Lobster Tail 101: How To Cook Lobster Tail Step By Step Guide 

 Last Update September 20, 2023

By Jenny Zhang

With its succulent and tender meat, the lobster tail is a true delicacy that seafood enthusiasts relish. Whether you're celebrating a special occasion or simply wanting to indulge in a gourmet lobster tail dinner, learning how to cook lobster tail opens up a world of culinary possibilities. 

From classic boiling and steaming to grilling, baking, or pan frying, there are various methods that suit different tastes and preferences. Each technique allows you to unlock this prized crustacean's exquisite flavors and textures.

In this guide, we will explore different cooking methods, provide tips for selecting the best lobster tails, and share mouthwatering recipes that will allow you to savor the rich flavors of this beloved seafood delicacy.

How to Clean Lobster Tails?

Cleaning lobster tails is essential before cooking them to ensure they are free from any impurities and ready to be enjoyed. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to clean lobster tails:

Thaw the lobster tails

If your lobster tails are frozen, thaw them in the refrigerator overnight or use the defrost setting on a microwave if you need them thawed quickly. Thawing them will make the cleaning process easier.

Prepare a clean workspace

Set up a clean and spacious workspace with a cutting board and a sharp pair of kitchen shears or a sharp knife. You may also need a clean towel or paper towels.

Rinse the lobster tails

Regardless of whether you bought frozen or fresh lobster tails, it is important to begin by rinsing the outer surface of the tails. To ensure cleanliness, focus on scrubbing the shell without touching the exposed meat.

Rinse the lobster tails under cold water to remove any surface debris or ice crystals. Avoid submerging the tails in the water, as the meat may absorb the liquid, resulting in a watery taste. Delicately dab them dry using a fresh towel or paper towel.

Identify the shell opening

Locate the top of the lobster tail, which is the rounded side attached to the body. This side of the lobster tail will have a small opening or slit that allows access to the meat.

Cut through the shell

With caution, slice through the upper part of the shell lengthwise utilizing kitchen shears or a keen knife. Start from the opening end and cut all the way through the tail, but not through the underside. Take care to avoid cutting into the meat itself.

Open the shell

Gently spread the shell open along the cut you made. The shell should easily separate, revealing the meat inside. If a thin, translucent membrane covers the meat, you can remove it by peeling it away with your fingers or a small knife.

Clean the vein

In some cases, the tails may already be deveined, while in others, you may need to remove the vein yourself. Search for a dark vein extending along the entire lobster tail. This is the digestive tract and can sometimes contain grit or impurities. Utilize either a small knife or your fingers to extract the vein by gently pulling it out from the tail. Thoroughly rinse the tail under cold water to eliminate any remaining debris.

how to cook lobster

How to Cook Lobster Tail

Lobster tail is a versatile and delicious seafood delicacy that can be prepared in various ways: boil, steam, bake, pan-fry, broil, or grill. Here are some popular methods for cooking lobster tail:


Boiling is a popular and straightforward method for cooking lobster tail.

  1. Take a sizable pot and fill it with an ample amount of water to immerse the tails completely.

  2. Add salt to the water and bring it to a rolling boil.

  3. Once the water is boiling, carefully add the lobster tails and cook them based on the time chart listed below. Once cooked, the shells will transform into a vibrant red hue, while the meat will acquire an opaque appearance and firm texture. 

  4. Once cooked, remove the tails from the boiling water and cool the cooked lobster tails right away with fresh water to keep them from overcooking.

