How to Butterfly Lobster Tails

You just picked up fresh Maine lobsters tails from your local seafood purveyor or were lucky to receive a delivery to your door from LobsterAnywhere. Now how do you prepare them for cooking? While there are a few ways to prep tails, we will show you how and why we love to butterfly lobster tails. In this article we will offer step-by-step instructions, plus easy cooking recipes for butterflying lobster tails.

William Horst from Hooked from BBQ grills butterflied lobster tails

Piggyback Lobster Tails is not the Same

Don’t be confused, butterflying tails is not the same as piggyback lobster tails. There are many recipe bloggers who list this incorrectly. The difference is that butterflying is when you open the tail up like a butterfly or book, while the piggyback prep is pulling the meat up on the top of the shell. Both methods lend themselves to different cooking techniques. Below we will outline how to cook a butterflied tail.

Butterfly Grill Ready Lobster Tails
Close up photo of a lobster tail butterflied prepared and ready to cook. Photo by William Horst

Why Butterfly Lobster Tails?

There are several reasons why to prep and cut lobster tails butterfly style.

  • Cut for the Grill: Because the tails lie flat this allows for more grill surface contact.
  • Infuse Flavors: Since the tails lie flat this allows for more grill surface contact to allow the smoky flavors to infuse with the meat.
  • Shorten Cook Time: With the tail cut and the meat exposed, tail meat will cook in a flash.
  • Easy to Serve: No knife or crackers needed to access the delicious tail meat. Simply pull the meat out with a fork.
How to Butterfly Lobster Tails
Lobster tails butterflied and seared on the grill

Cooking Methods

Lobster Tails that are butterflied are a natural for the grill, but they can also be roasted, smoked, baked, and steamed.


Grilling is our favorite way to cook butterflied lobster tails. Unlike other methods, this allows the tail to spread flat on a grill. Set your grill at medium heat. Sear the meat side for a couple minutes. Turn tails so shell side is on the grill. Baste with butter or your favorite marinate. Cook for about 5 minutes depending on the size of your tails. No need to flip. You do not want to lose the juices. Don’t have a grill? Grill on a cast iron pan on your stove top. For more detailed cooking instructions see our tips for grilling lobster tails.


Roasting cooks tails at high heat, quickly. Preheat overn to 425 degrees. Place tails on a cookie sheet or roasting pan shell side down. Brush with butter, olive oil or your favorite spice rub. Roast for 6-8 minutes depending on the size of the tail.


Steaming cooks lobster tails with gentle, moist heat. Place butterflied lobster tails shell side down. Steam tails for 5-6 minutes. See our complete guide for how to steam lobster tails at home.

See our complete kind for the best ways to cook frozen lobster tails at home. including Checkout our recipe How to cook Lobster Tails for more info

How to Butterfly Lobster Tails

Here are some simple steps to butterfly lobster tails at home.

Time needed: 5 minutes

Before you prep lobster tails it is always important to fully defrost them. Learn about how to defrost frozen tails.

  1. Cut Down Top Shell Only

    Use kitchen shears to cut down the center of the upper shell only, leaving the fan-tail intact. This initial cut will allow you to make a safe and controlled cut with a chef’s knife in the next step.First-Step-Butterly-Lobster

  2. Cut the Tail Meat

    Place a knife into the cut you made, then cut through the lobster meat, but stop before you cut through the bottom shell. 

  3. Open like a Book

    Gently spread the shell halves apart like a book so it is hinged in the center. Under cold water rinse out and remove any shell debris or intestinal black vein. Third-Step-Butterfly-Lobster-Tails

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