How to Boil and Eat Lobster

If you end up with leftover cooked lobster meat, chop it up, mix in with mayo, and serve with lettuce on a buttered and toasted hot dog bun to make a lobster roll.


  • Live lobsters, 1 per person
  • A large pot of salted water
  • Butter
  • Bread for dipping into the lobster-infused butter (optional)


How to Boil Lobster

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First consider the size of your pot for boiling the lobsters. An 8-quart pot will easily take one lobster, a 16-quart pot, 2 or 3 lobsters. If you are cooking a lot of lobsters you'll either need to cook them in stages or have more than one pot of water boiling.

If you value your fingers, keep the rubber bands holding the lobster claws closed on the lobsters. Only remove them after you finish cooking the lobsters.

1 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil: Fill a large pot 3/4 full of water. Add 2 teaspoons of salt for every quart of water. The water should be salty like sea water (in fact you can use clean sea water if you have it). Bring the water to a rapid boil.

2 Lower the lobsters into the pot: Grasp the lobster by the body and lower it upside down and head first into the boiling water. Continue to add the live lobsters to the pot in this manner. Cover the pot.

3 Boil lobsters for 12 to 20 min, depending on size: Note the time at which the water comes to a boil again. From that point, boil the lobsters for 12-20 minutes or longer, depending on the size of the lobster. 12-15 minutes for 1 lb lobster, 15-20 minutes for a 1 1/2 pound lobster, 20-25 minutes for a 2-3 pound lobster. The lobsters should be a bright vivid red color when done.

Note that larger lobsters will turn bright red before they are completely finished cooking, so you do want to time your cooking, and not just go on color alone.

Unlike with fresh scallops or fish that you can eat raw (think sashimi), you don't want to eat raw or undercooked lobster. Translucent undercooked lobster meat really doesn't taste good. It needs to be opaque through and through. If you cook it too long, the meat will get rubbery, so keep an eye on the time.

4 Remove lobsters from pot to drain: Remove the lobsters from the pot with tongs and place on a plate to drain and cool.


How to Eat Lobster


Before you get started, you'll want to assemble some essentials. You'll need a nutcracker, a large bowl to hold the shells, a small dipping bowl for melted butter, and what's missing from the above photograph—a lot of napkins! Eating lobster is messy, you'll need them. There's a good reason they give diners plastic bibs at restaurants when serving lobster. You may also want to use some kitchen shears and nutpicks in addition to a nutcracker.

After the lobster comes out of the pot, let it cool for a few minutes, otherwise it will be too hot to handle.

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Pull off the rubber bands from the claws, if they are still attached. Twist the claws away from the body at the joints that connect them to the body. Separate the knuckle from the claw.

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Pull back the "jaw" of the claw until it breaks, but do it gently, so that the little bit of meat that is in the small part of the jaw stays attached to the rest of the meat (it's easier than trying to fish it out of the small shell).

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Use a nut cracker to crack the main claw shell. Depending on the season and the size of your lobster, the shell may be easy or hard to crack with a nutcracker. If necessary you can take a mallet or hammer to it, but do it gently, just enough to break the shell without crushing the meat inside. Pull away the broken shell pieces and pull out the meat inside. Any white stuff attached to the meat is fat, which you can choose to eat or not. Dip into melted butter or not, and eat.

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To extract the meat from the knuckles, use kitchen shears (if you have them) to cut the shell along its length. Pry open the shell where you made the cut and you can pull out all the knuckle meat in one piece. Alternately, you can crack each section of knuckle with a nutcracker and pull the meat out in chunks.

If you have a very large lobster, you can eat the legs. Get to the meat from the legs in a way similar to pulling off the “jaw” of the claw. Bend the joints of the legs the “wrong” way, which breaks them. You should have a piece of meat attached. Simply bite this off, leaving a thin piece of cartilage attached to the rest of the leg.

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Now on to the lobster tail, where the biggest piece of meat lies. You'll need both hands to get the meat from the tail. Grip the lobster's body with one hand and the tail with the other. Bend the tail back away from the body to separate it from the body.

You will see one, and maybe two, odd things inside. You’ll see the greenish “tomalley,” which is the lobster’s liver. You can choose to eat it or not. Some people spread it on toast or add it to lobster soups or sauces. If the lobster is a female, you may also see the bright red “coral,” which is the roe of the lobster. You may also choose to eat this or not. The coral can be spread on toast as well, or used to add flavor to lobster bisque.

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The tail will now look like a really big shrimp. Grab the flippers at the end of the tail and bend them backwards gently. If you do it right, you’ll get the meat from the inside of one or more flippers. This is uncommonly sweet meat, so don’t forget the morsels in the flippers! You can pry them out by working the little joints back and forth, or use shears to cut their thin shells.

