How to Cook Lobster Tails

By Holly Bieler
Updated on 15. Mar. 2021

Lobster tail is a delicious, versatile treat. Butterflied and baked with some butter it makes for an elegant appetizer; thrown on the grill with some lime juice, it makes for a beautifully fragrant quick lunch. Below, we've outlined all there is to know about lobster tail, including tips on how to buy, plus step-by-step how-to's for grilling, broiling, baking and steaming lobster tail.

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Lobster tail has always felt like something of a rarified food, eaten on linen-topped tables and served with champagne by waiters wearing gloves. However if you’re only eating lobster tail out at fancy restaurants, you’re seriously missing out. Not only is it incredibly easy to cook, but at home you can experiment with myriad ways to cook this delectable fish that’s not often seen at restaurants. Indeed, lobster tail is incredibly versatile, as delicious as an elegant appetizer baked with butter as it is a modest lunch, grilled with a squirt of lime. 

What’s more, lobster tail is incredibly nutritious, packed with a slew of vitamins and minerals including antioxidant vitamin A and copper for blood health, as well as powerful omega-3 fatty acids, which help support cardiovascular health. 

Below, we’ve outlined the 4 most popular ways to prepare lobster tail at home. Each takes less than an hour and is super easy-- as long as you have a good lobster tail to start, you really can’t go wrong. There’s a reason they say the tail is the tastiest part of the lobster.

Table of contents

  1. Buying Lobster Tails
  2. Types of Preparation
    1. How to Butterfly a Lobster Tail
    2. How to Box a Lobster Tail
  3. How to Broil Lobster Tail
  4. How to Bake Lobster Tail
  5. How to Steam Lobster Tail
  6. How to Grill Lobster Tail

Buying Lobster Tails

Whether you're buying frozen or fresh, there are certain things to look out for when buying lobster tail to ensure optimal taste. Here are the basics when it comes to buying good lobster:

What does fresh lobster tail look like? Fresh lobster tail won’t be red (that happens during cooking), but will have a coarse brown shell with bluish-green spotting and grey, firm flesh. As with any seafood, smell is a great barometer of freshness. Even the slightest suggestion of something aromatically untoward is means for worry, as lobster tail has an extremely short shelf life.

Cold Water vs. Water Water If you have the option, always opt for lobster harvested in cold waters over warm. In general, warm water lobsters tend to be softer and can have a hard time firming up, while cold water lobsters tend to have richer, meatier flesh that does better during cooking.

How fresh should the lobster tail be? The rule of thumb is you should always eat lobster the day you purchase it. Much past that, and it starts to go bad quickly.

Frozen vs. Fresh Fresh is of course always best when it comes to any type of shellfish, however there are numerous options for buying frozen lobster tails online or in higher-end grocery stores that aren’t half bad. If you buy frozen, you’ll just want to dethaw your lobster tail by taking it from the freezer and placing it in the refrigerator at least a day before you cook them. Lobster tails stay good in the freezer for up to three months.

Types of Preparation

Lobster tails are prepared one of two ways: butterflied or boxed. The butterfly technique is the more elegant of the two, with lobster flesh removed and placed atop of the shell. Boxing keeps the meat in the shell-- all you’ll need to do is cut and separate the shell so the meat can cook. Butterflying works best when you’re baking or broiling, boxing when you’re grilling or steaming.

How to Butterfly a Lobster Tail

Using kitchen shears, cut along the middle of the shell (not cutting the meat) towards the tail, but not cutting the tail. Use a spoon (or just your hands) to separate the lobster meat from the shell. Lift the lobster meat up, press the two sides of the lobster tail together, then place the meat on top of the shell.

How to Box a Lobster Tail

Using kitchen shears or a large knife, cut the lobster tail shells down the middle towards the tail, without cutting the tail. Fold the shell back until it breaks, freely exposing the majority of the lobster meat. 

How to Bake Lobster Tail

Baked lobster tail with some garlic, butter and a squeeze of lemon is one of the all-time classy appetizers. It’s traditionally served butterflied, yielding a beautiful display that’s just as delicious and intoxicatingly fragrant. 

Once you’ve butterflied your tail, you’ll want to pat dry the meat and season the flesh as you prefer. A simple mixture of lemon, butter and garlic is delicious, as are toasted panko breadcrumbs or even some parmesan cheese. The classic variation calls for a generous brush of room-temperature butter mixed with minced garlic and parsley. Also season with salt and pepper.

Place in the oven at 450°F and cook for 12-15 minutes, until the lobster is red and the meat is firm but not tough. 

How to Broil Lobster Tail

Broiling takes less time than baking, and is arguably more reliable. Its high heat and quick cook time provides a good environment for cooking lobster, with less of an opportunity to overstep into the land of the chewy. 

To begin, you’ll want to butterfly your lobster tails. Next, pat dry and season with a mixture of olive oil or melted butter and a few of your favorite herbs or seasonings. Minced garlic, lemon juice, parsley or dill are all delicious options.

Place your lobster tails on a baking pan and put them under the broiler approximately 4-6 inches from the heat source. Keep under the broiler for every 1 minute for every ounce of lobster (one 6 oz. tail, for example would get 6 minutes of cooking time).

How to Grill Lobster Tail

Malaysian Lobster Tail with Leeks

There’s no better way to enjoy summer then grilled lobster tails. This firmness of the rich meat holds up beautifully to an open flame, yielding sumptuous, smoky flavor. Drizzle it with some line, grab a Corona and you’re set.

To start, brush the lobster meat with some salt, pepper, olive oil and a few of your favorite herbs or seasonings. Lemon juice, garlic, dill or parsley are all delicious add-ons.

Heat your grill to medium-high heat and place the lobster tails on the grill right side up. Cook for 5-8 minutes, or until the internal temperature has reached 140°F.

How to Steam Lobster Tail

Steaming is one of the healthiest ways to cook lobster tails, with none of butter or olive oil that’s used in most other methods, as well as none of the fussy prep. 

Indeed, lobster tails require no special preparation before steaming, neither butterflying nor boxing. Simply rinse the whole tail, shell intact, under warm water, and towel dry before cooking. 

Add about an inch of water and a tablespoon of salt to a large pot and bring to a boil. Put your lobster tails in a steamer basket (usually 4 will fit), place in the pot, and cover, cooking for 8-10 minutes, or until the tails have a vibrant red hue and are firm but not rubbery.

Lobster tails are a perfect treat no matter the occasion. From the decadence of a broiled, butterflied lobster tail topped with mounds of butter to the pure summer bliss of a freshly-grilled tail served charred in its shell, there’s no limit to what you can do with this delicate yet boldly flavored shellfish. 

Want to know how to cook lobster tails another way, or have a suggestion for the next installment of our How To series? We'd love to hear from you! Write us at

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