How to Cook Lobsters on the Grill without Ruining Them

Thanks to online lobster shipping companies Maine grilled lobster can be enjoyed in 24 hours notice by lobster lovers on both coasts of the USA. Grilling lobster takes about the same prep time as the conventional boiling and steaming methods. The real difference is the grill will imbue the smoky flavors of the coals and any marinades or butters. Plus, you can do all your cooking on the grill, including sides, vegetables and your turf all while enjoying the great outdoors and a chilled cocktail or two.

How to Grill Whole Lobsters
Pictured: 5 lb. live lobster perfectly grilled from William Horst of Hooked on BBQ

How to Grill Lobsters without Ruining Them

Most lobster grilling recipes are all about how to grill lobster tails, however, this guide will show you how to barbecue whole, live lobsters. As you will discover there are many options and no one right way. Nevertheless, you must follow these simple rules of lobster grilling: 1. Buy only super fresh, feisty lobsters; 2. Always check the heat because a well done lobster is not an option.

What you’ll need:

  • A charcoal or wood fired grill is best, but a gas grill is a convenient option
  • Live hard-shell Maine lobsters about 1 1/2 lb. each or heavier
  • Kitchen Shears and/or a large, sharp chef knife
  • Salt, pepper, crushed garlic or your favorite herbs (like tarragon)
  • 2 sticks of butter or olive oil
  • Large, fresh lemons
  • Pastry Brush

Whole Lobster Grilling

Only grill lively, hard-shell lobsters about 1-1/2 pound or larger. Smaller lobsters will cook too quickly on the grill. The thick, sturdy shell of a hard shell will hold up to the rigors of the grill. You will also enjoy more meat than a watery, soft-shell lobster. These are the fragile shell lobsters usually caught in the summertime. 

  1. Par boil your live lobsters first for approximately 4 minutes, drain and cool slightly.
  2. Turn lobster belly side up and cut the lobster lengthwise completely through the meat and shell to yield two halves per lobster. Discard the dark stomach (a gritty sac) that’s located behind the eyes, and the soft green tomally (liver).
  3. Rub olive into the meat as in the grill lobster lobster tails above (step 2).
  4. Start the lobster meat side down on grill, and then grill 8-10 minutes, turning once.
How to Grill Whole Lobsters
A whole lobster split and grilled.

Seafood Grilling Safety

Before you begin the thrill of grilling lobster keep these safety measure in mind. First and foremost cold seafood needs to stay cold and hot food needs to stay hot. To prevent cross contamination wash hands before and after handling raw seafood: do not drip seafood juices on counters, utensils or other foods; thoroughly wash containers that held raw seafood. For more common sense safety tips see our safe seafood checklist.

Grill Lobsters Fresh

Fresh live lobsters need to be swiftly and humanely killed right before the grill gets hot. Here are two options: Place lobsters in the freezer for about five minutes to numb them; or you can blanch or par boil them. To par boil lobsters submerge them in a pot of boiling water for no more than 3-4 minutes and with tongs carefully remove and place them in a bath of ice to stop the cooking process.

Tip: A boiled, steamed or poached lobster can be placed on a BBQ shell side up for 3-5 minutes before serving.

Preparing Live Lobster for the BBQ

You can grill whole lobster without prepping them as some chefs do, but we suggest splitting them to allow the smokiness of the grill flavor to come through. According to tests by Cooks Illustrated, a split lobster was the best way to get the real grill flavor and maximize the sweet flavor of the lobster meat.

Now with no danger of getting pinched, remove the bands from the claws. Place your chilled or blanched lobster on its underside and with the tip of a sharp chef knife start behind the eyes at the head and split the lobster lengthwise all the way through the tail. Use a good pair of kitchen shears to help cut through the tail section. Remove the small grey sac behind the head, the jet black roe (only in female lobsters), and the green tomalley (lobster’s liver) and discard. Also remove the intestinal black vein running from the stomach sac to the tip of the tail.

Cooking the Lobster’s Claws

The lobster claws will take more time to cook than the lobster body and tail meat, since the shells tend to be a little thicker.  Remove the claws from the carapace with a twisting motion.  Next blanch the claws and  finish cooking on the grill. Famed lobster cooker Jasper White keeps the claws intact and covers them with a roasting pans or pie tins so the whole lobster cooks evenly.

Grilled Lobster Cooking Times

When the grill is at medium heat, not high heat, place the halves of your lobster flesh side up with the shells on the grate. Season the lobster meat with salt and pepper and with a pastry brush paste the shell and exposed meat with olive oil or your favorite butter mixture. Close the grill and cook for about 3-6 minutes. Quickly baste with more butter or oil and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes. We do not suggest flipping the lobster as you will lose all the juices. The oil or butter not only keeps the lobster moist, but it will also help char the shell making it easier to crack.

Split grilled lobster
Bryan Weeck grills up split lobsters from LobsterAnywhere

Since lobsters cook quickly keep a close eye on the grill. Again, cooked too long, there’s no turning back. One or two minutes too long and the meat will dry out and be tough. The meat is done when it starts to firm up and turns opaque white. It is important to note that your lobsters will continue to cook even after they are removed from the grill.

Serve Up A Casual Grilled Lobster Dinner

Place your lobsters on a large platter and serve with plenty of butter and lemon wedges. You can pre-crack the claws with the chef knife. For a casual affair cover table with the local newspaper and lay some shell crackers and seafood forks on the table so your guests can dig in.


  • “Charcoal-Grilled Lobsters – Cook’s Illustrated.” Cook’s Illustrated. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 May 2015.
  • White, Jasper. Lobster at Home. New York: Scribner, 1998. Print.
  • Coffey, B. (1992). Lobster lover’s cookbook. N. Attleboro, Mass.: Douglas Charles Press.


  1. This is my first time cooking a lobster, but not interested in doing them any other way at this time but on my gas grill. Have done them in a big pot but that is not fun. For the reason that is how most people do it . What interest me is putting them on the grill right from the start. Have read that it takes about 3 to 6 minutes a side in this manner. Please send me your ideas on this manor of doing then this way .. As I am thinking that this is the best way to learn how to do them to start. Thank your for your time.

    1. Yes, not sure why more people do not grill lobsters? If you can grill chicken or a burger, you sure can grill lobsters. It only takes a little prep work. And it’s not a bad idea to first quick blanch the lobster first, cool and cut and clean for the grill.

  2. Thanks for the info, going to try it straight to a gas grill (no par-boiling). Also think that having it shell side down and using pie pan to help cook the claws is brilliant advice (most sites, even Bon Appetit says meat side down which seems like it would toughen it). Great site and will let you know how it turns out.

    1. Yes, you can sure cook live lobsters with out par-boiling. An instant read thermometer is your best friend for getting the cooking time down. Please share how your grilling came out. Thanks for visiting!

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