Lobster is one of the most delicious types of shellfish widely available, but it is also one of the most intimidating types for inexperienced cooks to tackle. Since lobster usually costs more per pound than other types of seafood and shellfish, the fear of making a mistake stops many people from even attempting to cook it.
With the right approach, you can easily cook up a delicious lobster meal without any specialty equipment. Prepare you for your first experience cooking lobster by learning what to do and when to do it.
1. Handle the Lobster Properly
First, your cooking process will vary slightly depending on whether you buy live lobsters, fresh nonliving crustaceans, or flash frozen shellfish. Any frozen lobsters need to defrost slowly in the refrigerator or under cold running water before being cooked. If you try to defrost them faster in a microwave or other heating method, the lobsters will result in a chewy texture and reduced flavor.
Many people prefer live lobsters because they're guaranteed to be as fresh as possible. However, you'll need to keep them alive while you're waiting to cook. Don't put them in a bucket or bowl of water, but do put them in a damp and securely closed cardboard box and keep them in the coldest part of your refrigerator.
The same cooking methods work for lobster regardless of whether it's alive or not. If you're squeamish about the idea of steaming or boiling something alive, flash frozen or recently dispatched lobsters offer nearly the same quality.
2. Prepare to Steam
Many television shows and movies show boiling as the primary method used for cooking lobsters, and boiling is one option. Yet many chefs and seafood experts agree that steaming is a better way to cook lobster. Steaming is a much more forgiving cooking method that won't cause your lobster to turn tough or lose flavor if you accidentally cook the shellfish for a minute or two more than what's recommended.
You can use the same large and spacious pot you would normally need for boiling, but you will also need a rack or steamer plate that fits the pot and can handle the weight of the lobsters. Then check a steaming chart to figure out how many minutes to cook your lobster based on its weight. Most recommendations range from 10 minutes for a 1.5 pound lobster to 20 minutes for a 3 to 4 pound crustacean.
3. Check Your Cooking
You must trust that your lobster is perfectly cooked at the specified time to avoid overcooking the delicate meat inside the shell. Most cooks are experienced in looking for certain visual or physical signs that food is done cooking, such as feeling the softness of a steak.
You can check a lobster from your steaming pot to make sure it's done. Grab one of the cooking lobsters with a pair of large tongs and place it on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, break the tail away from the rest of the shell. A fully cooked lobster will show solid white meat inside this seam. Any lingering translucency or other coloration indicates the lobsters need a little more time.
If you need to keep cooking, return the one you opened to the point in both pieces to allow it to finish cooking with minimal impact on the meat quality, especially if you chose the steaming method.
Tackle the tasty challenge of cooking lobster at home by picking up a few from us here at Vince's Shellfish Company. We offer lobsters in a variety of weight options so you can buy just the right amount for your romantic dinner for two or dinner party for 12.