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How to Cook a Lobster

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Cooking lobster isn't as hard as you may think - but there's no reason the rest of your dinner party needs to know that.


Impress your guests by presenting a bright red, whole lobster resting on a decorative platter and garnished with wedges of fresh lemon. Along with making an artful table, whole lobster is incredibly tasty and worth the work. Of course, you need to learn how to cook a lobster first, which is surprisingly simple.

Choosing the Lobster


Cooking lobster is not for the sensitive set. You’ll have to buy it live and boil it that way. Sorry, but there just isn’t a way to get around this.

Start by going to the seafood counter at the supermarket or heading to a local fishmonger to make your selection. You may be asked to choose between a “soft” or “new” shelled lobster, and one with a “hard” shell. Soft shell lobsters have newly molted, and some cooks find these lobsters taste slightly sweeter. On the other side, hard shell lobsters have a slightly higher yield when it comes to how much meat you’ll get, about 20 to 24 percent as opposed to 17 to 19 percent. This means that a one-pound hard shell lobster will yield nearly four ounces of meat while the soft shells will yield just over 3 ounces.

Lobsters come with their claws wrapped in a rubber band. This is a safety measure to keep them from clawing at each other in the tank…but it also protects you, so keep the bands on until they are done cooking. Feisty lobsters can be subdued by placing them in the freezer before cooking them.

Preparing the Pot


Get the largest stockpot you have and fill it about three-quarters of the way with water. Add plenty of salt, about five tablespoons for each gallon of water. Turn on the heat and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Let the water get to a good, rolling boil before you begin cooking the lobster. This reduces the amount of overall cooking time, and it also ensures your water is very hot, killing the lobster quickly and humanely.

Time to Cook


Once you have your pot at a good boil, carefully lift the lid (watch for rising steam), grab your lobster by the midsection with a good pair of tongs and plunge it headfirst into the water, making sure it is completely submerged. Cover the pot and set the timer according to the lobster’s weight. A one-pound lobster will take about eight minutes to cook, while a two pounder will take about 15 minutes with various degrees in between.

Once the lobster has cooked, remove it from the pot with tongs and place it on a cookie sheet so it can drain a little. Look at the base of the tail, right where it begins to separate from the main body, to check for doneness. The tail meat should be solid opaque without any clear flesh showing. Once you’re satisfied the lobster is cooked, remove the bands on the claws and serve.

Serving It Up


Now that you know how to cook a lobster, there are a number of ways to enjoy it. The lobster can be served whole, allowing your guests to have at it with a good shell cracker and a lobster pick. You can also just serve the tail and remove the meat from the claws and midsection to be used later in spring rolls, on a salad or baked into bisque or pasta.

Lobster meat is very flavorful on its own and is often served simply with warm, drawn butter and wedges of lemon.

How do you like your lobster?

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