For a big payoff with less work than whole lobsters, here's how to cook lobster tails to perfection, including tips on prep and how to bake, broil, boil and grill them.

Casey Barber
December 03, 2019

Whole lobsters are fun, but even the biggest lobster lover will admit that they're a commitment. For a big payoff without all the work, cooking lobster tails gets you all that taste without the mess (and special equipment).

The best way to cook lobster tails? It's your call! Whether you like them boiled, broiled, baked or even grilled, there's a lobster tail recipe for you here.

Fresh vs. Frozen Lobster Tails

Fresh lobster tails are available at specialty seafood markets, and should be cooked within a day of purchase.

Casey Barber

In most supermarkets, you can find frozen lobster tails year-round. They may be labeled as cold-water or warm-water tails.

  • Cold-water lobsters (from New England) are higher-priced and have whiter, firmer meat. These tails turn bright, opaque red when cooked.
  • Warm-water lobsters (from Florida and the Caribbean) tend to be more affordable and have softer meat. These lobster tails often have spotted shells.

Whether you choose warm- or cold-water tails, thaw them overnight in the refrigerator before cooking. Do not thaw in the microwave, which will make the lobster meat tough and overcooked.

How to Prepare Lobster Tails

Rinse the shells before prepping.

To butterfly lobster tails:

Casey Barber
  1. Place lobster tails on a cutting board with the hard shell side facing up.
  2. With kitchen shears, cut along the length of the shell until you reach the fan tail.
  3. With the shears or the tip of a knife, make a 1/2-inch-deep cut along the length of the meat.
  4. Loosen the meat from the shell by running your fingers along the inside of the shell.
  5. Gently pull the meat partway out of the shell.
  6. Place the lobster tails on a parchment-lined baking sheet, hard shell-side up.

To cut lobster tails in half:

Casey Barber
  1. Place lobster tails on a cutting board with the underside (soft side) of the shell facing up.
  2. Cut the tails fully in half lengthwise with a sharp chef's knife.

To remove lobster tail meat for baking:

Casey Barber
  1. Place lobster tails on a cutting board with the underside (soft side) of the shell facing up.
  2. Cut along the length of the shell with kitchen scissors without cutting into the meat.
  3. With your hands, gently loosen the meat from the shell and remove it in one piece.
  4. Place the shell on a parchment-lined baking sheet, hard shell-side up.
  5. Place the meat on top of the shell.
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Ways to Cook Lobster Tails

Grilled Lobster Tails

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  1. Cut the lobster tails in half as described above. Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt.
  2. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.
  3. Lay the tails on the grill, cut-side down, and cook until the meat is lightly charred and the shell is beginning to turn red, 5 to 6 minutes. Turn and continue grilling until the meat is opaque and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes more.

Try it with this grilled lobster rolls recipe.

Broiled Lobster Tails

Casey Barber
  1. Butterfly lobster tails as described above.
  2. Preheat the oven broiler to low.
  3. Place the tails on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Brush melted butter evenly over the meat.
  4. Broil until the lobster meat is plump, opaque and pulling away from the sides of the shells, 6 to 8 minutes.

Try it with this broiled lobster tails recipe.

Baked Lobster Tails

Casey Barber
  1. Remove lobster tail meat from shells as described above.
  2. Place the shells and meat on a parchment-lined baking sheet (as noted above).
  3. Brush with melted butter.
  4. Bake in a 400°F oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the meat reaches 140°F, about 10 minutes.

Serve with additional melted butter, if desired.

Boiled Lobster Tails

Casey Barber
  1. Place lobster tails on a cutting board with the hard shell side facing up.
  2. Run a long, sturdy wooden skewer through the length of the tail. This will prevent the lobster tail from curling as it cooks.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a generous handful of salt.
  4. Place the lobster tails in the boiling water and cover the pot.
  5. Cook in the boiling water until the shell is red and the meat is opaque. The cook time will vary according to weight. For lobster tails up to 7 ounces, cook for 4 to 6 minutes. For tails from 7-10 ounces, cook for 6 to 8 minutes; for tails up to 1 pound, cook for up to 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the tails from the water with tongs and transfer to a serving platter.

Serve with melted butter, if desired.

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