The 7 Best Tools for Cooking Lobster

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There are plenty of opinions out there about how to kill, cook, and crack lobsters correctly. If you’ve never done it before, the task can be daunting. It’s a messy job but one that’s easy to perfect with a few good tools and tips. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites to help you get it right. 

If you’ve ever been told to put a live lobster directly into boiling water, you might want to reconsider who is giving you cooking advice. There is a correct (and humane) way to butcher live lobsters. Before you get started, make sure to set yourself up with a station to minimize mess. Grab a heavy duty, sturdy cutting board–preferably one that isn’t porous–and lay an old kitchen towel on top of it. The kitchen towel will help soak up any liquid and will prevent the lobster from sliding around on your board. You’ll also want a heavy duty utility knife with a broad blade and sturdy handle. Be careful not to use a brand-new, super sharp chef’s knife. Cutting through the lobster shell will dull the blade, so I prefer to designate one of my older, tougher utility knives to use on lobster. 

Lay the lobster flat on the kitchen towel over the cutting board, belly side down, and hold the lobster tail firmly with your non-dominant hand (I like to wrap it with a second old kitchen towel). Place the tip of the knife at the top of the head, behind the eyes, where the head and body meet and form a “T.” Press the knife down until the tip hits the board. You may see the lobster tail or claw spasm but at this point any remaining movements are just nerve impulses. They can keep pinching even after you’ve separated the claws from the body–so watch your fingers! A dismembered claw tried to steal my wedding ring just last week. 

After the lobster is deceased, place it in a large stock pot of boiling water. I like to season the water with aromatics like lemons, peppercorns, thyme and a dash or two of Old Bay. You may hear some squeaks, but contrary to what you might’ve been told, that’s not the lobster “screaming.” It’s the sound of steam escaping through joints in the shell. 

How long to boil lobster depends on how big it is, so make sure to get an idea of the size before you leave the fishmonger (don’t worry–they’ll charge you accordingly.) Also consider that the necessary cook time starts when the water is boiling, so be sure to factor in the additional time it takes the water to return to a boil after adding the lobsters into the pot. Once your lobsters are in and the water has returned to a boil, cook for 10-13 minutes for a one pound lobster, and add three to six minutes for every additional half pound. Lobsters should be a bright, vibrant red when cooked thoroughly and the meat should be firm and white. 

Though you can absolutely cook and enjoy lobsters whole, it can be beneficial to separate the lobster tails from the lobster claws and knuckles before cooking. Lobster tail meat is much more dense than claw meat, so it requires a longer cooking time. To separate the tail from the rest of the body, use sharp kitchen shears to cut along the backside of the lobster, where the tail meets the body. Cut completely through the meat and shell all the way around the lobster. To separate the claws and arms, simply hold the body firmly and twist to break the arms off. Take turns placing the tails and claws in boiling water separately, and cook for one minute per ounce.