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With the flippers off the tail, you can now just put your finger through the small opening where the flippers were and push the tail meat out in one piece. If you have an exceptionally large lobster, use kitchen shears to cut a line down the underside of the tail to help remove the meat.

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Before you eat the tail, pull the top of it off. This will reveal a digestive vein which you will likely want to remove, much like deveining a shrimp. It won't hurt you if you eat it, but it is the digestive tract of the lobster.

There is meat inside the body of the lobster, mostly right around where you pulled off the tail. For lobsters bigger than 2 pounds it is worth it to fish around for these extra morsels.

There you go! Now just dip in melted butter (or not) and eat. If you have crusty bread, it tastes great dipped in the lobster-infused butter as well.

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  • Scott

    I agree with most of what is said but suggest cutting the bands before cooking. I find the delicate taste can be tainted by the boiled rubber.
    Boiling or steaming is to ones own taste, I love that salty water that runs out of the claws when you break them off, mmmmnnnn….
    Oh, one more thing, the shells and waste are excellent for the garden, bury about 18 inches deep to keep cats and skunks from digging them up.
    Gonna get some ‘crawlies’ tonight!!

  • Roger

    I remember as a kid, living in Quebec, whenever my grandparents went to the fish market in Ottawa to buy lobster, they would buy an extra 3 lobsters for my Mom, Dad, and me. Not my brother (he did not want any). When i would see them walking towards our house withe a plastic bag, I knew we were in for a treat.
    One day a delivery guy came to the door as we were sitting down to eat our plated lobsters. He took one look at the table setting and jolted back and said:
    What the heck are those bugs and do you plan to eat them. My dad told him they were a delicacy and asked the guy if he wanted to try some. He said: get those things away from me !!! I’ll come back another day to collect what you owe me.
    By the way my brother started eating lobster when he turned 20, 50 years ago, and has eaten more lobster than the rest of my family put together and still does.

  • tien

    I steam my 7 lbs lobster with sea water/lemond grass (asian grocery market)
    slice the back open and squeeze lemond into it.
    ofcourse dip in melted butter with few drop of tobasco source

  • Jeff

    20 minutes is Way to long to boil a lobster. That’s not an opinion. Otherwise great article. You should update it since its the first thing to come up on google. A 2 1/2 lb lobster is done in 7 1/2 minutes in boiling water. boiling lobster for 20 minutes would be a costly mistake. It may be edible but would definitely be rubbery.

  • Chris

    Hi all!

    Looking at cooking Lobster tonight for my wife and I (our anniversary). I purchased 2 x live lobster from my local fishmonger yesterday am (they were an hour out of the sea and virtually running). 24 hours later they are no longer live. I notice everyone is stating cooking live lobster but can’t find anything on not live. Any suggestions from anyone please. Thanks – Chris.

    • Michelle Sayce

      Hi Chris. This is a reply to your question. Don’t cook a dead lobster. It won’t be good. I am a New Englander and have basically grew up on Seafood. When you buy the Lost are you really need to cook it within 1 to 2 hours after buying it. While it’s still alive.

  • Darlene

    I LOVE this article! Excellent suggestions! May I, as someone living in Nova Scotia, point out something, tho? Yes, the summer is the cheapest lobster available on the east coast but the BEST lobster is from cold waters. Harvesting in NS is in May-June and these are MUCH higher quality lobsters than what can be fished in New England in the summer. Cost vs. taste. Your best lobsters are from further north and earlier in the year for the best taste (not considering cost). If you are lucky enough to be living in a lobster harvesting area, you definitely notice the difference in taste between the cold water harvested and all of the “others”. LOL – forgive me to be a lobster snob because of my location!

  • lisa

    can someone post a recipe for lobster rolls? I used to eat them with my (now long gone) aunt elsie up in maine when I was a kid. what a blast those summers were eating fried clams, oysters and lobsters and the hush puppies- what a treat having fresh seafood right off the boat and sharing it with family!!!

  • DAVE


    1st – You never use butter straight out of the package. Butter has strong tasting impurities that will fight the delicate taste of the expensive lobster meat. You must clarify the butter by heating it almost to the boiling point (do not boil) and spooning off the impurities that rise to the top (they will be quite noticable). When no more impurities rise, your butter is ‘4 star restaurant’ clarified. Always request ‘clarified’ butter when ordering lobster, clams and muscles. It is the taste of the seafood that you are paying for, not the taste of packaged butter.

