4 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • Four 8-10 oz. lobster tails, defrosted
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Fresh lemon wedges

Instructions

  1. Thaw Tails: Make sure your lobster tails are fully defrosted, preferably by thawing them overnight in the refrigerator. Take your lobster tails out of the freezer the night before. Place them in a bowl in your refrigerator. The next day they will be thawed, tender, and ready for your preparations
  2. Prepare the Grill: Before starting, coat the grill rack with a small amount of vegetable oil or cooking spray. Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
  3. Prep Lobster Tails: Place each lobster tail on a cutting board with the translucent membrane down and the curved shell facing up. Using kitchen shears or a heavy knife, cut through the curved shell and meat, leaving the membrane intact. Open the tail gently like a book, so it’s hinged in the center.
  4. Season Lobster Tails: Use about 1 teaspoon of olive oil for each lobster tail. Rub it onto the cut surfaces of the lobster meat, and season with salt and pepper. The olive oil helps prevent the lobster from drying out on the grill.
  5. Grill Lobster Tails: Place the lobster tails on the grill, meat-side up. Grill them with the lid closed until the meat is opaque, which usually takes about 6-8 minutes, turning once. Be careful not to overcook them.
  6. Serve Tails: Squeeze fresh lemon halves over the lobster tails, drizzle with melted unsalted butter, and serve immediately. Grilled lobster pairs wonderfully with steak or fresh shrimp.

Notes

  • Always ensure your lobster tails are fully defrosted before cooking
  • Watch closely to avoid overcooking. Lobster meat should turn opaque, and the shell should become bright orange-red
  • To clean your grill afterward, turn up the heat to high, close the grill, and in 10 minutes, turn it off and scrape it clean
  • Author: Lobster Louie
  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Grill
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 342
  • Sugar: 0
  • Sodium: 412 mg
  • Fat: 11 g
  • Saturated Fat: 7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 2.7
  • Protein: 6.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 82mg
Perfect Lobster Tails
The 4 lobster tails, I ordered, arrived @ 10:19 PST – on time and in frozen condition…! They are perfect and we are delighted with the size and the quality of the tails. Thank you so much!
The Taylors, Murrieta, CA
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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I grill frozen lobster tails?

Lobster tails cannot be grilled from frozen; they need to be defrosted first. If you try to grill frozen lobster tails, you risk uneven cooking and a rubbery texture.

What are the signs that lobster tails are properly cooked on the grill?

Look for the flesh to turn opaque and white and the shell to turn bright red. The most important factor is the internal temperature which should be between 135-140.

Is it better to grill lobster tails in the shell or out of the shell?

To prevent the tender and delicate lobster meat from overcooking it’s always recommended to grill the lobster tails in the shell. Other methods of cooking lobster such as butter poaching or steaming are more suited to cooking lobster tail meat.

How can I prevent lobster tails from curling on the grill?

Unless you split your lobster tails in half the shell should prevent the tails from curling. If you split the tails in half the high heat can cause them to curl. You can skewer them to keep them straight if desired.

What are some quick marinades or seasonings for grilled lobster tails?

Melted garlic butter with lemon and parsley is easy and classic. Use your favorite seafood season, lemon and pepper, or just salt and pepper for a quick pop of flavor.

How do you avoid overcooking lobster tails on the grill?

Grilling lobster is a quick cooking method that just takes a few minutes. Make sure that you monitor not just the lobster but the heat the entire time. An instant read thermometer makes it easy to hit your target temperature of between 135-140 degrees without over cooking the lobster.

What grilling tools are essential for grilling lobster tails?

Invest in a good quality digital thermometer. This takes the guess work out of know whether your lobster is done or not. A good pair of tongs is also helpful.

Are there any health benefits to eating grilled lobster tails?

Lobster is naturally high in protein and low in fat and calories. Grilling lobster gives you the ability to add that extra layer of flavor without adding unnecessary fat. You can go with a healthy option like using olive oil instead of butter.

Grilled Lobster Tails Recipe

Additional Resources and References

YouTube video
The BBQ Buddha Chris Sussman shows how to grill a whole live lobster on the BGE.
YouTube video

Comments

  1. I like to brush bacon grease on them and season with Old Bay and some Cajun seasoning.

  2. Grilled with garlic, paprika,salt pepper mixed with melted butter n a little bacon grease. Coated w mixture twice while grilling

  3. How can I prep 50 lobster tails ahead of time & what’s the best & easiest way to cook them? I’m hoping I can partially remove them from the shells to make eating at a picnic easier?

    1. Your best bet is to par cook the lobster tails (boil tails for about 3-4 minutes depending on size). Let the cool, and butterfly/or piggyback tails and store in your refrigerator until your ready to cook. To cook preheat your grill to about medium heat and grill your tails for just a few minutes. Temp should reach a little under 140 degrees. You can also bake/broil on a cooking sheet in the oven.

  4. I always grill and add tons of butter on the tails, plus paprika and salt and pepper. Yummy!

  5. We recently began exploring the world of grilling/smoking now that we have a BGE. I’ve only tried grilling lobster once, but I think it turned out pretty well! I used avocado oil, Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel seasoning, AND Slap Ya Mama for some kick!

  6. I leave the shell intact, but loosen just enough of the meat around the shell and I coat with a bit of olive oil, garlic and coconut oil. I make sure that I am basting frequently with marinade and when it is firm it is done.

  7. I wish I could say I have a great technique for grilling lobsters, but I’ve never tried it before, I’ve lived in apartments where we couldn’t have a bbq until this year.

  8. I have never tried lobster on the grill but it sounds awesome. Normally boiled with lots of butter and hint of garlic.

  9. A dash of smoked paprika, a squeeze of lemon and a swipe of butter is all I need on a grilled lobster tail.

  10. My favorite way is to make my special compound butter for both the steak & tail. There’s also a special rub for the steak and that grills over flames until rare. Then the tails go on shell down for a few minutes…flip & kiss the flames…serve!

  11. I make a smashed garlic paste-like thing – LOADS AND LOADS of garlic and some fresh herbs, and stuff them with the concoction.

  12. I have never grilled or try lobster like that before but I would assume lots and lots of butter since butter goes with everything

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