How to cook lobster


One of my top 10 favourite foods is lobster. I love it as a food in and of itself, as the basis for more elaborate recipes (such as Lobster Thermidor – yum!) or as an ingredient in foods such as quiche. About the only thing I don’t adore made with lobster is a sandwich — why hide that sweet and succulent goodness beneath white bread?

Canadian lobster, caught in the deep cold waters off our Atlantic coast, is the best in the world; however, so many people (I’m thinking about old-fashioned steak houses) ruin this wonderful seafood by cooking it incorrectly or for too long. It’s a shame when getting it right is oh so easy!

6 steps to perfect lobster:

1. Place a 10 L pot of water on the stove over high heat. Add about three tablespoons of sea salt to the water or just enough to make the water taste slightly briny.
2. Add three cloves of peeled garlic, a peeled, chopped onion, a bay leaf or two, half a bunch of parsley and a handful of peppercorns. (If you have a spare carrot and a stalk of celery, chop them up and add them, too).
3. Bring to a rolling boil.
4. Remove the elastic bands from the claws of two 2 lb (1 kg) lobsters or three 1 lb (500g) lobsters and add them to the boiling water. Submerge completely.
5. Cover the pot until the water returns to a full boil. Once the water begins to bubble and boil, set the timer for 8 minutes for 1 lb (500 g) lobsters or 10 minutes for 2 lb (1 kg) lobsters.
6. Drain well and, when cool enough to handle, crack the shells and remove the meat.

See? It’s easy!

Have you cooked lobsters at home or do you consider them a restaurant treat?


23 Responses to How to cook lobster

  1. I love lobster but rarely eat it. It can be prohibitively expensive at restaurants (if you get a whole fresh lobster and not just a frozen tail). However, I occasionally treat myself to one at home. But being a coward, I can’t cook a live one myself, so I go to our local Zehrs. They have live lobsters and will steam them for you at a fraction of the cost of restaurant fair.

    Salad, some melted butter, a squeeze of lemon and it’s perfect.

    Best of all, Canadian Atlantic lobster is a “best” choice for sustainable fish.

  2. Barb says:

    In years long past we had a friend from New Brunswick who would get a box full of live lobsters every year and we were lucky enough to get a share of them. We would spend the afternoon cooking, cleaning, and eating. What a day those were. I have only bought one or two since and they were not nearly the same.

  3. I’m with you on the sandwich part. It’s just wrong – mayo and white bread?

    I do, however, have to disagree with you slightly on the best/proper way to cook a lobster. My only real change would be to steam them, not boil. I take my giant pot, place a few inches of water in the bottom, with or without the seasonings you mention (I’ve tried both ways and don’t notice much of a difference), a handful of salt, and steam them for about 10 minutes once the water comes to a boil. I learned this way from some Newfie friends when I lived in Halifax. The lobster is just so tender this way.

  4. Barbara says:

    I now live in Florida but prior to that all my life in NY and two years in Massachusetts. Lobster was readily available and my most favorite food. My favorite part of the lobster besides the tail is the tomalley. I have been scared off ever since they reported that it was dangerous to eat. Something about red tide and toxins that could paralyze you or even kill you. Are you familiar with this problem? Any advice you can give me regarding this? By the way I just love all the wonderful feeds that I get from you. Keep up this wonderful work.

  5. Natashya says:

    Lobsters are on my list of something I want to try at home. Truly, I have not eaten much in my life, but I would like to!

  6. I like to tie two lobster together, belly to belly, so the tails stay straight when they are cooked. If I only have a single lobster, I tie it to a small board to achieve the same purpose.

    If I’m more interested in the lobster meat, as opposed to eating a whole lobster, I’ll cut it up live and shell it to get the meat, which is then cooked as part of the final dish.

  7. danamccauley says:

    Barbara, I found an article from a Boston newspaper that discussed lobster from Boston harbour and said “the tamale, or liver, of lobsters showed high concentrations of PCBs”. I haven’t found a Canadian source but I think the tamale is pretty safe. Otherwise, wouldn’t we be able to find many more references?

    I’m going to send a note to Rick Doucet, the New Brunswick minister of Fisheries and see what he can tell us.

  8. danamccauley says:

    Wow – that Rick Doucet is one caring and responsive politician. He called me on my cell phone within minutes of receiving my email. He says that the tamale of Canadian lobsters is watched carefully for pcb content and that it is very low risk at this point in time. There is a recommendation for children not to eat it in abundance but that is the extent of any current warnings.

