How to Steam Live Lobster: Full Steam Ahead!

You’ve just placed your order with LobsterAnywhere and as the anticipation fills you with excitement, you also might be thinking, how do I cook these tasty treats of the sea? We’ve got you covered with all of your steamed lobster needs. What method does Julia Child prefer when cooking lobster: You guessed it: Steaming! Learn how easy it is to steam lobsters at home.

Hot steam is not the only way to cook crustaceans. While boiling lobster is what New England is know for, there are other methods, like grilling, butter poachingbaking and yes, even microwaving.

How to steam live lobster
Steamed lobsters by Chris Campbell

What Methods are Used to Cook Lobsters?

In the vast sea of ways to cook lobster, two similar methods reign supreme, boiling and steaming. Here at LobsterAnywhere our favorite way to cook whole, live lobsters is to steam. All you need is a good sized pot, water, salt (preferably sea salt), unsalted butter, and the Maine ingredient-fresh lobsters.

You know what they say, personality matters. Make sure you pick out a mad lobster. It’s easy to find one; it’s the lobster who will raise its claws and flap its tail. The mad, feisty lobster will be the freshest lobster! Just look for the lobsters with claws up and tail flapping. While our live lobsters don’t win any Miss Congeniality awards they do get rave reviews in quality, flavor, and freshness.

6 Reasons to Steam Live Lobsters:

  1. Yields a more tender lobster than boiling.
  2. Yields a more tender lobster than boiling.
  3. Makes less of a mess.
  4. Timing is more accurate since the water returns to a boil faster.
  5. Preserves the ocean fresh taste of lobster.
  6. Cooks lobster a little slower with less chance of overcooking.
How to Steam Live Lobsters
Learn how to steam live lobster at home

LobsterAnywhere prefers steaming lobster because it makes less of a mess and cooks up a more tender lobster than boiling. Steaming preserves the ocean fresh taste of lobster. Since steaming cooks lobster a little slower, there is less of a chance of overcooking. It’s a good choice if your cooking lobster for the first time.

Not only does steaming lobster result in a more pure, undiluted lobster flavor, the lobsters also don’t absorb water like being boiled does. In addition to being a gentler method of cooking, you also don’t need any special equipment.

If you are just cooking a couple of lobsters, a 3-4 gallon stockpot will work perfectly. Cooking multiple lobsters? You can always use a larger pot or steam them in batches. You want to ensure the lid fits tightly to keep in the steam and keep a consistent temperature.

Tools for Steaming Lobster

You don’t much to steam whole lobsters. If you cannot find what you need, you can make simple substitutions.

  • Large pot with steaming basket
  • Tongs
  • Large platter or sheet pans

Don’t have a Steaming Pot?

No steamer rack? No problem! The rack simply keeps the lobsters from overcooking on the bottom of the pot. No one likes a charred lobster when its not cooked on the grill. Furthermore, you could also use a vegetable steamer or even take a colander and turn it upside down. This will elevate the lobsters above the boiling water. For more tools of the trade, be sure to check our our lobster cooking equipment essentials.

How Long to Steam Lobsters?

Now for the all-important steaming times. 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.

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

Lobster Steam Time Chart

When you’re in doubt of whether or not your lobster is done, there are several methods you can use to check. First, their shells will turn bright red. Second, the most dependable method, is to check their internal temperature. Take your digital thermometer and insert it at the thickest part of the tail facing the body. It should be between 135-140 degrees. Your lobsters will continue to cook once you remove them from the pot for about 5 minutes so keep that in mind.

Whether you decide to steam your lobster or go another cooking route, always start with the freshest dock-to-door live lobsters.

Lobster WeightSteaming Time
1 1/4 lbs. Live Lobster7-8 minutes
1-1/2 LB Live Maine Lobster8-10 minutes
2 lbs. Live Lobster11-12 minutes
2 1/2-3 lbs.12-14 minutes
5 lb. Live Lobster20-22 minutes
Lobster Steam Time

Steaming Times for Soft Shell Lobsters

When it comes to timing, things can get a little hasty. The first rule of cooking lobsters-do not overcook your lobsters. Second rule-do not overcook your lobsters. While we only sell hard-shell grade A lobsters, for soft-shell lobsters you might want to subtract a minute or two from the cooking times. Just remember, you can always add time but you can’t subtract it.

