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Steamed or Boiled Lobster Preparation

Sea Water or Salted Water

Lobster boiled or steamed in sea water maintains its characteristic ocean taste. But not every cook has access to a few gallons of the Atlantic Ocean, so boiling or steaming in well-salted water is the next best thing. 

Benefits of Boiling

Boiling and steaming are the methods of choice when you want to serve diners a whole lobster. Boiling is a little quicker and easier to time precisely, and the meat comes out of the shell more readily than when steamed. For recipes that call for fully cooked and picked lobster meat boiling is the best approach.

Benefits of Steaming

In contrast, steaming is more gentle, yielding slightly more tender meat. It preserves a little more flavor and it’s more forgiving on the timing front. It’s harder to overcook a steamed lobster.

Benefits of Parboiling or blanching

When you need partially cooked lobster meat for a dish, parboiling is the way to go. Parboiling, or blanching, cooks the lobster just enough so that the meat can be removed from the shell. Then you can chill the meat down and reuse it later in a dish that calls for further cooking.

The following methods and recommended timings are from Jasper White’s authoritative Lobster at Home (Scribner, 1998).

Boiling Instructions

Choose a pot large enough to hold all the lobsters comfortably; do not crowd them. A 4- to 5-gallon pot can handle 6 to 8 pounds of lobster. Fill with water, allowing 3 quarts of water per 1-1/2 to 2 pounds of lobster. Add sea salt (to taste) to water. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Add the live lobsters one at a time, and start timing immediately. Do not cover. Stir the lobsters halfway through cooking. Let the lobsters rest for 5 minutes or so after cooking to allow the meat to absorb some of the moisture in the shell.

For timing, use the weight of individual lobsters, not total weight of all lobsters being cooked.

If the lobster weighs: Boil:
1 pound 8 minutes
1 1/4 pounds 9-10 minutes
1 1/2 pounds 11-12 minutes
1 3/4 pounds 12-13 minutes
2 pounds 15 minutes
2 1/2 pounds 20 minutes
3 pounds 25 minutes
5 pounds 35-40 minutes

 

Steaming Instructions

Choose a pot large enough to hold all the lobsters comfortably; do not crowd them. A 4- to 5-gallon pot can handle 6 to 8 pounds of lobster. Put 2 inches of seawater or salted water in the bottom of a large kettle. Set a steaming rack inside the pot and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the live lobsters one at a time, cover the pot, and start timing. Halfway through, lift the lid (careful—the steam is hot) and shift the lobsters around so they cook evenly.

For timing, use the weight of individual lobsters, not total weight of all lobsters being cooked.

If the lobster weighs: Steam:
1 pound 10 minutes
1-1/4 pounds 12 minutes
1-1/2 pounds 14 minutes
1-3/4 pounds 16 minutes
2 pounds 18 minutes
2-1/2 pounds 22 minutes
3 pounds 25-30 minutes
5 pounds 40-45 minutes


Parboiling/blanching Instructions

Follow directions for boiling lobsters. Cook 2 minutes or as the long as the recipe indicates. It’s easiest to remove the meat while the lobsters are still warm. If you will be cooking them further in the shell, plunge the partially cooked lobsters into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and refrigerate until ready to use.

How to Tell When Lobster are Cooked

Cooked lobsters will turn bright red, but that’s not the best indicator of doneness, especially for large lobsters. They may still be underdone when the shell turns red. Jasper White recommends cooking the lobsters for the recommended time, then cracking one open where the carapece meets the tail. If it's done, the meat will have changed from translucent to white.

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