We grill a lot of burgers, sausages, and chicken thighs around here, but we don’t spend enough time with the fruits of the sea. And we should change that, because grilled seafood is delicious! So, with that in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to do a post about grilled lobster and its attendant thermal needs. This weekend, maybe skip the burgers and try some lobsters on the grill…you won’t regret it!
Let’s dive in and take a look at some key lobster info.
Live lobster or frozen?
There are two routes for grilling lobster: you can grill them fresh (you kill them), or fresh-frozen (flash-frozen raw, without any cooking). If you want a whole lobster, you’re going to need to get it live, but if just the tail will do, you can get fresh-frozen, as we did for this cook. (We don’t recommend using pre-cooked frozen lobster for grilling. You’d just be double-cooking the meat.)
The fresh-frozen tails are a fantastic way to go. There’s less hassle, you get just the meat you want, and there’s no, well, having to kill them. Though we like a whole lobster, too, the tails did just great for us in this case. But if you are going to cook with fresh live ones, there are a few things you need to know.
Notes on Live Lobsters:
If you use live lobsters, it is important to cook them live—or, rather, directly after death. 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. In the case of fresh frozen, this enzymatic reaction is halted by immediate deep freezing. For them, it’s important to thaw right before you cook, not days before.
- Food Safety: Like other shellfish, lobsters are very prone to bacterial contamination that causes food poisoning. Leaving them around, dead, isn’t going to help that!
It’s important to plan your cooking around the time you procure the live lobster. Live 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.
How to Butcher a Live Lobster
If you choose to use live lobster, you’re going to need to butcher it. But don’t worry, it’s not hard. 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.
Lobster Doneness Temperature
The muscle fibers of lobster are longer than those 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.
Lobster should be cooked rapidly to keep the meat fresh. Boiling, steaming, and grilling are preferred methods, and grilling adds the most delicious flavor to the meat. The flavor compounds in lobster that taste buttery, kind of like good popcorn, seem more prominent when they are grilled.
Grilling lobster is a direct-heat method, meaning we’re going to fire up our charcoal grill (you can use gas) so that it’s very hot. It’s a good idea to oil your grill before you put the lobster pieces on it to prevent sticking. Though the meat of the lobster will only be exposed on one side (shell on the other), it’s important to flip it occasionally so that the heat of the grill can penetrate the shell and cook the meat inside of it. You will see steam and even boiling juices coming out around the edges of the meat when you do!
How long it takes to cool your lobster will depend on its size. Small, “grilling” lobster tails will only take a few minutes. Monster tails like the ones Lobsters Anywhere provided us with take more time. The important thing to look for is temperature. Using your Thermapen® ONE to check the temperature as you cook is the key to perfect grilled lobster. Stick the probe all the way through the meat at its thickest part until it hits the shell, then pull it up slowly through, reading the temperatures on the screen as you do so. If you see nothing lower than 140°F (60°C) on your Thermapen, your lobster is done and should be pulled from heat! (If you have huge tails like we did, pulling a couple degrees early is a good idea because there is enough thermal mass to provide some carryover cooking. How much carryover there is will depend on the size of your lobster and the temperature of your grill.)
Give your burgers a rest this weekend and try something else on the grill: lobster! This is a delicious cook and you’ll love how the char of the grill goes so well with the sweet, buttery meat of the lobster. Use your Thermapen to ensure perfect cooking, and you’ll love the results. Happy cooking!Print
Grilled lobster! Delicious. In this recipe, we will use fresh-frozen lobster tail, but the instructions for cooking and seasoning are the same as they are for whole fresh lobster. See the butchering steps in the post for instructions on preparing a live lobster for the cook.
- 1–2 lobster tails, thawed and cut in half
- 8 Tbsp clarified butter (preferably browned clarified butter)
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 lemon, zested, halved
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
- Prepare your grill for direct-heat cooking. We used one chimney of charcoal spread evenly under our grill grate.
- Combine the clarified butter with the parsley, garlic, a good pinch of black pepper, and lemon zest in a small bowl.
- Split your lobster (whole or tail) in half.
- Sprinkle the lobsters with a little salt (you won’t need much)
- Use a spoon to drizzle the butter/herb mixture over the fleshy sides of the lobster tails.
- Be careful not to get raw lobster juice in the butter mixture, we’ll want to use it later!
- Place the lobsters, flesh-side down, on the grill and allow to cook for a minute or so. Flip them and cook on their shell side for a minute or so.
- Keep flipping back and forth, temping often with your Thermapen after the first two flips.
- When you see no temperature lower than 140°F (60°C) (lower if the tails are large), pull the lobsters from the heat. “Regular” sized lobsters should take about 4 minutes to cook. But watch the temperature, not the clock!
- Serve the lobsters with the remaining clarified herb butter and the lemon halves for squeezing fresh juice. Enjoy!
Grilled Lobster Recipe
Shop now for products used in this post:
Cook’s Science, by Cook’s Illustrated