It’s time to de-mystify the question of how to cook live lobster! This guide to Boiled Lobster with Drawn Butter will break it down for you and turn you into a crustacean-taming, seafood loving, lobster-master.✨
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Boiled Lobster with Drawn Butter
I don’t really know all the forces that drive market pricing for lobster, but by some fluke of nature in 2009 – the year we moved to Boston – we found that Lobster was actually cheaper per pound than our boneless, skinless, antibiotic-free chicken breast. Wha? Wha? Whaaaa?? I know – mind blowing –right?
I just wish I had pictures of the B man handling live lobsters the first time we brought them home to cook. Envision my superhero decked out in full apron, safety goggles, protective gloves, carefully using TWO pairs of tongs to extract them from their packaging … then using kitchen scissors to prematurely remove the bands from their claws, and with tongs in hand of course, trying to corral them into the boiling water.♨
It was the Boston Marathon of Lobsters – right on our kitchen counter. Ahh, the memories.
With lobster prices so low, Ole’ Sanderino was able to get in a lot of practice lobster wrangling and now he’s the Jedi Master lobster tamer: “You will climb into the pot all by yourself… You will not pinch me, You will not try to run away.”
Fast forward to 2016 and he’s now holding two bare-handed while savoring a refreshing beverage, and chatting with guests as he casually places them into the lobster hot tub. You go B!
How To Make Boiled Lobster With Drawn Butter:
So what’s the secret to the perfect Lobster? Let me break it down for you: you literally need a couple of live lobsters, some salt, the right size pot, and a stick or two of salted butter. If the butter lasts that long. Ok, confession time...I like to eat butter - straight. Like with a knife or my finger.☝ Some people eat cookies and cake - I eat butter. Mmmm butter.
Where do I buy live Lobsters?
For lucky New Englanders, your local high-quality seafood provider can hook you up. Where we live we have a delightful seafood store called Captain Marden's - and they even ship nationally if you call them. If you live south of the Mason Dixon line or west of the Mississippi, you are probably going to have to have them shipped to you.
This is a totally safe, completely viable option. There are many popular lobster-shipping sites in Maine that you can find with a quick Google search. Whether you buy them in person or order online, you want your lobsters alive at the time you cook them.
What size Lobster? Personally, we like 1¼ pounders for a couple of reasons. First, the bigger they are, the tougher they can get, so resist the urge to splurge on that 4-pounder at the fish market! And second, at our preferred size they are easy to handle, and fit nicely into the pot. To review: Bigger means older and harder to handle, older means more tough. Tough is good for lobster jerky but not for Boiled Lobster with Drawn Butter. Mmmm butter.
What size pot? Speaking of the pot: you can fit two 1-¼ pounders in an 8-quart pot but I wouldn't go any bigger with that size pot. If you’re cooking more than two, you’ll either need a second pot or you’ll need to cook them in batches. And if you’re cooking for a larger group, look for a proper lobster pot – we like this 12-quart big boy from Calphalon.
Boiling Lobster Is Better Than Steaming (We Think)!
We are purists: we prefer the full immersion “boiling” method. Wondering how to boil lobster? The process is simple: amply salt the water (think salty seawater), bring to a rolling boil, firmly grasp the lobster behind the claws, then quickly plunge claws-first into the water (and please, please learn from the B man’s example and leave the rubber bands on the claws). If needed, use a spoon or tongs to make sure their tail fully submerges.
At this point in the program I need to dispel a few myths: we have cooked dozens and dozens of lobsters, and not once have we heard a lobster “screaming” as it went into the pot. The fact is lobsters have no vocal cords; there’s a small chance you’ll hear some steam escaping their shell cavity as it heats up.
While we’re on this topic, take comfort in the fact that Lobsters have no brain, and have a very primitive nervous system so they do not feel pain. It’s like they were designed for us to eat. Oh wait, they were! Come to mama!!
How long to boil lobster?
Once you’ve dunked your lobsters, cooking time is critical! Cover the pot and return the water to a boil as quickly as possible, but start your timer when the lobsters enter the water.? Keep covered, and adjust the heat so the water keeps boiling without overflowing the pot.
Cook 12 minutes for a 1 ¼ pound lobster, plus another minute for every additional quarter pound (that means 13 minutes for a 1.5 pounder, 15 minutes for a 2-pounder, etc…). Then drain them in a colander in the sink. While draining, some people use kitchen shears to trim the tip of each lobster claw so that the liquid can drain.✂
How Long To Cook Lobster?
Lobsters turn bright red well before they are fully cooked – so you can’t just go by color, you need to use these cook times. The most common mistake people make is overcooking, which produces chewy, rubbery lobster. Ahhh, no thanks – I’ll pass.✌ It is critical that you don’t overcook them!
To be extra sure you can check the meat temp with your meat thermometer (please tell me you’ve purchased this inexpensive, life saving tool), which should be just at 140-145F and no higher. Once you open the lobster, the meat inside the lobster will be firm, white and opaque. Having an MWM!!! (Mouth watering moment)?