    2nd – Boiling lobster is quite acceptable, but steaming (takes a little more effort) preservers the delicate flavor better and makes the lobster much less messy to eat. Steaming does not allow all the boiling water to penetrate the shells that will only drip out while eating, thus the mess. This is the same with clams / muscles flavor, but, obviously to a lesser extent concerning the water mess. Garlic is sometimes added to the clarified butter to accent shellfish when eating alone, example as a bar snack.

    3RD – To enjoy the delicate seafood taste do not eat in the chowder or main course any strong tasting foods / spices / GARLIC, strong coffee, etc. EXAMPLE. red wine ( best with red meat – rose with chicken, etc. ) which will over power seafood which is best eaten with a white wine or weak tasting drink. Blend your foods with your drinks, etc.. Ask advice from your ‘ head ‘ waiter, this is their job to advice and make your dinner a special occasion. Clarified butter and steaming can also be requested, if not already the policy of the restaurant.

  • Tracee

    Its always difficult for me to put a live thing in the boiling water…makes me sick to my stomach. So…then I have to wait a while before eating it…..this recipe is right on….I’ve been eating lobster for years…and it is my favorite…..I guess they are in the tank and going to be eaten by someone…might as well be me. :(

  • India Ennis

    One more thing… after cooking and draining in the sink, I split the tail in the underside with a knife so that the diner has an easier time getting to the meat and i wrap the claws in a kitchen towel and give them a good TWACK with a rolling pin,as I go along I place each one back in the sink and a lot of the cooking water trapped in the bodies drains off so you don’t get that big watery mess on your plate.

  • India Ennis

    I’m sorry but I have to disagree with you on timing. No chef I know would ever cook a lobster this long, ever. I was trained to do 4-5 minutes for a one pound lobster and then go up from there, never really exceeding 7 or 8 minutes because nobody uses anything over 2 pounders because they start to lose their sweetness.. Most cookbooks reference this 10-15 minutes number as a base number as well and my chef buddies and I are baffled by it. In super fine dining the claws and tails are steamed separately as the claw meat takes less time to cook, to make sure they are done just right and it is just a couple of minutes.

  • ace adams

    Living in Maine has its advantages!! Last night I just picked up a couple of three – four pounders from my friend after he got off the lobster boat he works on. They were beautiful, large, feisty and still smelling of salt from the sea a few hours earlier.

    I will pull out the old steam pot and steam them this morning and then clean them and have tons of delicate meat to enjoy.

    Now I feel bad my wife doesn’t eat lobster. She doesn’t know what she’s missing and I sure do enjoy what she doesn’t like.

    Well gotta go and cook a couple of lobstahs!! yas haa

  • Donell Rogness

    In mid-80’s my husband (to be) and I drove to the East for a tour of Maine and the Eastern Provinces of Canada. Unbeknown to us; it was lobster season. We started eating lobster at a shack on the coast of Maine and ate it almost daily through a the next 10 days. BEST EVER was on PEI. We could only find “canners” so bought several. We cooked and ate at a beach campfire site’ tossing shells into the sand as we drank our wine. Its my most memorable food experience~~an “out of world experience” and true luxury for a couple of mid-westerners who only knew lobster as a very high priced item at very fancy restaurants!

  • Peggy

    I Love Lobster ! Ok got that out….
    My fondest memory of lobster was at a young age. My grandparents used to live in Pemaquid Maine. They had an ocean inlet in the back yard of the house. With a little pier that we would drop lobster traps from. I remember walking along the green grass out to get lobsters with my grandmother. We would get the lobsters out and bring them up to the farm house and gather enough to feed the whole family. She would prepair a feast. Oh my goodness they were so fantasic !! So everytime I eat one it really takes me back to being a little kids. Wonderful Memories!

  • John S

    NEVER,NEVER, EVER boil a Lobster–it should only be steamed!

    Whatever. ~Elise

  • Liz

    We’ve been sharing your recipes with our customers for some time and I only just now realized that you once live just a few doors down from our little fish market. I believe the one you reference in this recipe is Giuffre’s which is no longer there. We opened a couple of years after he closed at 99 Salem St. – it used to be a small produce market which you probably frequented when you lived here. We love your site and your recipes. Please be sure to stop in next time you find yourself in Boston!

  • george mclaughlin

    The best way to get the lobster meat out of the legs is to use a cutting bord and a pie roller. Break the legs away from the lobster and remove the nuckle at the end, put the leg on the cutting bord and with a pie roller start from the small leg end and roll to the upper end. All meat will come out nicely.

    P.S. Add a little vinegar to you butter for a good dipping sauce.

    Great ideas, thank you George! ~Elise

  • Clark Dexter Gloucester, MA 01930

    I have been cooking lobsters for 60 years. The way to tell when they are done, is they float in the boiling water. I have been a chef for almost of me life. If you want to see how to fix baked stuffed lobaters go to utube clark dexter.