    He also offered a tip to home cooks and chefs who like tamale to cook lobster that has been held in a water compound for a day or so. He says that the tamale tastes sweeter and more delicious than one caught and cooked the same day since the lobster has a chance to purge it’s last food through it’s system.

    Mr. Doucet also concurs that overcooking a lobster will ruin the tamale so watch those cooking times!

  9. cheryl says:

    Oh, good timing. I’ve never cooked a live lobster but will be in prime lobster territory in a few weeks and will bookmark this post. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  10. Rick Doucet says:

    Dana, This is a great blog. Thank you for getting in touch.
    As minister of fisheries of such a wonderful department I have to say that I thoroughly enjoy promoting our seafood products especially lobster!
    I would love to share how I cook lobster for best results in my own backyard.
    The ideal salt content is direct from the sea, however I use slightly more salt than your recipe and I add about a third of that in sugar.( makes the meet sweet )
    I along with my provincial collegues hope to do a bit of a road tour across Canada to promote the “king” of crustaceans.
    In the meantime take a look at ( this is the start of an initiative from the Atlantic Canada ministers of fisheries to promote our lobster together) also my own department website
    All the best and do eat lobster! It is the best from Atlantic Canada!

  11. danamccauley says:

    Sugar, you say….good tip! Thanks for popping by Min. Doucet.

  12. Laura Martin says:

    Kicking fresh lobster cooked for you right at the pound, torn apart by hand and drenched in butter melted on the car’s engine block at the nearest picnic stop (preferably on Grand Manan Island, NB) because you can’t wait any longer… mmmnnnnn….

  13. Laura says:

    … but the last lobster I had was actually a frozen tail prepared according to a recipe from Giada – wrapped tightly in foil after drizzling lots of melted garlic butter in a slit in the shell, then roasted in a hot oven – helped to offset the lack of juicy freshness, and not bad at all. Better than my last restaurant lobster.

  14. Sharon Haslam says:

    When I was growing up, visiting my grandparents on Cape Breton Island every summer, we’d always have a Lobster Dinner. My grandmother was a Newfie. She didn’t worry about the elastics–(or the onions and carrots either)-she’d just plunge the greenish black creatures (head first) into a huge pot of salted water and put the lid on quickly so they couldn’t crawl out (that’s what she told us!) She’d have plenty of layers of newspapers under paper towels on top of her kitchen table (outside at the picnic table was the best.) We didn’t even melt butter–it was just us and a dozen lobster (oh, and my grandmother used her fist to crack them not a hammer–like I said she was a Newfie!) She kept it simple. We ate every bit of it–except the part behind the eyes–she called it “the old woman” My favourite was getting a female lobster filled with coral eggs! And I remember sucking on the tiny side claws (feelers) when I was really little. My grandfather was from Italy and he’d take the leftovers (shells and all) and cook them up in a tomato sauce the next day to be stained and poured over spaghetti! I don’t know which meal I miss more? Thanks for reminding me of a beautiful memory and one of my favourite foods!

  15. danamccauley says:

    Sharon – your stories of your grandparents are fantastic!

    Laura, love your description of “kicking fresh” lobster.

  16. Rosa says:

    What beautiful lobsters! I wish I’d live by the sea side in order to buy such lobsters!



  17. Caroline says:

    Cooking lobster IS one of those intimidating things. Thanks for the tips.

  18. Sheryl says:

    Restaurant lobster is for fancy people, Dana. 🙂

    Seriously, like Sharon above, the best way to eat lobster is atop a table covered in newspaper so you don’t have to worry about making a mess. Best cooked in sea water over a fire on the beach, but inside will also do. I’ve also heard the sugar theory, but have never bothered to do it.

    We also make a point of eating the whole thing – there’s meat in the abdomen if you’re willing to work for it, and the legs are one of my favourite parts, along with the little end flaps on the tail.

    I have an issue with buying pre-cooked lobster – don’t trust anybody else to do it. I’ve never found it intimidating, and even when I was a pescetarian, I could always find a way to justify shoving that lobster in the pot.

    We actually ate lobster for dinner last night. Ended up with bits of flying shell in my hair, and felt all homesick from the absence of a nearby ocean to rinse it off in.

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