How to Cook Lobster Tails
Cooking lobster tails is easier than you think! Whether you want to make grilled, baked, boiled, or broiled lobster tail, here's all you need to know. We're experts on how to cook frozen lobster tails (or fresh, if you can find them!) and have come up with easy-to-follow instructions for each method.
Shopping for Lobster Tails
While it's hard to beat cooking and serving whole lobsters, it's less expensive and simpler to choose lobster tails, instead. 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. Note that uncooked tails have a mottled appearance with a green-blue-brown cast.
Tip: How to Cook Lobster Tails from Frozen
Cooking frozen lobster tails requires thawing them first in the refrigerator. Be sure to plan ahead because this takes 8 to 10 hours.
Here's how to cook a whole lobster (not just the tail).
How to Prepare Lobster Tails for Baking, Broiling, Grilling, or Boiling
Most lobster tail recipes require a little prep work before cooking. Generally, you'll need to cut the hard top shell open. 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:
How to Cut a Lobster Tail
Holding a lobster tail in one hand and using sturdy kitchen shears, cut lengthwise through the center of the hard top shell.
How to Open a Lobster Tail
Spread the cut top shell apart and loosen it from the meat.
How to Butterfly a Lobster Tail
Many recipes for cooking lobster tails call for butterflying the tails, including when grilling, baking, and broiling lobster tails.
- Use kitchen shears to cut lengthwise through center of the hard top shells and meat, cutting to—but not through—bottom shell.
- Separate the meat by gently spreading the halves apart, keeping the meat attached near the back end.
How to Cook Lobster Tails on the Stove
One of the quickest ways to prepare lobster meat for salads, lobster rolls, or another lobster tail recipe is by simply boiling lobster tails. Here's how to cook lobster tails on the stove:
• 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 Cook Lobster Tails on the Stove top: 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 in a colander.
• 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.
Serving a whole lobster? See our step-by-step guide on how to eat a lobster.
How to Grill Lobster Tails
Treat friends to a grilled lobster tail for a sure-to-impress meal. Here's how to cook lobster tail on the grill:
- How to 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 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 gas 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.
TIP: How to Cook Lobster Tails on a Charcoal Grill: Prepare as above except cook tails directly over medium coals for 6 minutes. Turn; brush with remaining butter, and cook 6 to 8 minutes more or until lobster meat is opaque.
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 of cooking lobster.
Here's how to cook lobster tails in the oven using your broiler:
- How to 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 1/4 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 Cook Lobster Tails in the Oven
Baking is another great method for cooking 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 in the oven:
- How to 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 an indoor grill pan and heat pan 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 15x10x1-inch baking pan, 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.