This Is The Trick To Cooking Perfect Lobster Tail

When you're looking to class-up dinnertime and break away from the usual steak and salad routine, lobster is a no-brainer. For some home cooks, though, lobster can be a slightly intimidating ingredient. If you took advantage of the pandemic-induced price drop on fresh lobsters and have made peace with cooking live lobsters in your own home, more power to you. But for the faint of heart, you can still find crustacean gratification via lobster tails, which are widely available in stores and online.

Lobster Anywhere says big-box stores (like Sam's Club) typically sell tails of spiny lobsters that come from the warm waters of South America. These tails are cheaper than those from cold-water climates like Maine and are fine if you're on a budget, but some believe they're not quite as tasty. According to Weathervane Seafoods, lobster tails you can order online from Maine taste better than other varieties because lobsters grow slower in cold water, making for more tender meat.

Most lobster tails are sold frozen. To thaw them, Seafood University recommends placing them in the refrigerator overnight or submerging them in cold water, changing the water every 15 minutes or so – this will thaw frozen lobster tails in under an hour. Once your lobster tails are thawed, your only remaining task is to cook them perfectly. Undercooking and overcooking are easy mistakes to make when cooking lobster. But, with the right techniques in mind, you can have perfect lobster tail in no time.

Grilling lobster tail is the secret to success

For delicious, perfectly cooked lobster tail, look no further than your backyard grill. Shocking, right? You'd think the intense heat of a live fire would be too much for delicate lobster meat. But, according to Food52, cooking lobster tails on the grill results in tender, buttery meat with a hint of smoke mingling with the lobster's natural sweetness – a subtle complexity of flavors you just can't beat. To cook perfect lobster tails on the grill, split the shells in half, brush the meat with melted butter, and season it with salt and pepper. Then, grill the tails flesh side-down over high heat for four minutes on the first side before flipping and grilling for another three to four minutes on the second side. 

Use a meat thermometer to ensure your tails are properly cooked. The USDA recommends an internal temp of 145 degrees Fahrenheit for shellfish, although Food52's grilling expert, Paula Disbrow, and Lobster Anywhere swear 135 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit is the sweet spot for lobster. Just remember, anything more than 145 degrees and the lobster meat will be overcooked and chewy. If you aim too far below that mark, it will be gummy and unappetizing. How easy is that? Just a hot grill and eight minutes of your time and you're dining in style. But, what if you don't have a grill and still want an easy, unfussy lobster tail dinner? Not to worry – lobster tail perfection is just a steamer pot away.

Steaming lobster tail is simple

If you don't own a grill or simply aren't in the mood to fire one up, steamed lobster tail is your best bet. This method is a snap and even comes complete with visual cues as to when the tails are done. Food52 says to place lobster tails in a steamer basket set over boiling water and watch for the shells to turn bright red and for the meat to become opaque. In some cases, that can happen in as few as four minutes but usually not more than ten. If you're not sure, just break out your meat thermometer and check for an internal temp of 145-ish.

At that point, you can pop the lobster tails under cold running water to stop the cooking and feast! Steamed lobster tails offer up a pristine, naturally sweet lobster flavor and with a swipe of melted butter and a sprinkling of flaky sea salt, you're officially in the lap of lobster tail luxury.