How to cook the Perfect Lobster

How to cook the Perfect Lobster

Having grown up on the east coast, lobster has a special place in my heart stomach (that organ that craves things that are delicious and bring back great memories). So readers will forgive me if I spend a bit more time on this recipe to get it just right for everyone out there.I know what you’re thinking – who needs a recipe to cook a lobster? It’s idiot proof!

You would think so, but the number of times I have been served a rubbery tasteless thing in a bright orange shell in restaurants (many years ago of course, since my past experiences have taught even someone as slow as I am not to subject myself to this, along with the horrifying bills that still haunt my nightmares…..) makes me feel the need to share how to properly cook lobsters when the urge for one hits you.

Being a good east coast boy, the urge hits often and I suspect readers secretly feel the same but might be intimidated by the challenge of getting it right.

But never fear, Chuck is here to show you just how easy it is to get perfect lobster every time that craving hits!


Step 1) Buy only live lobsters. 

If they are pre-cooked, then they are already nasty. In fact, they most likely were one of the dead ones in the tank since most seafood places use the dead ones for their steamed product. Pre-cooked lobster actually has the unique distinction of tasting worse than it sounds-think Road Kill…….

But wait, just because they are live does not necessarily mean they are any good. In fact the majority of live lobsters available in grocery or seafood specialty stores aren’t any good for the simple reason they have been in the tank way too long.

Lobsters don’t feed in those tanks and so the meat is gradually shrinking and toughening and losing all its natural sweetness and richness. If you picture a steak left in the fridge uncovered for a few weeks, you get the idea.

Buy only from a place that has high turnover. An easy way to check is ask the counter guy when they get their deliveries. If he/she says whenever they need to re-stock, just walk away. If he gives you a specific day of the week there’s a good chance their turnover is good with that regular order; and you can always arrive late on delivery day and get the ones from that shipment!

In terms of size, it’s appetite dependent as well as what sizes are available on the day. For the small eaters, as little as 1 ¼ lb. might do; for big eaters 2 ½ lbs. is more likely; for true lobster gluttons the sky’s the limit!

There is a lot of crap written about how small lobsters are sweeter than giants. But the only difference between the two is that people seem to get lucky with their cook techniques more often with small than large – there is absolutely no difference in flavor and texture when cooked properly.

Larger lobsters in fact have somewhat better meat to total weight ratios than the small ones. This goes to the very heart of a Chuck life philosophy: I don’t get the mind that thinks it’s OK to give rich national grocery chains more of my money than I absolutely have to, so in the case of lobster this translates into: always buy one big one instead of two small ones!

For example, if you were in the mood for two 1 ½ pounders, get one around 2 ½ pounds if available; same meat weight at a lower cost. By the way, real small ones are often called Markets, or Chicks/Chickens, or some other weird name, all of which is a marketing guy’s way of saying they are likely less than 1 ¼ lbs.

Chez Chuck we are lucky to live in the Greater Toronto area (uh-oh, gave away another clue to our anonymous identity!) and so we have access to the best single store giant seafood retailer in North America in my humble opinion, as well as many outlets of a well known (who will remain nameless since we don’t promote) Canadian grocery chain known for its history of quality seafood products. If you’re not this lucky, you likely still have some local alternatives – it may not be perfect but now you know enough to select the best available!

Long first step, but it’s the only thing that really matters – with the best available product you are going to easily have the best possible lobster feast.

Step 2) Fill pot with water and steam accordingly 

For two lobsters fill a large stock pot with 2-3 inches of water; just enough that their heads will be fully submerged when put in head down, but no more water than that.

As an old east coast lobster fisherman told me in my youth “you don’t want to drown the buggers, just cook them”. This translates to: you don’t “boil” lobster, you steam it in the couple of inches of water in the bottom of the pot. There is also lots of crap written about how to kill them. All you have to do is wait until the water is boiling,  put them in head first and immediately put on the lid. As soon as pot re-boils, reduce to heavy simmer. Lots of crap also written about barbecuing them or baking or whatever. Ignore it all. Just simple steam and NO salt. In case you weren’t aware, they come from the ocean…

Steaming time is easy: 7 minutes for the first pound and 5 minutes for each pound thereafter (adjusted for appropriate fractions). When you first put them in they naturally fall over, so about 2/3 of the way through the total cook time, flip them 180 degrees once so they steam evenly.

Step 3) Serve the lobsters

There are only three things to ever add to lobster: butter (I use salted, but whatever); clear white vinegar; fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Everyone’s taste is difference but I find I only add anything to about half the bites, and mix it up. If you add anything else to lobster, you are a heretic and BEWARE the Spanish Inquisition!

Once you have recovered from the overwhelming bliss that lobster brings, I suggest you get the shells out of the house because next morning the smells are pretty indescribable…

Happy Lobster Fest!

Perfect Lobster
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