How to cook lobster tail
Do not mistake yourself; I love the lobster. Still, that armed, armored, red horn, smoking spider crab on set can be frightening.
That’s why some of us with more delicate sensibilities might forgo serving the whole beast in favor of a simple and elegant lobster tail. Clean and tidy and a little spooky nary.
Fresh vs frozen
Lobster tails are mostly frozen, like ice cream and woolly mammoths. Indeed, unlike your usual swimmer-type fish – your anchovy, your sea bream, your cod – lobsters do not take death well. They have enzymes that start breaking down muscles immediately after they’re gone, giving meat a mushy, unsettling texture.
On top of that, once the lobster is gone, many bacterial freelancers start to multiply like microbial rabbits and while it might sound adorable, it can lead to nasty foodborne illnesses.
Instant Freezing solves all of these problems by keeping the lobster in its pristine, ready-to-cook state.
How to thaw lobster tail
When our lobster tails are frozen, we need to thaw them. Correctly. None of this leaving them in the sun all afternoon like a stranded and pokey narwhal.
Store frozen tails in the freezer until the night before cooking, then transfer them to the refrigerator to thaw overnight.
Or, if you bought them on a whim and want them now, now, now, do this: 90 minutes before dinner, put your frozen tails in a bowl in the sink. Fill the bowl with cold water and place it under a slow but steady stream of water. Once the tails are thawed, you can bend them easily, like a hinged straw.
How to paper the lobster tail
If you are serving your tails whole, you may want to butterfly them before cooking. This is not necessary, but it allows for a more chic presentation while still allowing all the meat equal access to the heat. A chef’s knife is perfect for this, but if you have a good pair of kitchen scissors, that’s just their job.
Start with the part of the tail on which the rest of the lobster was attached. Cut the center of the top of the shell straight – not the meat – down to the fins. Do not cut the fins.
Then gently pull the two halves of the shell apart to expose the meat inside. You can cook the tail like this using any method.
If you want a simpler presentation, try this (this is especially good for steaming and dry heat methods): gently peel the meat from the bottom of the shell, starting with the side where it is. lobster-was, leaving it attached to the pinball machine. Lift the meat – still attached near the fin – out of the shell. Push the two halves of the shell together and lay the meat on top to resemble a crustacean sarcophagus. Finally, if desired, mark the meat in the center and open the two thin sheets on the sides like a theater curtain to reveal the shimmering translucency inside.
How to cook lobster tail
Lobster tails can be boiled or steamed (called moist heat methods), or baked (i.e. roasted), broiled, or broiled (dry heat methods). Either way, allow about 60-90 seconds of cooking time per ounce of tail, with this ratio increasing somewhat for larger pieces.
While I generally prefer dry heat, one of the benefits of moist heat is that its temperatures tend to be lower, which means there is less risk of overcooking. I like moist heat if I plan to take the meat out of the shell and use it for something else, like lobster rolls (see accompanying recipe) or a nice pasta dish.
To cook your lobster tails, boiling and steaming them is easy: just slip them into a huge pot of boiling water or place them on a steam rack. One thing to consider is, like shrimp – which are also all tails – lobster tails tend to curl up when cooked. So, you may want to insert a skewer into the meat along the length of the tail before cooking, although this is usually not done when the meat is on top of the shell.
If using dry heat, after butterflying the shell, brush the meat with melted butter or olive oil and season with salt. You can also add flavoring ingredients. Freshly ground black pepper is easy and timeless. A pinch of garlic or paprika powder never hurts anyone. Or make a spice blend like Old Bay or something Cajun style for a little warmth. Remember: if your disinfectant contains salt, you don’t need to add it separately.
When it comes to baking, I prefer high heat – say, 425 degrees F. Just place the lobster tails in butterflies, oiled and seasoned on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil and bake. in the oven until cooked.
Unless you have unlimited funds for experimentation, I would go broiling for those just starting out.
The variables involved in broiling – the heat of the oven, the strength of the flame, the height of the grill – make it much more difficult and therefore much more dependent on luck on your first few outings. I’m not saying you shouldn’t grill lobster tails; I’m just saying every time you do it remember what worked and what didn’t next time, you will be able to make adjustments in time, temperature, rack height etc.
The same is true for grilling – lots of variables. You can grill it meat side down (butterfly but still in the shell) to get a little color, then flip, brush with butter and continue to grill until done. Or, you prepare it as you would for cooking, with the meat displayed on top, then grill it, covered, over indirect heat. Trust me, though: if you’re new to this, baking will be the easiest route with the best chance of success.
And, speaking of success, let’s talk about how we know when the lobster tail is done. Regardless of your method, the shell should be bright red and the meat should be opaque and milky white on the inside. If you have a meat thermometer – please tell me you have a meat thermometer – the temperature should be between 135 and 140 degrees F.
If it’s less than that, keep cooking. If it’s much more than that, lower your head, close your eyes, and curse your breath, then promise yourself that next time you’ll keep a better eye on the time.
Regardless of perfection, immediately serve your lobster tails with lots of melted butter and lots of fresh sides. You will be happy no matter what.
Traditionally, lobster rolls are served on “split” buns with a flat side. Since they’re not ubiquitous, any good quality fresh hot dog bun will do. And speaking of hot dog buns, the celery salt topping is a nod to the Chicago hot dog.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 2 minutes
Makes 2 servings
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of diced celery
1 tbsp diced onion
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/2 pound of cooked lobster meat, roughly cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt as needed
2 tablespoons of butter
2 hot dog buns
1/3 cup shredded lettuce
Celery salt, for garnish (optional)
Chives, minced, for garnish (optional)
Step 1: In a mixing bowl, combine 2 tbsp mayonnaise, 1 tbsp diced celery, 1 tbsp diced onion and 1 tbsp lemon juice.
Step 2: Add the lobster meat and a pinch of salt. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
Step 3: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium sauté pan until it begins to foam. As the foam wears off, open each hot dog bun wide and place them split side down in hot butter. Grill until golden, about 1 minute, then transfer to individual plates.
Step 4: Divide ⅓ cup of shredded lettuce evenly between buns, then top with lobster mixture. Garnish with the optional celery salt and chives and serve immediately.