  • Bren

    Here in Maine, I like to go down to the dock with my lobsterman, pull a lobster out of the bucket by ropes in the water, bring it home, STEAM it, not BOIL it, and have my lobster man clean it in .2 seconds. Then I shop up the pieces and make Lobster Quiche, my favorite. I really can’t eat just plain lobster anymore, after all these years on the Coast of Maine.


  • Alistair

    As a kid I lived in Boston and my grandparents were very fond of having lobster suppers from time to time, so from an early age I knew how to handle them. Sadly living in the UK now, lobster is generally a dim and distant memory (sounds like you lived in the North End the same time as I lived in Medford – i.e. pre Big Dig – so the North End would’ve been real and not too touristy, and Umberto’s would have probably still been there…)

    So this article has brought back a ton of memories which I was unable to fulfill on a recent trip back to Beantown this spring (the first since being together with my wife…) plus we’d never be able to do them like this, as she hates seeing them cooked intact and could certainly never dismantle one in the vigorous manner required!

    Some day decent east coast lobbies will come over here, but that will probably be accompanied by porcine flight… :(

    Entertaining read anyway, even if the subject makes me sad.

    Hi Alistair, I lived in the North End in the early 80s, before the current gentrification. The Saturday Hay Market was still in full swing a few blocks away near Faneuil Hall. The old Italian men would still sit out on their lawn chairs on the sidewalk in front of their houses saying hello as you walked by. There was even a mafia hit at a restaurant a block away from my place the day before I moved in. Freaked out my parents. Last time I walked around there it was so quiet and empty. Didn’t seem the same. ~Elise

  • TYR

    Actually the advice that you don’t want to eat lobster undercooked or raw is misleading. Lobster sashimi is absolutely delicious and has great texture. If done right, the raw slices will still have movement when it’s served to the guest. It can also be prepared as a carpaccio with micro greens and drizzled with something like a soy yuzu dressing. The only thing you must make sure before serving raw lobster is the same as with any other seafood… that everything is fresh and preferably alive before serving.

    I also agree that the head has some of the yummiest eats of the lobster.

    Great job with the site Elise. The recipes are great and the pictures are beautiful.

  • Vicky

    I remember once I was watching a Man V.S. Food episode of Seattle, and there was a seafood platter consisting of crabs and lobsters and jumbo shrimp and clams and oysters… and it looked absolutely mouthwatering. Until they got to the part where they brought out a vat of melted butter the size of a gravy train to dip the meat in.

    Personally, I feel like that kills the point of eating seafood freshly boiled. It’s supposed to be refreshing and light and delicious and (somewhat) healthy – butter seems to be a contradiction to this idea. Yes, it does add to the smooth texture of the meats, but the greasy aftertaste (not to mention possible acid reflux) and minimum flavor does not do it for me.

    In Asia, the dipping sauce for lobsters and crabs is absolutely simple and, I find, completely brilliant. It is nothing more than some vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, and water. The result is a light zest of flavor that brings the seafood to life on your palette, clean-tasting and completely delicious.

    Try it.

  • Lorri

    My family went camping on the Maine coast when I was a teenager (back in the mid-70s.) It seemed like we ate lobster every other night because it was only $1 a pound! My parents were amazed and delighted w/ the low price – so even though this was decades ago, it was an unbelievable bargain even back then.
    But my favorite lobster memory is from when my kids were little – we bought lobsters and the kids wanted to let them loose for lobster “races” on the kitchen floor. I’m still not sure if their shrieks were from fear or joy – most likely a combination based on the photos we took!

  • Peggy

    Yeah, I remember the first time I boiled lobsters. It was an experience and a half. I couldn’t bring myself to drop the pour sucker in the pot so I’m frantically pacing around my kitchen, while at the same time, freaking out my dogs, who happen to knock over my light stand, and lobster in hand, I’m trying to grab the light stand… yeah, one big mess. But eventually, my red little friend went into the pot and he was delicious. Thanks for the great tutorial!

  • Johnathan

    My mouth waters as I remember the “clam bakes” on Marthas Vineyard on the beach. Yams, baked potatoes, ears of corn, clams (of course) and lobsters and blue fish. My job was the depression in the sand, lined with beach rocks and the fire to heat the rocks. Others would gather seaweed for layering: tubers on the bottom, corn, clams, lobsters and fish, covered with an old sail. The best feast.

  • Suzee

    I was one of the lucky kids – my father was a lobsterman when I was young, and we ate ALOT of lobster! We sold them out of tanks in the basement when I was really small, and later just sold them off the boat to which ever market was paying the best that day. A good 100+ pounds every other day after his day job.

