Cooking a Whole Lobster (5 Ways!)

by Ella

When it comes to indulging in the delights of seafood, few things can compare to the succulent and flavorful experience of enjoying a perfectly cooked whole lobster. Lobster, known for its tender meat and exquisite taste, can be prepared using various cooking methods to bring out its natural flavors while creating a memorable culinary experience. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore some of the most popular ways to cook a whole lobster, accompanied by step-by-step instructions and delectable recipes that are sure to impress your guests and elevate your dining experience.

Preparing a Whole Lobster for Cooking: Step-by-Step Guide

Proper preparation not only enhances the flavor of the lobster but also contributes to a successful cooking outcome. Let’s walk through the necessary steps to prepare a whole lobster for cooking.


1. Purchasing and Handling

When selecting lobsters, look for lively and active ones. Lobsters should have a firm texture and a vibrant, deep color. Avoid lobsters that show signs of lethargy or have a strong, unpleasant odor.


2. Storing Live Lobsters

If you’re not cooking the lobsters immediately, store them in a cool and moist environment. Place them in a container with a damp cloth or paper towels, and keep the container covered. Avoid using an airtight container, as lobsters need access to oxygen.


3. Cleaning and Preparing

Before cooking, it’s essential to clean the lobster to remove any sand, debris, or residual dirt from its exterior. Here’s how:


Ingredients and Tools:

  • Live lobster
  • Large bowl or basin
  • Running cold water
  • Brush or soft bristle brush


Fill a large bowl or basin with cold water.

Gently place the live lobster in the water to rinse off any dirt or sand from its shell.

Using a brush or a soft bristle brush, gently scrub the shell to remove any stubborn particles.

Pay extra attention to the joints and crevices where dirt may be trapped.

Rinse the lobster thoroughly under running cold water to ensure it’s clean.

See Also: Our Top 10 Tips for Cooking Fresh Lobster

4. Handling Live Lobsters Safely

It’s important to handle live lobsters carefully to avoid injury. Lobsters can have sharp claws that are used for defense.


Grasp the lobster by holding onto the body (carapace) to prevent it from swinging its claws towards you.

To handle the claws, use a cloth or towel to hold them securely.

5. Humanely Stunning the Lobster (Optional)

For those who are concerned about the ethical treatment of lobsters, you can choose to humanely stun the lobster before cooking. This step is optional and may not be necessary for all cooking methods.


Place the live lobster in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes. This will gradually numb the lobster and reduce its response to pain.

It’s important to note that this method is debated among experts, and some believe that lobsters don’t feel pain in the same way humans do.

6. Choosing the Cooking Method

Once the lobster is clean and ready, you can choose from a variety of cooking methods, including steaming, boiling, grilling, baking, or sous vide. The choice of cooking method depends on your preferences and the flavor profile you want to achieve.

7. Preparing for Cooking

Before you begin cooking, gather all the necessary ingredients and equipment for your chosen cooking method. This includes pots, pans, herbs, spices, and any additional ingredients you’ll be using to enhance the flavor of the lobster.

See Also: Lobster: Types, Dishes, Pairings, Selection & Storage

How to Cook a Whole Lobster (5 Ways)

1. Steaming

Steaming is a gentle cooking method that preserves the natural sweetness and delicate texture of lobster meat. This method is particularly suitable for those who prefer a subtler flavor profile and moist, tender meat.

Recipe: Steamed Whole Lobster


  • 1 whole lobster (1.5 to 2 pounds)
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Lemon wedges
  • Melted butter


Fill a large pot with about 2 inches of water and add a generous amount of salt.

Place a steaming rack or basket in the pot.

Bring the water to a boil over high heat.

While the water is heating, rinse the lobster under cold water to remove any sand or debris.

Once the water is boiling, place the lobster on the steaming rack or basket, shell side down.

Cover the pot with a lid and steam the lobster for about 8-10 minutes per pound.

The lobster is done when the shell turns bright red and the meat is opaque.

Serve the steamed lobster with lemon wedges and melted butter for dipping.

2. Boiling

Boiling is a classic method of cooking lobster that delivers a more intense flavor and firmer texture compared to steaming. It’s a great option for those who prefer a slightly bolder taste.

Recipe: Boiled Whole Lobster


  • 1 whole lobster (1.5 to 2 pounds)
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Bay leaves
  • Lemon
  • Optional: Old Bay seasoning


Fill a large pot with water, leaving enough space for the lobster.

Add a handful of salt, bay leaves, and slices of lemon to the water. You can also add Old Bay seasoning for extra flavor.

Bring the water to a rolling boil.

Rinse the lobster under cold water to clean it.

Carefully place the lobster headfirst into the boiling water.

Cover the pot with a lid and boil the lobster for about 8-10 minutes per pound.

The lobster should be bright red when cooked and the meat should be opaque.

Remove the lobster from the water and let it cool slightly before serving.

Cooking Times:

  • 1-pound lobster: 8-10 minutes
  • 1.25-pound lobster: 10-12 minutes
  • 1.5-pound lobster: 12-14 minutes
  • Add 2 minutes per additional 0.25 pounds.

3. Grilling

Grilling lobster adds a smoky, charred flavor to the meat, creating a unique twist on this seafood delicacy. Grilling is ideal for those seeking a more adventurous and complex taste.

