how to cook lobster
              practical boat cook advice for every yacht and boat owner

Lobster - A Quick Guide

Lobsters are marine crustaceans that are found in salt waters the world over. They have a hard shell to protect them, antennae and five pairs of legs or pincers.  Many different species of lobster exist, which vary in size, color and weight. There are around 30 species with claws and about 45 species, which are spiny and without claws. It is said that the clawed lobsters are the "true" lobsters, but their spiny cousins are just as tasty.

Despite what many will say, lobster is not difficult to cook, all you really need is a big enough pot. The only thing that may put you off is the fact that lobster must be cooked fresh, which means buying a live lobster and taking it home with you.

However, if you want to rustle up something spectacular in order to impress any important dinner guests, presenting a whole cooked lobster, would certainly be an excellent choice.   Firstly learn how to choose and store your lobster, then learn what to do with it.

Nutritional value of lobster meat

Not only is lobster meat lower in fat, calories and cholesterol than beef, pork and even the leanest chicken, it is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are helpful in the prevention of heart disease and hardening of the arteries. lobster meat also contains high levels of certain vitamins, such as vitamin A, B2, B3, B6 and B12, and is also a good source of potassium, calcium, zinc, phosphorous, iron, magnesium and amino acids.

Choosing and buying live lobster

The color of a lobster does not affect the taste or quality of the meat; so don't be put off by any strange shades.  In fact, lobsters are usually a green / black color but may also be brown, yellow or even white. They only turn bright red once they are properly cooked.

Make sure that you choose a lobster that is lively and active, although this may seem quite daunting for first timers.  The tail should be straight and curl under once it is picked up. If you uncurl the tail, it should spring back to a curled position if it is healthy.

How to store lobster

Ideally, you should aim to cook your lobster as soon as you can after purchasing it. The lobster should be kept in a large enough open container in the coldest part of the refrigerator or even in the vegetable drawer. It should be covered with a damp towel or damp newspaper strips or with any moist seaweed or packaging that was provided upon purchase.

You should never immerse the lobster in water, salt water or keep it on ice and it should never be kept in an airtight container, as it will suffocate.  Lobsters will live for around 36 hours if kept in these optimal damp conditions.

So now you have your lobster, how to cook it, check out a few ideas below, or simply boil your lobster, and serve with fresh french bread and garlic mayonnaise, it really is that simple.

How to cook lobster tails

If the prospect of acquiring and cooking a whole live lobster seems too daunting, buying frozen lobster tails may be the perfect alternative for a wonderful dinner, especially if you are looking to impress your guests.

Lobster tails are easier to obtain than whole lobsters, easier to prepare and easier on the pocket, and serving up a perfect platter of mouth-watering lobster tails will definitely provide you with a meal that your dinner guests are not likely to forget. 
Most of the frozen lobster tails that you will find on the market come from a spiny clawless species of lobster, of which there are around 45 different species all over the world.  Whereas a clawed lobster is preferable if you are eating a whole lobster; for lobster tails, the clawless species are much better, as their tails contain more meat in them.

Cold or warm water tails?

As you may expect, different types of lobster will taste and cook differently. With lobster tails, the difference is in whether the lobsters come from warm waters or cold waters.

Lobsters from cold waters are mainly found around South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, whilst warm water lobsters are found in the waters of Central and South America and Florida.

According to several expert seafood and shellfish chefs, one fifth of warm water lobster tails are poor quality, whereas lobster tail meat from cold water lobsters are very rarely "bad".

This is a fact that is reflected in the price of lobster tails. Cold water lobster tails will be significantly more expensive, however you will almost always be guaranteed an excellent tasting and good quality lobster meat. 
On the other hand, purchasing warm water lobster tails will be cheaper, yet you may be disappointed with what you buy. If you particularly want to prepare a special meal to impress, it is probably safer to pay the extra for better and guaranteed quality.
When a warm water lobster tail is "bad", the lobster meat may either remain mushy after cooking, fall apart on eating or contain a pungent smell of ammonia.  Cold water lobster tails are said to taste cleaner, have a whiter appearance and be much more tender in texture.

