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Posted in: Seafood
Prep Time:
5 Minutes
Grill time:
15 Minutes

How To Cook to a Live Lobster

The easy way to cook your first live lobster

Posted on by Andrea Alden
How To Cook to a Live Lobster
Serves 1
Prep Time:
Grill time: 15 Minutes

With June being Soul Food Month, World Oceans Day June 8th and National Lobster Day on June 15th, I ended up with Lobster on the brain. Having never done a whole live lobster before, I needed to know How To Cook A Whole Lobster. I started where most people do, by shouting "To the Googles!!!" and running to the computer. After youTube-ing a few videos, it seemed easy enough. Boiling water, toss it in. Now we needed to find one. There's generally a live tank at most good grocers, but you want to make sure that you talk to the person at the counter. If they have no idea, go somewhere else. We hit the jackpot on our first try and got Pinchy. It was a little too early for a lobster dinner when we got her home, so we just let her run around until we were ready to cook. Introduced her to the cats, made her feel at home. Okay not really. I was hoping for a little Captain Kirk vs. Gorn action with the cats and Pinchy, but they were indifferent, so she went into her little box and chilled out in the fridge until dinner.

Meet Pinchy, female, live lobster
Meet Pinchy, female, live lobster
Cooked whole and served whole
Cooked whole and served whole
She's so pretty and red
She's so pretty and red

How To Cook to a Live Lobster

Serves: 1       Total Time: 20 Minutes


  • 1 whole live lobster
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/4 tsp. parsley



Step 1
Selecting your lobster. When you arrive at the fish counter and look into the live tank, you want to select a large and lively looking lobster. If you're not sure what you are looking for, talk to the counter attendant for advice. Do you want a male or a female lobster. Males have smaller tails and no roe. Females have larger tails where the best meat is, but they also have roe, the little orangish eggs.
Step 2
Your selected lobster will be put into a box for you to take home. They should last a few hours in the box, in the fridge. This will make the lobster dopey and sleepy, easy to handle.
Step 3
Using your side burner, or on your stove, bring a very large pot of water to a rapid boil. You want enough water to completely submerge at least one lobster, obviously if you're cooking more than one, you will work in batches or use more water. Generously salt the water, or add a can or bottle of light beer like an IPA.
Step 4
Remove the rubber bands from the lobster's claws. If you find that your lobster is to active, or freaking out and attacking your fingers or the cats, grabbing spoons or knives and chasing you, rub their nose and the top of their heads. Check out the video below for an example.
Step 5
When the water is ready, grab the lobster across the back with your forefinger and thumb between the first and second leg on either side. This keeps your fingers away from boiling water and more importantly pinchy claws.
Step 6
Carefully place the lobster into the water face first and quickly. This makes sure they don't thrash and send boiling water everywhere. Cook for 7 to 15 minutes depending on the size of your crustacean. You are better to err on the side of underdone because you can always grill it a little more to finish it off.
Step 7
When the lobster is done, use tongs to remove it from the water and plate it. Break the lobster down by removing the legs, the large claws can be removed at the shoulder joints by pulling them back towards the tail. Remove the tail by bending it up, towards the back. Use nut crackers or your kitchen sheers to break into the claws and tail to get at the meat.
Step 8
If you feel that the meat isn't cooked through enough, preheat your grill to medium high. Brush the lobster flesh with melted butter and grill for 1 to 2 minutes before enjoying with even more butter.
Step 9
If your lobster did not survive the trip home for some reason, you cannot be sure that it is safe to eat until it has been cooked. Thoroughly cook the lobster as per above. Then when it is done, uncurl the tail. If the tail sticks out, or stays out when you have uncurled it, the lobster is not safe to eat. If it curls back under the body, then it's all good.
Step 10
Don't forget the bibs and napkins.
Break Pinchy down to serve
Break Pinchy down to serve
Easier to eat in chunks
Easier to eat in chunks
Tails and claws are the best part
Tails and claws are the best part

And that was how to cook a whole lobster. Things I noticed that weren't mentioned? They don't scream. There was no screaming from Pinchy. There was definitely no cat freak out or lobster chasing cats with wooden spoons or anything the like. They're pretty chill creatures. 15 minutes was way too long to cook and the meat was rubbery. Next time I am going to cook it in the water for at least half of that and grill the lobster the rest of the way. Butter. Garlic and butter. Melted together. Yes. So that was my first experience cooking a lobster. How did yours go? Was it disastrous or delicious. Leave a comment and tell us!

Happy Grilling!

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