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).
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.
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.
Treat friends to a grilled lobster tail for a sure-to-impress meal. Here's how to cook lobster tail on the grill:
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.
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:
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: