Don't let cooking lobster tails scare you, you really can do it. Whether you want to make grilled, baked, broiled, or boiled lobster tail, we'll teach you how to cook lobster tails all these ways. Most often cooked lobster tails are served with butter or clarified butter so we included recipes for that and other succulent lobster tail recipes, too.

By Katlyn Moncada
Updated November 16, 2020
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When it comes to whipping up fancy dinners at home, lobster is one indulgent entrée that's hard to beat. And while cooking and serving whole lobster may seem like an obvious choice, cooked lobster tails is still a fancy, yet simple (and less expensive!) way to go. Most lobster tails you'll find are from spiny lobsters, which have no claws and meatier tails than Maine lobsters. They are generally marketed as rock lobster tails and come fresh or frozen. Plan on one (about 8-ounce) tail per person. When you're shopping for lobster tails know that uncooked tails have a mottled appearance with a green-blue-brown cast. They don't get that lovely red color until they're cooked.

How to Prepare Lobster Tails

Thinking about preparing lobster tails for cooking might seem a bit intimidating. And if we're being totally honest, it will require a little prep work before cooking. But not to worry, that's why we're here to help make the process as easy as possible. Generally, you'll need to cut open the hard top shell. From there, some recipes (such as our recipe for boiling lobster tails, below) call for opening the shells to expose the meat. Other recipes call for butterflying the shells. Here are the steps to follow, unless your lobster tail recipe directs otherwise.

Test Kitchen Tip: Cooking frozen lobster tails requires thawing them first in the refrigerator. Be sure to plan ahead because this takes 8 to 10 hours.

cutting lobster tail lengthwise
Credit: Blaine Moats

How to Cut a Lobster Tail

Holding the lobster tail in one hand and using sturdy kitchen shears ($10, Crate & Barrel), cut lengthwise through the center of the hard top shell and the meat. Stop cutting just before the bottom shell. Do not cut through wide end of the tail.

spreading lobster tail meat apart
spreading lobster shell from meat
Left: Credit: Blaine Moats
Right: Credit: Blaine Moats

How to Open a Lobster Tail & Separate the Meat

Spread the cut top shell apart and loosen it from the meat with your thumbs and fingers. Separate the meat with your thumbs, keeping the meat attached near the end of the tail. This allows the lobster tails to soak up all that delicious melted butter.

If you want to take it a step further, learn how to butterfly a lobster tail, too.

grilling lobster tails
Credit: Jason Donnelly

How to Grill Lobster Tails

Treat friends to a grilled lobster tail for a sure-to-impress meal. On those perfect summer evenings, this is the best way to cook lobster tails.

Here's how to cook lobster tail on the grill:

  • Prepare Lobster Tails for Grilling: Thaw four rock lobster tails, if frozen. Rinse lobster tails; pat dry with paper towels. Butterfly tails by using kitchen shears or a sharp knife ($40, Target) to cut lengthwise through center of hard top shells and meat, cutting to, but not through, bottoms of shells. Press shell halves of tails apart with your fingers (see photo, above). Melt 2 tablespoons of butter for brushing.
  • How Long to Cook Lobster Tails on the Grill: Lightly grease the rack of a grill. Preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Brush lobster meat with some of the melted butter. Place lobster tails, meat sides down, on the grill rack directly over heat. Cover and grill 6 minutes. Turn over lobster. Brush with the rest of the 2 tablespoons melted butter. Cover and grill for 6 to 8 minutes more or until lobster meat is opaque. Serve with clarified butter, if desired. Or try dipping in an herbed mayo like this Rock Lobster Tails recipe uses.

How to Broil Lobster Tails

If you've fallen in love with a broiled lobster tail dish in your favorite restaurant, bring the specialty home. Broiling lobster tails is another easy way to cook lobster.

Here's how to cook lobster tails in the oven using your broiler:

  • Prepare Lobster Tails for Broiling: Thaw four lobster tails, if frozen. Preheat broiler. Rinse lobster tails; pat dry with paper towels. Butterfly the lobster tails by using kitchen shears to cut lengthwise through the centers of hard top shells and meat, cutting to but not through bottom shell. Spread the halves of tails apart (see photo, above). Place lobster tails, meat side up, on the unheated rack of a broiler pan. Brush ¼ cup butter over meat.
  • How long to cook lobster tails under the broiler: Broil 4 inches from heat for 12 to 14 minutes or until lobster meat is opaque. If desired, sprinkle with snipped fresh parsley and serve with clarified butter.

How to Boil Lobster Tails

One of the quickest ways to prepare lobster meat for salads, lobster rolls, or another lobster tail recipe is by boiling lobster tails. Here's how:

• How to Prepare Lobster Tails for Boiling: Thaw lobster tails, if frozen. Rinse lobster tails; pat dry with paper towels. Cut down center of shell with kitchen shears, as shown in the photo above. Spread shell apart (Photo, above), exposing the meat. To cook four 8-ounce tails, bring 6 cups salted water to boiling in a 3-quart saucepan. Add the lobster tails.

• How Long to Boil Lobster Tails: Simmer lobster tails, uncovered, for 8 to 12 minutes or until shells turn bright red and the meat is tender when poked with a fork. For larger or smaller tails, adjust the cooking time as needed. Drain.

• How to serve lobster tails: If desired, use kitchen shears to cut each tail lengthwise through the meat for easier eating. Serve with Clarified Butter for dipping. Or remove the meat from the tail and use in recipes calling for lobster meat.

lobster tails with lemon-chamomile sesame sauce
Credit: Jason Donnelly

How to Cook Lobster Tails in the Oven

Baking is another great way to cook lobster tails. To add a little color to the lobster tails, sear them on the stovetop first, then finish them in the oven. Here's how to bake lobster tails.

Try Our Lobster Tails with Chive Butter
  • Prepare Lobster Tails for Baking: Thaw four lobster tails, if frozen. Preheat oven to 425°F. Rinse lobster; pat dry with paper towels. Butterfly tails by using kitchen shears or a sharp knife to cut lengthwise through centers of hard top shells and meat, cutting to but not through bottom shell. Press shell halves of tails apart with your fingers (see photo, above).
  • Sear the Lobster Tails: Grease a heavy skillet or indoor grill pan ($25, Target) and heat over medium-high heat. Add two of the lobster tails, meat sides down, to the hot pan. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until browned. Transfer lobster tails to a large baking pan ($20, Bed Bath & Beyond), placing them meat sides up. Repeat with remaining two lobster tails.
  • How long to cook lobster tails in the oven: Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lobster meat is opaque. Place lobster tails on serving plates. Serve with clarified butter, if desired.

Now that you know how to cook lobster tail in so many methods, you can find new ways to enjoy it. Try making New England-favorite lobster rolls or this decadent lobster mac and cheese for dinner.

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