    We had lobster bakes back in Portsmouth, NH. We’d use a turkey frier – fill it 1/2 way with water and bring to a boil. Put 8 chix (1 lb lobsters are referred to as chicken lobsters) in the turkey frier basket, and 8 minutes later they were perfect. I know this as it was my father’s job to cook the bugs (another loving name for lobsters :).

    The real secret is to cook the lobster until the antennae easily pop off – grasp the whole lobster by the antennae, and if it falls back in the pot with the antennae still in your hand, it’s ready. Works for any size.

    Oh, and by the way, the white stuff is blood, not fat.

    And the reason lobsters get cheaper in the summer (right around the last week of July) is because they are molting – the softshells come in. You should be paying less money for the soft shells than for the hard shells – a good thing for a tourist to know. It’s just that the new shell is bigger, so there is less meat. A hard shell is usually all beat up, and stuffed with meat. I like the soft shells myself, as I am a cheapo!

    And my favorite tip – while you are making a mess and stinking up the kitchen, cook a few extra. Shuck the meat, chop it into bite sized pieces, and mix it with some really good mayo. Pop it in the fridge. You will be so proud of yourself the next day when you can have a couple of lobster rolls!!

  • Sonia

    We have a monthly seafood farmers market on the other side of the island where I live and I try to go as often as possible to stock up on lobster tails. This is my latest recipe using them
    I also made Lobster & Grits (using a SC recipe for Shrimp & Grits….Lovely!

  • Christine

    Well, I think you’ve just inspired dinner. My husband might write you a letter (maybe even a poem!) of thanks. :)

    Since I like both the tomalley and the roe, I get the husband’s too. I also pick and eat every little bit that I can including the legs so the other reader’s tip above about the rolling pin will certainly come in handy. (So smart!)


  • EAnne Capron

    Sorry, this is from a drought stricken, land locked West Texan. Just heard that lobsters ‘scream’ when put in boiling water. True or false? Probably PITA propaganda!

    False. Sometimes you hear a high pitched sound (I’ve never heard it) which apparently is steam escaping from the shells. ~Elise

  • Marlene

    Elise, Really enjoyed the article, but I have a question about preparing frozen lobster tail. I was given a couple of small tails and don’t know how long to cook them. Could you suggest the best method of preparation, please?

    No idea. I’ve never eaten frozen lobster tail. ~Elise

  • Cajun Chef Ryan

    Elise, this is a very well written and displayed tutorial “how to” on lobster boil and eating! Now I want some lobster, and soon.

    With my Cajun heritage, in addition to the salt in the water we add a little Crab Boil seasoning, it does give the lobster some added flavor. However, I argue this point with purists all the time!

    Bon appetit!

  • The Duo Dishes

    We very recently had a seafood boil at Huntington Beach here in CA, and it was so fabulous. Lobster (along with crab, mussels, crawfish, clams, etc.) was on the menu. We ate them with lots of butter melted over the fire pit. So good! Wish they weren’t so expensive, otherwise, there would be lobster more often.

  • David

    A chef I worked with once showed me how if you scratch the area just above the lobsters eyes up and down, which I guess is the forehead, it puts the lobster to sleep before you kill it. (I’ve also read that putting them on their backs for a few minutes does it as well.)

    Some say this reduces the trauma when they’re boiled. He did it to the lobsters were had and indeed, they did seem to nod off. So for the squeemish, this might help.

  • Trixie

    When I was 16, not long after I got my driver’s license, my mom sent me to the grocery store to pick up a box of lobsters that she had pre-ordered. I had no idea that it’s typical to cook them alive…. and I didn’t notice that the lobsters WERE alive until I had the big box in my car, sitting in my passenger seat. I was pretty well scared to death when I randomly started hearing little scratching sounds and movement in the box. I nearly peed :) Anywho, that’s MY lobster story. And hey they were tasty.

  • Robert

    Your story brings back memories of living in Bath, ME. At the time the Bath Iron Works was building destroyers and container ships and I was a civilian contractor at the yard. Each year they would have a clambake on the beach for the employees. It was the usual, clams, lobsters, shrimp and crabs. They had these huge pots for cooking over open fires on the beach. They would fill the pots with sea water and sea weed and then cook the shellfish. I have never been able to re-create the taste of the lobster from those pots. Most were a pound to a pound and a half. I remember one year eating 5 of them over the afternoon!
    There is just one thing, do not forget to remove the rubber bands from the claws. They will taint the water and ruin the lobster!

  • Trisha

    In Boston it’s a lobstah.