Recipe: Grilled Whole Lobster with Herb Butter


  • 1 whole lobster (1.5 to 2 pounds)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh herbs (such as parsley, thyme, and chives)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Lemon zest
  • Butter


Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

In a small bowl, combine chopped herbs, minced garlic, lemon zest, and softened butter to make the herb butter.

Split the lobster in half lengthwise by using a sharp knife. Clean out the digestive tract.

Brush the lobster meat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Place the lobster halves shell side down on the grill grates.

Grill the lobster for about 4-5 minutes per side, basting occasionally with the herb butter.

The lobster meat should be opaque and slightly charred when done.

Serve the grilled lobster with an extra drizzle of herb butter.

4. Baking

Baking lobster in the oven is a convenient and hands-off method that yields succulent, evenly cooked meat. This technique is perfect for those who want to infuse additional flavors into the lobster.

Recipe: Baked Stuffed Lobster


  • 1 whole lobster (1.5 to 2 pounds)
  • Ritz crackers or breadcrumbs
  • Chopped cooked shrimp or crab meat
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Butter
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

In a bowl, combine crushed Ritz crackers or breadcrumbs, chopped shrimp or crab meat, chopped parsley, melted butter, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Split the lobster in half lengthwise and clean out the digestive tract.

Stuff the lobster cavities with the breadcrumb mixture.

Place the stuffed lobster halves on a baking sheet or in a baking dish.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the stuffing is golden brown and the lobster meat is opaque.

Remove from the oven and let it cool slightly before serving.

5. Sous Vide

Sous vide is a precise cooking technique that involves vacuum-sealing food and cooking it in a water bath at a controlled temperature. It results in incredibly tender and evenly cooked lobster meat.

Recipe: Sous Vide Lobster Tail


  • 2 lobster tails
  • Butter
  • Garlic
  • Fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper


Preheat a water bath to 135°F (57°C) using a sous vide precision cooker.

Season the lobster tails with salt and pepper.

Place each lobstertail in a separate vacuum-sealed bag with a pat of butter, a clove of garlic, and a sprig of fresh thyme.

Seal the bags using a vacuum sealer.

Submerge the sealed bags in the preheated water bath and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Once cooked, carefully remove the lobster tails from the bags.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and melt some butter.

Sear the lobster tails in the hot butter for about 1-2 minutes on each side to develop a golden crust.

Serve the sous vide lobster tails with the seared side up.

See Also: 5 Best Methods of Cooking Lobster Tails

Why do you have to cook a lobster alive?

Here are the main reasons often cited for cooking lobsters alive:

1. Freshness and Quality: Lobster meat can spoil quickly after the lobster dies, leading to a decline in quality and flavor. Cooking a lobster while it’s still alive helps preserve the freshness of the meat, ensuring that it’s at its best when served.

2. Safety: When a lobster dies, its body begins to break down rapidly, which can lead to bacterial growth and potential food safety concerns. Cooking the lobster alive minimizes the risk of bacterial contamination.

3. Texture: Lobster meat has a delicate texture that can become mushy if not cooked promptly after the lobster dies. Cooking live lobsters is believed to help maintain the desired texture of the meat.

How to renove meat from a lobster

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to remove meat from a lobster:

Tools You’ll Need:

  • Cooked lobster
  • Kitchen shears or lobster crackers
  • Small fork or seafood pick
  • Small bowl for collected meat


Separate the Tail:

Hold the lobster firmly by the body with one hand.

With your other hand, grasp the tail and twist it off by bending it away from the body until it detaches.

Remove Tail Meat:

Place the tail on a cutting board with the underside facing up.

Use kitchen shears to carefully cut along the length of the tail shell on the softer underside, from the base to the tip. Avoid cutting too deeply into the meat.

Gently spread the shell apart and pull out the tail meat in one piece.

If needed, use a small fork or seafood pick to help loosen the meat from the shell.

Extract Claw Meat:

Separate the claws from the body by twisting them off. You can use your hands, or if the claws are particularly tough, you might need lobster crackers.

Use kitchen shears or a lobster cracker to crack the shell of each claw to access the meat.

Gently pull the meat from the cracked shell, being careful not to crush the meat.

Access Leg Meat:

Bend and twist the smaller legs away from the body. These can contain some small amounts of meat, which you can extract by gently squeezing the leg between your fingers and pulling the meat out.


  • Be patient and gentle when removing lobster meat to avoid damaging the delicate pieces.
  • If you find it challenging to crack the claws, you can also use a nutcracker or the back of a heavy knife.
  • The knuckles of the claws can also contain meat; carefully crack them and extract the meat using a seafood pick.
  • Lobster shells can be sharp, so take care to avoid any cuts or injuries while handling them.

See Also: How to Eat a Whole Lobster: A Beginner’s Guide


Cooking a whole lobster is an art that combines precision and appreciation for quality ingredients. By following the step-by-step process outlined in this guide, you can master the technique of preparing a perfectly cooked lobster. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply indulging in a gourmet meal, the flavors and textures of the lobster will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression on your palate. So, gather your tools, select the finest live lobsters, and embark on a culinary adventure that is sure to delight and satisfy.



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