Minimum Internal Temp For Lobster

The minimum internal temp for lobster is generally considered to be 145F (63C). This temperature ensures that the lobster is cooked thoroughly, making it safe to eat while maintaining its texture and flavor. It’s important to use a food thermometer to check the thickest part of the lobster meat to ensure it has reached the appropriate temperature. Cooking lobster to this temperature helps in reducing the risk of foodborne illness.

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Steamed Live Lobster Recipe

Directions for How to Steam live Lobster

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Nothing compares to a perfectly steamed whole live lobster. Steaming lobster is much easier than you think and only takes a few minutes. Plus, unlike boiling, there is less of a mess to clean up. In just a few easy steps you will be on your way to claw cracking and butter dipping.

  • Total Time: 10
  • Yield: Serves 4


  • 4  1/2 lb. Live Maine Lobster
  • Fresh Lemons
  • 2 sticks of salted or unsalted butter
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Fresh Water


  1. Pick a pot that will accommodate your whole lobsters
  2. Cover your pot tightly and bring to a rolling boil over medium heat.
  3. Once your water is boiling carefully place your lobsters one at a time into the pot headfirst with their legs facing away from you. Proceed with any additional lobsters.
  4. Cover your pot tightly with the lid and bring the water back to a rolling boil. As soon as the water returns to a boil set your timer. Steam lobster for 8 minutes per pound, and an additional 3 minutes per extra pound. Refer to the time chart below.
  5. When time is up carefully remove the lobsters from the pot with tongs. They should be bright red. You can use one of two methods to ensure they are done. 
  6. Place the cooked lobsters into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
  7. While your lobsters are cooling off, get that butter melting. We love adding in a good squeeze of fresh lemon to lobster.


Chef Tip: Give the antennae a sharp tug and if it easily comes off, it’s done. Don’t worry if your lobster is slightly undercooked. It’s easy to warm up in a little melted butter. We always recommend airing on the side of undercooking as opposed to overcooking.



  • Author: Lobster Louie
  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 8
  • Category: Maine Course
  • Method: Steaming
  • Cuisine: American


  • Serving Size: 4
  • Calories: 128
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Sodium: 705 mg
  • Fat: 1.2 grams
  • Saturated Fat: 0.3g
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Protein: 27.6 g

What is the Red Stuff inside the Lobster?

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 the coral.

Steaming Just the Lobster Tails?

Not steaming whole live lobsters? The directions are similar, but be sure to our tips for how to steam frozen tails.

Frequently Asked Questions about How to Steam Lobster

Why should I steam lobster?

Steaming lobster is a more gentle cooking method than boiling. It doesn’t dilute the natural flavors of the lobster and because it is a slower way of cooking it gives you a more tender result.

What do I need to steam lobster?

You don’t need any fancy equipment to steam lobster. All you need is a pot with a tight fitting lid that is large enough to accommodate your lobsters and 2″ of water. You can use a steamer if your wish, but you can also use a colander turned upside down, elevating the lobsters above the boiling water.

How long does it take to steam lobster?

The amount of time it takes to steam a lobster varies by size. Allow 8 minutes for the first pound and then 3 extra minutes for each additional pound.

What temperature do I cook my lobster to?

Because your lobster will continue to cook even once it’s removed from the pot we recommend cooking your lobster to 135-140 degrees.

What if I am cooking a large amount of lobster?

When it comes to cooking multiple lobsters we recommend boiling lobster.

What if I undercooked my lobster?

Don’t worry if you undercooked your lobster a little. You can always warm it up in melted butter to cook through.

Looking for More Ways to Cook Lobster at Home?

Checkout our recipe How to cook Lobster Tails; we have guides for different ways of cooking live lobsters as well. There are lots of ways to prepare live lobster at home. See our succinct overview of all the best ways to cook Maine lobster.

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