    Hah! In Glahstah, it’s a lobstah too. ~Elise

  • Sarah

    Many of the lobster tutorials I’ve seen suggest killing the lobster first before boiling or steaming it, and the chefs consider this a more humane method of cooking them. Basically, you put the tip of a knife in the “cross” on the top of the body behind the eyes, and in one quick motion slice downwards through the head, splitting it in two. This will also allow you to remove the rubber bands with less chance of getting hurt, and so long as you cook the lobsters right away there is no deterioration in the quality of the meat.

  • nathan

    Dont throw away the legs, ever.
    I break them off,put one in my mouth down to the last little endjoint, and clamp my teeth on it.
    Then I just pull it out of my mouth thru my clamped teeth and the meat inside accumulates between the inside of my teeth and the open end of the leg until the leg is outside my mouth and the meat inside.

    Its one of the best parts of a boiled or steamed lobster–(but baked or broiled the leg is too dried.)

  • Frubby

    Boiling lobster is quite simple, Get the pot boiling very rapidly after adding about 1/4 cup sea salt to a 12-15 qt pot. A general rule for cooking time is 12 minutes per pound for the first pound and then 4 minutes per pound thereafter. Example, for a 1-1/2 pound lobster is 14 minutes. If your lobster starts to flap and jerk when you pick them up, hold them with their heads toward the ground, and gently rub the back part of your finger along the back of their head (from the eyes to about 2 inches back) and they will instantly relax and draw their claws back in. Then plunge them into the pot of boiling water. I’ve been cooking Maritime (Canada) lobster for 20 years and have never had a tough piece of meat yet!

  • Doug

    Elise —
    That is by FAR the best description, step by step, of the lobster ‘experience’ I’ve ever read. I’ve experienced it many times, from when I was in my 20’s, in NY City, and we used to take the subway downtown and walk a few blocks to the Fulton Fish market and pick ’em up for maybe $3.99 or so. Back home and into the refrigerator they went, while we went off to work… anticipating the evening to come.
    I think the ONLY things we did a bit differently than you was [1] not salt the water, on the assumption that the lobster’s natural salt content would be satisfactory (it was), and [2] simply going ahead and cutting the underside of the tail to quickly and easily extract all that wonderful meat.
    I remember several years of going to Cape Ann MA in the off- (non-tourist) season to enjoy the seaside quiet AND the specially-priced lobster dinners: Sometimes as little as $10.99 for two lobsters, in a restaurant! No, that was NOT recently! (Late 70’s, early 80’s, it was.)

    I also remember ordering a lobster in a restaurant somewhere in the northeast around the same time and they insisted it be broiled… and we waited, and waited and waited. Being totally frustrated, I finally said, “what’s going ON here?” If you are cooking that lobster that long — ANY way — you are ruining it.” And sure enough, they did. And I refused to eat or pay for it!

  • mzmartha

    Like the messenger before me, I have been around for a while My late father-in-law and a partner owned The Fisherman’s Net in NYC in the 1940’s and later he owned The Sportsman’s Tavern in Cooperstown, NY. He gave me a good tip for eating lobster, i.e., put a few drops (or more) of Worcestershire Sauce in the drawn butter.

    I visit Simply Recipes daily and appreciate your recipes, Elise. I love to eat a wide variety of food and find that your recipes cover that territory very nicely….Thank you!

  • Diane

    I love Maine lobster, in spite of the fact that my first occasion eating one was less than spectacular. I was in college, visiting my uncle and aunt in central Mass. We took day trips all over New England while I was there. One day we drove up the coast to Maine, stopped a lot of places so I could play tourist (I’m the rare native southern Californian), and went to a lobster pound to pick up lobster for dinner. By the time we returned home and they were cooked it was late and I was very tired. Then I had to work for my supper! My aunt was a good instructor on how to eat a lobster, even sucking on the small legs as on a straw to get those bits of meat out. My uncle kept grinning and saying “Isn’t it everything you’ve heard it is?”, and of course I had to respond with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” but I was really too tired to care much about eating at all. Thankfully, it didn’t turn me totally off from eating lobster and subsequent trips and lobster suppers made me an enthusiastic partaker of them.

  • Erin

    I recently read an article that suggested putting the lobsters in the freezer for 15-20 min before cooking. Supposedly, this is supposed to make cooking less “traumatic” for the lobsters, resulting in a better tasting lobster. I haven’t had the chance to try this yet – have you ever tried this, Elise? Did you notice a difference?

