How to Butterfly Lobster Tails

The first step in learning how to cook lobster tails is understanding how to cut a lobster tail for grilling, broiling, steaming, baking, and other cooking methods. One way to prep a lobster tail is to butterfly it. Butterflying a lobster tail means to cut open the hard shell and through the meat so you can spread the tail into two even halves. We'll teach you how to butterfly lobster tails so you are ready to check out our favorite recipes that show how to cook lobster tail in the most irresistible ways.

Butterflying a lobster tail means to cut open the hard-top shell through the meat. Then you spread the tail into two even halves. This is easy to do and helps the meat cook evenly.

Bring a taste of fine dining to your kitchen with this easier-than-you-think technique. We'll show you how to butterfly lobster tails so you can serve this special meal at home the next time you're craving seafood. Butterflying is a super simple three-step process, and it'll help the lobster meat cook much more evenly. We're also sharing some of our favorite lobster recipes, so you won't have to wait to try cooking them yourself!

Buying Lobster Tails

Look for lobster tails in the fish department or the freezer case of your local grocery store. Most lobster tails you'll find are from spiny lobsters, which have meatier tails than Maine lobsters and don't have claws. They are generally marketed as rock lobster tails. Expect the tails to have a mottled, greenish-blue-brown appearance when raw. Plan on one (about 8-ounce) tail per person. If frozen, thaw the tails in the refrigerator.

How to Butterfly Lobster Tails in Two Steps

Do you cut lobster tails before cooking? The answer is almost always yes. Most of our recipes for lobster tails call for butterflying them before cooking.

However, there are exceptions. Sometimes, when lobster tails will simply be boiled, butterflying is not necessary. However, if your recipe specifies to butterfly the lobster tail, here's how to do it:

1. Cut the tail

Hold a lobster tail in one hand with the top of the hard shell facing up. Using sturdy kitchen shears, cut through the top of the shell and through the meat, stopping just before the bottom shell. Do not cut through wide end of the tail. 

2. Separate the meat

Using your thumbs and fingers, gently spread the halves of the tails apart, keeping the meat attached near the end of the tail.

Step 3: Lift the meat over the shell

Gently separate the meat from the back of the shell, keeping the base attached at the tail, and lift the meat over the shell. Squeeze the shell halves back together beneath the meat, so that the meat rests on top of the shell. Now the tail is ready to brush with butter, season as desired, and broil until the lobster meat is opaque.

How to Cook Lobster Tail

Lobster tail tastes great broiled, boiled, steamed, grilled, and baked. You can even cook lobster on the stove top. 

Tip: If you have a recipe that calls for steamed lobster tail, here's how to do it:

  • If frozen, thaw two 8-ounce lobster tails.
  • Butterfly the lobster tails as directed above.
  • Place a steamer basket in a saucepan. Add water to just below the bottom of the basket. Bring water to boiling.
  • Add lobster tails to steamer basket. Cover and reduce heat. Steam for 8 to 13 minutes or until lobster is opaque.
  • How to remove lobster tail from body: Remove the lobster from the steamer basket. When cool enough to handle, pull the lobster meat from the shell.

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