Buying frozen lobster tails

If you are unsure of where the lobster tails on sale originate from, as there are no signs, make sure to ask the vendor if they are warm water or cold water tails. If he does not know, assume that they are warm water tails, especially if they are priced inexpensively. Good quality cold water tails will not be priced very cheaply.  Look out for any discoloring of the meat and avoid tails that have a grey color or black spots in the flesh.  Lobster tails can usually be bought in different sizes ranging from around 3 oz to as large as 24 oz.

Defrost the lobster tails

The lobster tails may be cooked from frozen, however, the best results are obtained if the tails are defrosted first.

To defrost the lobster tails, place them in the refrigerator for a period of 8 - 10 hours or alternatively place them in a bowl of cold water. They can be defrosted in the microwave, but make sure that you do not start to cook them instead.


Lobster Thermidor / Cooking Lobster Tails Lobster Bisque
Lobster Bisque - a quick introduction

Lobster bisque is a thick, creamy seafood soup, thought to be of French origin. The soup can be milk or cream based and originally contained puréed lobster meat, as well as sherry, cognac or wine.

Seafood bisque can also be made from crayfish, shrimp or crab as well as lobster, although lobster is perhaps the most popular.

A bisque differs from a chowder, as a bisque is usually a rich, creamy liquidized seafood soup, whereas a chowder is a thick milk based soup that contains shellfish and vegetable pieces.  Early bisque recipes from the 18th century included ground lobster or crab shells as an ingredient, which were added to thicken the soup. Today, rice or flour and butter (roux) are used.  There are many different variations on how to prepare lobster bisque, but below are two recipes, the first, which is fairly simple and easy to make, whilst the second is slightly more elaborate and sophisticated.  Enjoy...

Lobster bisque - quick and easy

  • 1 - 2 cups of cooked lobster meat
  • 1/3 of a cup of dry sherry or white wine
  • 3 cups of milk
  • 3 tbsp of butter
  • 3 tbsp of flour
  • 1 tsp of steak sauce
  • salt and pepper to season
  1. In a small bowl mix the cooked lobster meat together with the dry sherry or wine, and then set to one side.
  2. Melt the butter in a fairly large saucepan over a medium heat.
  3. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring the mixture constantly so that a paste is formed.
  4. Slowly pour in the milk, a little at a time, and continue to stir until the mixture has thickened forming a basic sauce.
  5. Add the seasoning and the steak sauce and stir well.
  6. Finally, add the sherry and lobster mixture, stir well and cover the saucepan.
  7. Cook for 5 - 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and then serve hot with fresh crusty bread.

Lobster bisque - elaborate

  • 1 live lobster
  • 1 pint of cream
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 1/3 of a cup of chopped onions
  • ¾ of a cup of plain flour
  • ¼ lb of butter
  • ¾ of a cup of tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice
  • 2 chicken stock cubes
  • 1 tbsp of steak sauce
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp of white pepper
  • 8 black peppercorns
  1. Pour 5 litres of cold water into a large pot, add the stock cubes, chopped onion, celery, salt and peppercorns and bring to the boil.
  2. Once the water has reached a fierce boil, carefully add the live lobster, placing it headfirst into the boiling water.
  3. Cover the pot with the lid, return to the boil and then start timing. Cook the lobster for 12 minutes on a reduced heat.
  4. Once the lobster shell has turned bright red after the 12 minutes, remove the lobster from the stock and place it in a dish to cool and so that the juices are caught and can be added to the liquid.
  5. Continue to simmer the broth, leaving the pot uncovered.
  6. Once the lobster has cooled, remove the meat from the shell, chop it up into small pieces and keep it to one side.
  7. Place the shell and lobster parts (not the meat) back into the pot and continue to cook until it has reduced by half.
  8. In a separate large saucepan, melt the butter gently.
  9. Add the flour and mix into the butter, stirring continuously in order to form a paste. Cook the mixture for 1 minute to get rid of the taste of the flour, stirring constantly.
  10. Then, add the tomato purée and mix together. Cook for another minute.
  11. Next, gradually add the lobster stock through a sieve, so that only the liquid goes through, always stirring continuously.
  12. Once a smooth sauce has been formed, reduce the heat.
  13. Add the lemon juice, salt, Worcestershire sauce, white pepper and the sugar, mix together and then simmer for a further 10 minutes, making sure that you stir the broth occasionally.
  14. Slowly stir in the light cream and slightly turn up the cooking temperature.
  15. Add any extra seasoning if required and then add the reserved chopped lobster meat to the soup.
  16. Cook for a further few minutes, then serve hot.