    I have done this, and the lobsters do seem more sedated on the way in. In general I keep them in their bag in the refrigerator before cooking them. If you put them in the freezer, they are colder going into the water, so the water will take just a little more time returning to a boil. ~Elise

  • The Sandwich Life

    My grandparents lived in Portland, Maine and we would visit them every summer from Illinois. When I was very young I wouldn’t eat the lobsters (and yet I’d gobble clams in my high chair…go figure) but even so it was incredibly exciting. Going to the lobster pound seemed so mysterious and then the lobsters and clams would hang out in her double sink all afternoon. We liked to try to get the clams to squirt at us. Then the high drama of them being cooking….my grandma would put the iron on top of the lid so they couldn’t knock it off. I often retreated to the upstairs bedroom for that part. Then my grandfather would take over and stuff them with buttered saltines and the roe (if we were lucky) and the tomalley and put them under the broiler. Every year now we have them the same way at least once on vacation. My older sister does the honors and the only difference is that I add some lemon juice to my melted butter. My sister is a purist and refuses….

  • Bill Zimmerman

    For the best flavor in a boiled lobster, try to use a bucket with real ocean sea water. It is really the best way to cook the lobster. Boiling the water will rid it of any impurities. Most fresh drinking water has been treated with chlorine which may alter the taste of the lobster.

    Some people put seaweed in the pot too. I had some dried seaweed from a Japanese dish in the pantry which I added to the pot for flavor. ~Elise

  • Carrie

    I like to light a scented Yankee Candle in the kitchen when I start the water to boiling. Boiling lobsters are STINKY and the candle helps eliminate that tremendously.

    It does help to do it with the windows open and a good breeze, indeed. ~Elise

  • Julia Harrison

    Since moving to Maine, I’ve found that in my neck of the woods almost everyone steams their lobster, as do I. Just a couple of inches of boiling water, drop them in and time 10 to 12 min. after boiling has resumed. If you take apart the joint where the legs were torn off, there is some mighty sweet meat in there too. The green stuff and roe are particularly good in a stuffing. It takes a long time to eat lobster!

    Steamed lobsters are great too! I used to steam them when I lived in Boston, you could fit more in a pot that way. ~Elise

  • Judy

    My very best lobster experience was two years ago while vacationing in Nova Scotia and we went over to Brier Island. While there we went to where they store the lobsters for shipping and were able to buy a two pound lobster each, at $12 a lobster. The lady who owned the lodge where we were staying cooked the lobster for us and instructed us how to eat it. It tasted so different from lobster gotten at a seafood restaurant. The meat was so soft and tender and much sweeter. We just put the legs in our mouth and pulled they slowly through our teeth and were rewarded with very a very sweet treat. Our hostess got the biggest kick out of watching two greenhorns eat their first ‘natural’ lobster, fresh from the sea. An experience I will always remember and treasure.

    This is why I usually only get lobster at the shore when I’m visiting the east coast in the summer. It’s so much better than the lobsters that have been sitting around in a tank for weeks. ~Elise

  • jo

    We live in WI and boil lobster for celebrations. We use a turkey boiler outside–no mess.

  • Susan

    I remember backyard crab (and oyster) fests all summer long back in Maryland. We didn’t do lobster through..but the cooking was the same; steam or boil them. My favorite lobster preparation is Lobster Thermador. I wonder whatever happened to that dish? It was on most fancy restaurant menus at one time, but you almost never see it anymore.

  • Randa

    This is a stupid lobster story – but here goes. 18 years ago I was pregnant, and we went to dinner at Black Angus in Riverside, CA. I ordered the steak and lobster. I thought I was ordering lobster tail – I wasn’t! They brought the entire lobster to my table, and when the waitress set the plate in front of me – the eyes were staring at me. I ran to the bathroom – VERY PREGNANT – and cried. It took 12 years before I could eat lobster – now we do it 3 or 4 times and of course we cook them whole!

  • Reese

    What a great article! My Italian family sometimes makes lobsters for our all-seafood Christmas Eve, and your article reminded me of a time when my brother and I held Lobster Races on the kitchen floor (before they went into the pot!). Thanks for the great recipes and the great photography too! :-)

  • Isis

    I remember my father would come home from work once in a while with a special treat: lobster tails! He’d carefully shell them and sautee them in this heavenly silky buttery white sauce with a dash of nutmeg and white pepper. Served over toast points with a sprinkle of paprika… Lobster Newburg. Mmmmm my goodness it was heavenly. It’s one of my favorite memories of my dad, watching him slowly and carefully prepare this favorite lobster dish for my mom. She hasn’t eaten it since he passed away. Thank you for reminding me of this wonderful memory. I have to go out and buy lobster this week and prepare it!