Lobster Tails Steaming Times (Tail Quantity 2 - 6)

Tail Size

Cooking Time

3oz - 6oz

3 - 5 Minutes

6oz - 7oz

5 - 6 Minutes

8oz - 10oz

6 - 8 Minutes

10oz - 16oz

8 - 10 Minutes

16oz - 20oz

10 Minutes

20oz - 28oz

10 - 13 Minutes

Steaming method

Steaming is a gentle cooking method that helps retain lobster meat's natural flavors and tenderness. You can either steam the whole lobster tails or butterflied lobster tails. Here is how to cook lobster tail using the steaming method:

  1. Select a spacious pot to accommodate your lobster tails, and ensure it has a well-fitting lid.

  2. Place a steamer basket or an upturned colander in the pot so lobster tails are not submerged in the water.

  3. Pour in water to a depth of about 2 inches.

  4. Place the lid on the pot and heat the water until it reaches a boiling point.

  5. Once the water is boiling, carefully add the lobster tails to the steamer basket and cover the pot.

  6. Steam the lobster tails using the lobster tails steaming times below.

  7. Once you have reached your cooking time, remove the pot from heat using a tong or glove and check one of the tails. You can check for doneness by inserting a fork or meat thermometer into the thickest part of the tail meat. Once cooked, the meat ought to display an opaque appearance and firm texture.

Lobster Tails Steaming Times (Tail Quantity 2 - 6)

Tail Size

Cooking Time

3oz - 6oz

4 - 6 Minutes

6oz - 7oz

6 - 8 Minutes

8oz - 10oz

8 - 10 Minutes

10oz - 16oz

9 - 11 Minutes

16oz - 20oz

10 - 12 Minutes

20oz - 28oz

10 - 13 Minutes

Baking Lobster Tail

Baking lobster tails is a convenient method to cook lobster tails and requires minimal hands-on attention.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. Carefully split the tail in half lengthwise using kitchen shears or a sharp knife. Place the halved tails in an organized manner on a baking sheet or within a baking dish.

  3. Brush the meat with cooking oil (coconut, ghee, melted butter) and season with salt, pepper, and any desired herbs or spices.

  4. Place entire tails on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven according to the time below.

Lobster Tail Baking Times (Tail Quantity 2 - 6)

Tail Size

Cooking Time

3oz - 6oz

8 - 11 Minutes

6oz - 8oz

10 - 12 Minutes

8oz - 12oz

12 - 15 Minutes

12oz - 20oz

15 - 18 Minutes

20oz - 32oz

18 - 20 Minutes

Grilling Lobster Tail

Grilled lobster tail is a delicious and flavorful way to prepare this seafood delicacy. When you grill lobster tails, you impart a delightful smoky flavor and achieve a perfectly charred texture that enhances the overall dining experience.

  1. Before grilling, preheat your grill to medium-high heat. If you're using a gas grill, make sure to preheat it with all burners on. If you're using a charcoal grill, light the coals and allow them to burn until they turn white and reach medium-high heat. Apply a light coating of oil to the grill grates to prevent the lobster tail from sticking.

  2. Divide the lobster tail lengthwise into two halves using either a sharp knife or kitchen shears. This allows the lobster tail meat to cook evenly.

  3. Brush the exposed meat with melted butter or oil to keep it moist and prevent sticking. Enhance the flavor by seasoning the meat with salt, pepper, and any desired herbs or spices.

  4. Position the lobster tails on the grill, with the shell side facing downward, and grill them for approximately 5-7 minutes. Flip the tails over and continue grilling for an additional 3-4 minutes until the meat is thoroughly cooked. As the cooking progresses, the shells will transform into a vibrant red color, indicating that the meat has become opaque and firm.

  5. Once the grilled lobster tails have reached your desired level of doneness, take them off the grill. Allow them to rest for a few minutes, enabling the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.

Broiling Lobster Tail

The broiling lobster tail provides a slightly charred and crispy texture to the meat.

  1. Preheat the broiler.

  2. Split the tail in half lengthwise.

  3. Place the halved tails on a broiler pan or baking sheet with the shell side down.

  4. Brush the exposed meat with melted butter or oil to prevent dryness. Enhance the flavor by seasoning with salt, pepper, and any desired seasonings to your preference.

  5. Position the oven rack approximately 6 inches away from the broiler element.

  6. Broil the tails for around 8-10 minutes until the meat turns opaque and develops a light browning. Monitor the process closely, as broiling can rapidly lead to overcooking the meat.