Lobster Thermidor

lobster thermidor
                  practical boat cook advice for every yacht and boat

Lobster Thermidor is one of the most popular and classical recipes for lobster, yet it is also one of the most extravagant. It is usually reserved for special occasions such as celebrations amongst family and friends and holidays. The dish was created over 100 years ago in Paris, has evolved over the years and is now recreated in homes and kitchens all over the world.

The original recipe for Lobster Thermidor called for the lobsters to be split in half lengthways when they were still alive before being baked in the oven for 15 - 20 minutes. These days, most people would find this method of preparation extremely squeamish, and therefore more recent recipes either instruct the chef to boil the live lobsters before splitting them or they use lobsters that have been cooked previously.

Lobster Thermidor is in effect a mixture of lobster meat and a creamy sauce that is served inside the empty lobster shell, topped with cheese and browned under the grill.

In some recipes the sauce consists of a thick bechamel base to which a concentrated stock of white wine, fish and meat stock, mustard (powder in the original recipe), chopped shallots, chervil and tarragon is generally added, whilst other recipes contain a sauce made up of double cream, egg yolks, butter and brandy or sherry.

Another variant in the recipe is the type of cheese used. Those that stick to the original French recipe use Gruyère or Parmesan, whilst others include Mozzarella or even Cheddar.

Simple Lobster Thermidor

This simple dish has the minimum amount of ingredients, yet is just as delicious as the more involved recipes.

Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 1 lobster (2lb) boiled and split lengthways (according to instructions in How to cook lobster) and allowed to cool
  • 10 fl oz (300ml) of thick Béchamel sauce
  • 4 oz (100g) of Gruyère cheese (grated)
  • 1 tbsp of Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper
  1. Take the split lobster and remove all of the flesh from the shells. Clean the shells and leave to one side. Ensure that they are kept intact.
  2. Roughly chop the lobster flesh.
  3. In a large bowl mix together the Béchamel sauce and the mustard and then season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the chopped lobster flesh and stir well until it is evenly coated with the sauce.
  5. Divide the lobster meat mixture between the two shells and smooth flat with a knife.
  6. Top with the grated Gruyère and place under a preheated grill for 5 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the sauce is hot.
  7. Remove from the grill and serve.

Lobster Thermidor (for the less squeamish!)

This recipe does not have any measurements and the lobster is split in two when it is still alive, a method of preparation that may not appeal to all chefs!