  • Kevin Haynes

    I moved to Boston eight years ago from Seattle and have been fortunate to have many native New Englanders as friends to introduce me to all of the wonderful food in this region. Some of the most memorable summer weekends Ive had since moving to Boston involve dear friends and lobster. Whether in a restaurant, a wedding, or a clam bake, a backyard, on the beach, or a picnic table, lobster is always fun to eat, and if it’s cooked right, oh so sweet and delicious.

    My favorite restaurants for lobster around New England include (from north to south): Cooks Lobster House – Baileys Island, Maine. Barnacle Billy’s – Ogunquit, Maine. Woodmans in Essex, Mass (must try: fried lobster tail!!!!! To die for!). Lobster Pot – Provincetown, Mass.

    I’m now in the mood for lobster, it’s a gorgeous summer day in New England (sunny, low 70’s and no humidity), a perfect day for a drive to Maine and a delicious lobster dinner.

  • Natasha Kravchuk

    Wow!! Looks amazing. Great tutorial. I’ve never cooked a whole lobster before. We used to go crab catching with my family in Washington State and cooked and ate crab all the time, but not lobster.

  • Lesley Cafarelli

    I’m from Boston but living now in Minneapolis and love, love, love the rich, buttery flavor of lobster. I enjoyed reminiscing while reading this post. We usually get to the East Coast to visit family in the summers, but not this year, so I’m feeling deep deprivation. I’ve never cooked lobster myself and am not sure I could bring myself to do it, but who knows? In the meantime, a couple favorite spots back east are Woodman’s in Essex, MA, and Abbott’s in Noank, CT. If you can’t get outside Boston itself, Legal Seafoods is great.

    Hmmm. I may have to go to the best local spot for fresh fish–Coastal Seafoods–and have them cook me up a couple of those red beauties!

  • Calamity Anne

    What a great how-to on getting the lobster out of the shell! I think that’s half the reason most people don’t attempt it because they’re too intimidated. I do have a very simple buying suggestion…coming from one of the Gulf states, it’s common knowledge that the cost of seafood is dependent on the water temperature. If the temps are hot, the prices are lower…and vice verse for when the waters are colder.

    • Jim

      First time cooking lobster- used thie helpfully guide and…..success .!!!

  • Glenn Sullivan

    I used to ignore the legs like you… then I watched “Good Eats.”

    When eating lobster, I almost always have something cylindrical at the table… in the form of a beer or wine bottle. But if you have neither, grab your favorite rolling pin.

    Snip the “body” knuckle off of the legs with your kitchen shears, and lay them out on a cutting board. Then, like a tube of toothpaste, roll from the tip of the leg up, and the meat comes out in one whole piece!

    You can get enough from one lobster to make a mini lobster salad roll in the morning!

  • melodie

    I love lobster. I grew up in Gaspesie so lobster was caught just a few miles away. Every beginning of summer and fall, we have lobster parties. They can be quite messy. Anyway, I just wanted to add that I have never boiled a lobster for more than 10 minutes. A one pound lobster, to be perfect I find, is 7-8 minutes, after the water has started to boil again after diving the beast in the water. If you boil it more than 10 minutes, the meat becomes quite tough. Some chefs even boil it for only 4 or 5 minutes if they know they are going to finish the lobster meat in a sauce for pasta or something. If the lobster is bright red and if the little claws detach easily, it is ready.

  • Robert Sarcione

    My biggest gripe with your method is the boiling of the lobster. You are losing all the best of the lobster by boiling. The lobster should be steamed in a large pot with about 1″ of salt water or salted water with a steam rack on the pot bottom to keep the lobster out of the water. By steaming you not only get more tender meat but it preserves the natural juices already in the shell for a tastier more succulent experience. Try it, you’ll like it. My mouth is starting to water, I think it’s about time to visit the northeast that I left so long ago.

    I love steamed lobster too. You can fit more lobsters into the pot that way, though they struggle more and you have to hold down the lid for a while. ~Elise

  • jeff

    I’d recommend removing the rubber bands before boiling. If left on, the rubber bands will add a bad flavor to the water that will be imparted to the lobster.

    Good luck with that. If you’re not careful, the claws can cut off a finger. I’ve never noticed an off flavor from keeping the bands on. ~Elise

  • Nicole

    My family is less wasteful and we eat the head (ewww! gross – whatever). It’s the best part, in my opinion, and has plenty more flavor and 90% of the lobster fat – the saltiest yummiest part. Best story? Went out to eat with two families – one was Asian, one was not. The non-Asians wouldn’t touch their lobster heads – so we got to eat double the lobster meat (triple if you count our tails and heads we were already eating)! Heaven.

    • Lu

      I agree if you are talking about the body. What we called the head, was the part left in the shell after pulling out the body “ribs “. We also eat the meat from the head, not much but very good.