Pan Fry

Pan-frying lobster tail is another delicious cooking method that creates a flavorful crust on the outside while keeping the meat tender and juicy.

  1. Cut through the center of the underside of the tail and remove the lobster meat.

  2. Gently dry the lobster meat using a paper towel. Proceed to season the meat with salt, pepper, and any desired herbs or spices.

  3. Choose a skillet or frying pan large enough to accommodate the lobster meat. Preheat the pan over a medium-high heat setting and add a small quantity of oil or butter to it. Allow the oil or butter to heat until it shimmers or melts and evenly coats the pan's bottom.

  4. Place the seasoned lobster tail, flesh side down, into the hot pan. Cook the tail for about 3-4 minutes, allowing the meat to sear and develop a golden-brown crust. Flip the tail over using tongs or a spatula and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes on the shell side.

  5. Lower the heat to a medium setting and continue cooking the lobster tail until the meat becomes opaque and thoroughly cooked. The cooking time will depend on the tail size but typically ranges from 5-8 minutes in total.

  6. Once cooked, remove the pan-fried lobster tail from the heat. Let it rest for a few minutes to enable the juices to redistribute throughout.

Air Frying Lobster Tail

Air-frying lobster tail is a convenient and delicious way to enjoy this seafood delicacy with a crispy exterior. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to air-fry lobster tail:

  1. Preheat your air fryer to 400°F (200°C) for a few minutes to ensure it reaches the desired temperature.
  2. With precision, cut through the top of the shell lengthwise using either kitchen shears or a sharp knife. Start from the opening end and cut all the way through the tail, but not through the underside. Gently spread the shell open to expose the meat while keeping the shell intact. You can also remove the thin membrane covering the meat if desired.
  3. Brush the exposed meat with melted butter, olive oil, or other cooking oil to enhance its flavor and moisture. Flavor the meat with salt, pepper, and any preferred herbs or spices. This adds extra taste and helps to create a delicious crust.
  4. Once the lobster tail is seasoned, place it in the air fryer basket, flesh side up. It's important to keep the shell intact to maintain the shape of the tail and protect the meat.
  5. Close the air fryer and cook the lobster tail at 400°F (200°C) for about 8-10 minutes. The cooking time may vary slightly depending on the size of the tail, how many lobster tails you are cooking, and the specific air fryer model you're using.
  6. For optimal cooking precision, employ a meat thermometer to verify the internal temperature of the lobster tail.
  7. Once cooked, remove the air-fried lobster tail from the air fryer and let it rest for a few minutes. After your air fryer has cooled, don't forget to clean your air fryer to help maintain its peak performance.

How To Store Lobster Tails

If there are any remaining cooked lobster leftovers, preserve them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a duration of 2-3 days. Removing the meat from the shell and placing it in a separate container to prevent it from becoming too moist or absorbing unwanted flavors is recommended.

What is the best cooking method for frozen lobster tails

The best cooking method for frozen lobster tails largely depends on personal preference and the available equipment. However, boiling and steaming are two popular methods for cooking frozen lobster tails.

How to butterfly a lobster tail

To butterfly a lobster tail, you need to make a cut through the top of the shell and flesh, then gently separate the halves while ensuring the meat remains connected to the shell. This technique creates an attractive presentation and allows for easier seasoning and grilling. Below is a detailed step-by-step guide on how to butterfly a lobster tail:

Prepare the lobster tail

Begin with a thawed or fresh lobster tail and position it on a cutting board, ensuring that the back (top) side is facing upwards.

Locate the starting point

Identify the end of the tail where the hard shell starts to curve, and the soft underside begins. This is where you'll begin your cut.

Cut through the top of the shell

Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, make a straight, lengthwise cut through the top of the shell, starting at the identified point and ending at the tail end. Ensure that you're cutting through the hard top shell only and not into the meat.

Create a V-shaped cut

With the cut still open, gently lift the sides of the shell apart to expose the meat. You'll notice that the meat is still attached along the bottom (soft) side. Make another shallow cut along the length of the exposed meat, creating a V-shaped incision. This cut allows for easier spreading of the tail while keeping the meat attached to the shell.