  • 1 live lobster
  • olive oil
  • thick Béchamel sauce
  • mustard
  • white wine
  • fish stock
  • meat gravy
  • shallots
  • chervil
  • tarragon
  • butter
  • grated Parmesan
  1. Place the live lobster on a board, take a sharp, heavy-duty knife and split the lobster cleanly in two down the middle.
  2. Twist off the claws and crack them open with the back of the knife or a hammer. Remove the meat and place in a bowl.
  3. Pour a little olive oil over the flesh of the lobster inside the two half shells and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Place into a preheated oven and roast for 15 - 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Afterwards, remove the lobster flesh from the shells, keeping the shells intact in the process.
  6. Clean the shells and set aside and dice the meat.
  7. Prepare a stock by firstly melting some butter and gently frying the chopped shallots until soft.
  8. Add the white wine, fish stock and meat gravy.
  9. Add the herbs and boil until the liquid reduces to a concentrated mixture.
  10. Add a small amount of the Béchamel sauce and some mustard and stir.
  11. Allow the sauce to boil for 1 minute.
  12. Quickly whisk in some butter (about a third of the volume of the sauce) and stir gently.
  13. Remove the sauce from the heat and line the two empty lobster shells with half of the sauce.
  14. Fill the shells with the diced lobster meat and cover with the remaining sauce.
  15. Top with grated Parmesan and a little melted butter.
  16. Brown in the oven.

Lobster Thermidor with cream and sherry

This recipe does not use a Béchamel sauce. Instead it is rich in cream and egg yolks and is flavored with sherry.

  • 1/2lb (225 g) lobster meat plus two cleaned shells
  • 8 fl oz (240ml) double cream
  • 4 fl oz (120 ml) sherry or brandy
  • 4 oz (120 g) grated Gruyère
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 egg yolks
  • salt and pepper
  1. In a small bowl beat the egg yolks into the cream. Set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the lobster meat and the sherry or brandy.
  3. Stir well and cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Very slowly add the egg and cream mixture, stirring continuously to ensure an even sauce.
  5. As soon as the sauce thickens remove the pan from the heat.
  6. Fill the lobster shells with the mixture and top with the grated cheese.
  7. Season with salt and pepper and place under a preheated grill until the cheese has melted and browns.
  8. Remove from the grill and serve.

cooking lobster tails

cooked lobster tail

There are several methods of cooking lobster tails. They can be boiled, grilled, steamed or baked.

Boiled lobster tails
  1. Fill a large saucepan with water and add 1 teaspoon of salt for each litre of water.
  2. Bring the water to the boil and drop the lobster tails into the pan.
  3. Boil the tails for about 1 minute per oz of total weight. If there are 5 oz of lobster tails, you will need to cook them for 5 minutes.
  4. Drain the lobster tails and serve hot with melted butter, lemon juice or mayonnaise.
Steamed lobster tails
  1. Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of a pan and add salt.
  2. Bring the water to the boil.
  3. Insert a wooden skewer or cocktail stick down the length of each lobster tail. This will prevent them from curling up upon steaming.
  4. Place the tails on a steaming rack placed inside the pan and cover with a lid.
  5. Steam the tails for about 7 or 8 minutes, drain and serve hot.

Grilled lobster tails
  1. Insert a wooden skewer into the lobster tails to prevent them from curling on boiling.
  2. Prepare a large saucepan of salted water according to instructions above for boiling lobster tails.
  3. Once the water has reached a fierce boil, drop the tails in and cook for 4 minutes.
  4. Drain the tails and position them on their backs once they have cooled slightly.
  5. With a sharp knife, split the soft top shell of the tail, lengthways down the middle, but leave the hard shell underneath in tact.
  6. Pour some melted butter and lemon juice over the meat of the tails or brush a marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, salt pepper, garlic powder and paprika over the meat and place shell side down into a pre-heated grill.
  7. Grill for approximately 7 - 8 minutes under a medium - hot heat or until the meat is opaque, no longer transparent and firm to the touch.
  8. If you wish, you may turn the tails over half way through cooking.
  9. Remove from the grill and serve hot with lemon, melted butter or mayonnaise.
Baked lobster tails
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
  2. Split the soft shell of the lobster tail in half lengthways with a sturdy knife.
  3. Place the lobster tails on a baking tray and brush them with melted butter.
  4. Bake in the oven for between 8 and 10 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with lemon slices, melted butter or mayonnaise.