Don't Forget The Drawn Butter!
This is a great point to melt the butter you will use for dipping (or drinking - just saying), so get that going now. Go ahead and snip off the rubber bands from the claw and you are ready to "get cracking."
How to crack the lobster?
All the good eating is in the tail & the claws. Some people try to extract meat from the little legs, but I don’t find it to be worth the hassle. Remember to be extremely careful as there are lots of prickly/sharp points in both the tail and the claws. For the tail, firmly grip the body with one hand and twist the tail with the other… it will come right off.
Next snap off the small flipper at the very end of the tail, which allows you to push the entire tail-meat out through the large end of the shell. Inside the body cavity, you may see some firm bright red stuff (lobster roe) or some greenish-yellow stuff (the tomalley). Discard all that, and rinse the meat if desired.
The tail meat will be denser and have more body than claws. You can de-vein the tail by cutting it open. Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the tail lengthwise, through the center of the tail on the harder, rounded side of the tail. Remove the exposed vein with your hands. Halving the tail lengthwise also exposes the vein, making it easy for you to remove.
The claws are regarded by most as the best part of the lobster. For the claws, twist each claw off from the body, then bend the segments or “knuckles” of the claw backwards until they snap apart.
Next twist off the lower "knuckles" or arms just below the actual claw.
Almost done. Bend the smaller of the two pincers backward until it snaps off. Normally it will have a little tendon attached to it, which is a good thing.
For the larger pincer, either snip open with kitchen shears or you can gently use lobster crackers to break the shell – remember the goal is to extract this meat as a whole piece! Yes I said extract…this is serious stuff people…like intricate surgery but no lives are hanging in the balance.
At this point it is game time: serve the lobster with warm salted heavenly drawn butter.✨
There are thousands of variations of tasty things to dip your lobster in, but in the end we’ve found that straight up salted drawn butter is the best for enjoying the amazing flavor of these lobsters. (I know you're shocked - just straight butter for me.)
If you’re using your lobsters for something else like yummy lobster mac and cheese, or heavenly lobster rolls, you can store cooked lobster in the fridge once it has cooled, for up to two days until you are ready to use it. But in our house it never survives that long!
If I’ve missed some of your questions, I’d love it if you post them in the comments below. And please let me know how your lobsters turn out! Good luck and happy lobstering!
- 4 live lobsters, 1 ¼ pound each
- ½ cup salted butter, (one stick)
- 1 cup iodized salt
- Fill an 8-quart pot ⅔ full with water, and add salt.
- Bring to a rolling boil.
- Gripping the lobster behind the claws, quickly plunge them into the boiling water. Use tongs to ensure the tail fully submerges. Repeat with second lobster, immediately cover the pot and return to a boil.
- Cook the lobsters covered for 12 minutes from the time they go into the water, adjusting your burner to ensure pot doesn't boil over.
- If using lobsters larger than 1 ¼ pounds, add 1 minute to the cook time for every additional quarter pound.
- Carefully remove cooked lobster from the pot, place in a colander in the sink to drain and cool.
- If desired, snip the very end of the larger claw tip with kitchen shears to aid in draining the claws.
- Melt butter in a small pot over low heat until it foams - usually about 10 minutes.
- While butter is melting, start cracking the lobsters as soon as they are cool enough to handle.
- Firmly grip the body with one hand and twist the tail with the other… it will come right off. Snap off the small flipper at the very end of the tail. Reach into the tail from the small end, and push the entire tail out of the large end of the shell. You may see some firm bright red lobster roe or some greenish-yellow tomalley, discard this and rinse the tail if desired. You can devein the tail by cutting it open. Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the tail lengthwise, through the center of the tail on the harder, rounded side of the tail. Remove the exposed vein with your hands. Halving the tail lengthwise also exposes the vein, making it easy for you to remove.
- For the claws, snip off the rubber bands, twist each claw off from the body, then bend the segments or “knuckles” of the claw backwards until they snap apart. Next bend the smaller of the two pincers backward until it snaps off. For the larger pincer, either snip open with kitchen shears or gently use lobster crackers to break the shell. If at all possible you want to extract this meat as a whole piece!
- Repeat these steps for the second pair of lobsters.
- After the butter has melted, skim the foam from the top and pour into a small serving dish or ramekin. Discard any solids.
- Serve lobster immediately with warm drawn butter, and lemon wedges if desired.
To melt butter in the microwave, cut butter into small bowl loosely cover bowl with paper towel. Melt on 100% power for about 30-40 seconds, checking every 10 to 15 seconds until it’s almost melted but a few small solid pieces remain. Remove from the microwave and stir until it’s completely melted.
Serving Size1 lobster
Amount Per Serving Calories 200Total Fat 15gSaturated Fat 9gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 84mgSodium 945mgCarbohydrates 2gProtein 29g