Memorial Day typically marks the start of BBQ and grilling season. Why not try something new this year? Grilling lobster is a fun and delicious project for your next cookout.
Why Live Lobsters?
Why is it so important to cook lobsters live? There are two reasons why lobsters must be live up until the moment they are to be cooked.
- Texture: The moment a lobster dies, enzymes in its body rapidly break down the protein fibers, causing the meat to become very mushy.
- Food Safety: Like other shellfish, lobsters are very prone to bacterial contamination that causes food poisoning.
It’s important to plan your cooking around the time you procure the live lobster. Lobster should be cooked within 24 hours of purchasing. To keep the lobster alive until you’re ready to cook, keep it in a container with seaweed and the ice packs or wet paper they were packaged with. They are saltwater creatures and fresh water will kill them. Keep them refrigerated until ready to prepare for cooking.
The muscle fibers of lobster are longer than that of fish and are bound together with connective tissue like mammal protein. Its meat does not flake like fish does when cooked. The ideal cooked temperature for lobster is 140°F (60°C). In this recipe taking the internal temperature of the meat is easy because the tail is cut in half and the claws are cracked.
Lobster should be cooked rapidly to keep the meat fresh. Boiling, steaming, and grilling are preferred methods.
How to Butcher a Live Lobster
This method of preparing a live lobster for cooking is very simple and straight-forward. The lobster is just cut in half. No twisting off claws or skewering the tail.
- Place lobsters into a bowl or other large container and freeze for 30 minutes.
- With the blade edge of the knife facing the head, plunge the knife into the body where the shell forms a “T.” Move the blade through the head, cutting it in half.
- Turn the lobster or your knife around the other direction and cut through the remaining part of the body all the way through the tail, splitting the lobster in half.
- Scoop out the stomach sac and intestinal tract with a spoon and discard. Scoop out and either reserve or discard the green digestive tract, called tomalley.
- Gently rinse the lobster halves under cool water.
- Using the blunt end of your knife, crack the claws on one side.
- Cracking the claws allows for the smoky flavors from the grill to penetrate, and the meat will also cook more quickly than it would otherwise.
Let’s get one thing straight: lobsters aren’t humans. They aren’t even mammals, or fish. Their anatomy is much more similar to that of, say, a cockroach or a beetle, grown to gargantuan proportions because they live a life unfettered by gravity at the bottom of the ocean. —Kenji Lopez-Alt, SeriousEats.com
Tomalley: To Eat or Not To Eat?
The “green stuff” in the lobster is its tomalley, or its liver and pancreas. Many enjoy the tomalley, and it is often used for soups and sauces. It is often mixed with bread crumbs, garlic, and salt and pepper and placed back into the shell of the lobster before cooking. Since it is a filtering organ of the animal, it may contain contaminants from its environment. Either way, whether or not to eat the tomalley is a matter of preference. In our preparation, we chose to discard the tomalley.
Grilled Lobster Recipe
From Cook’s Science, by Cook’s Illustrated
- 2 1-1/2 to 2 pound live lobsters
- 8 oz. unsalted butter, melted and clarified
- A few springs of fresh herbs such as tarragon, parsley, or thyme
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper for seasoning
- To clarify butter, melt in a saucepan over very low heat. After the butter has melted the milk solids will sink to the bottom of the pan. Slowly pour the butter into bowls, leaving the milk solids in the pan. Place the garlic and fresh herbs in with the butter to infuse flavor.
- Set aside the two bowls and keep warm.
- Split the lobster in half following the instructions in the beginning of this post.
- Fire up your grill and preheat for high heat cooking.
- Brush the inside of the lobster with butter and season with salt and pepper.
- Season the grill with a napkin coated with cooking oil and a pair of tongs.
- Place the halved lobsters cut-side down onto the grill.
- Cook for about 4 minutes.
- Flip the lobsters so they are shell-side down and continue grilling until the internal temperature of the meat is 140°F (60°C).
- Spot-check the temperature of the tail meat in multiple areas using a Thermapen.
- Hold the claws steady with tongs and insert the Thermapen’s probe through the cracked area of the claw.
- Once the target internal temperature has been reached, remove the lobsters from the grill.
- Serve immediately with the other reserved portion of infused clarified butter and lemon wedges. Enjoy!
Cook’s Science, by Cook’s Illustrated
The Food Lab: How To Kill, Cook, and Shell a Lobster, SeriousEats.com
Thanks for recipe. Do you really need to freeze lobster or is that just to stop it from moving during cutting. Also, if your aiming for a final temp of 140 degrees, shouldn’t you remove it at 135 degrees as it’s temp will continue to rise for several minutes when you take it off the heat? Thanks
Freezing the lobster is just to immobilize it before slicing it in half. You can certainly proceed with the butchering without freezing the lobster.
And yes. You can pull the lobster at a temperature from 135 to 140°F.
Michael Tessone says
Great tips! Thanks!