Spread the shell apart

Carefully open the shell by gently pulling the two halves apart, but keep the meat attached at the tail end. Use your fingers to gently press down on the sides of the shell to create a slight separation, which allows the meat to spread apart slightly.

Season and grill

At this point, the butterflied lobster tails are ready for seasoning. You can now cook or grill the lobster tail according to your preferred methods, such as grilling, broiling, or baking.


Why Is The Lobster Tails Mushy?

Regrettably, there are instances when the succulent meat of a lobster emerges from its shell with a soft, almost mushy consistency. This is a natural occurrence that, while not uncommon, can be disappointing when presented at the dining table.

Once a living creature passes away, it undergoes decomposition, and in the case of fish, this process is expedited by naturally occurring enzymes that initiate the digestion and softening of the flesh soon after death.

Certain types of fish and shellfish, including lobsters, possess higher levels of these protein-digesting enzymes. While alive, these enzymes aid in converting muscle into energy. Unfortunately, for cooks like us, this poses a mere inconvenience.

If you happen to encounter the unfortunate circumstance of cooking a mushy lobster or lobster tails, there is little that can be done to improve its texture. However, the flavor should still remain delightful. You can set it aside for another meal, incorporating the cooked meat into a risotto or transforming it into a delectable lobster bisque.

What Are The White Foam On The Cooking Lobster Tails?

The white foam that may appear while cooking lobster tails is a natural occurrence and nothing to be concerned about. It is formed due to proteins being released from the lobster meat during the cooking process. The foam can vary in quantity and may be more noticeable when boiling or steaming lobster tails.

While the foam is harmless, some chefs prefer to skim it off for aesthetic reasons. You can simply use a slotted spoon or a fine-mesh skimmer to remove any foam that rises to the surface of the cooking liquid.

What Temperature Should Cooked Lobster Tails Be?

Cooked lobster tails should reach an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) to ensure they are safe to eat. This temperature is considered the minimum safe internal temperature for cooked seafood according to the guidelines provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

To gauge the internal temperature of the lobster tail accurately, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, ensuring it does not touch the shell. Ensure that the thermometer is not touching bone or shell, as this can give an inaccurate reading.

Please be aware that the cooking times may differ based on the size of the lobster tail and the cooking method you have selected. Therefore, using a meat thermometer is the most reliable way to determine when the lobster tail is cooked to the proper temperature.

Should I remove the vein from lobster tails before cooking?

The vein in a lobster tail is the digestive tract, and some people prefer to remove it before cooking for aesthetic reasons or to remove any potential grit. Although it is not mandatory to remove the vein, you have the option to do so by creating a shallow incision along the top of the tail and delicately extracting the vein using your fingers or a small knife.

What are some popular seasonings or sauces for serving with lobster?

Lobster pairs well with various seasonings such as salt, pepper, garlic, paprika and herbs like parsley or thyme. Butter is a classic accompaniment to lobster, often served melted for dipping. Other popular sauces include lemon butter sauce, garlic butter sauce, or a light creamy sauce.

How do I prevent overcooking lobster?

Overcooked lobster can become tough and rubbery. To prevent this, it's important to monitor cooking times carefully. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness and remove the lobster from heat as soon as it reaches 145°F (63°C). Also, consider slightly undercooking the lobster if you plan to use the residual heat for further cooking.

Can I reheat cooked lobster?

Yes, you can reheat cooked lobster. For optimal tenderness, it is advisable to reheat the lobster gently. You can do this by steaming, baking, or briefly sautéing the lobster meat. Be cautious not to overcook it during the reheating process.

Jenny passionately advocates a holistic and natural approach to health and well-being. She has a Bachelor of Science degree and years of working in food sciences, specializing in organic & natural products. She is committed to helping others embrace a balanced, natural lifestyle that fosters well-being. Jenny believes that a harmonious balance between nutrition, fitness, and mindfulness is the key to unlocking the full potential of one’s well-being.

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