From what to look for when buying lobster to how to prevent it from overcooking, here's what you need to know.

By Kelly Vaughan
July 09, 2020
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Can you think of a better summer treat than a hot lobster roll with drawn butter, a wedge of lemon, and a side of potato chips or corn on the cob? We can't, which is why we're here to share how to cook the ultimate summer shellfish—slightly sweet, entirely succulent lobster—at home. From shopping for the perfect lobster in the grocery store to preventing the meat from overcooking, our experts share their top tips for cooking this summertime staple at home.

Shopping for Lobster

If you're purchasing live lobsters from the grocery store or fish market, choose ones that are lively and energetic. "If they look angry and are flapping their tales, this is a sign that they're fresh, healthy lobsters that haven't been sitting around in the tank for weeks," says Chef Erin French of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine. The weight and physicality of the lobster is also a good sign that they're fresh. "It should feel heavy, full, have intact antennas, and a hard shell," says Chef Preston Clark of New York City's Lure Fishbar.

How to Store Lobster

If you're not going to cook the lobsters right away, store them in the refrigerator in an open brown paper bag or box with damp newspaper and seaweed. For peak fresh flavor, you should cook the lobsters within 24 hours of bringing them home.

How to Cook Lobster

Whether you're steaming or boiling lobsters, use a very large pot (at least 16 quarts) so that the lobsters have plenty of room to cook. To boil lobsters, bring heavily salted water to a rapid boil. Insert the lobsters head first; one to one-and-a-half pound lobsters should cook for 11-12 minutes. If you're working with lobsters that are significantly larger, add another one to two minutes to the cooking time. To steam lobster, insert a steaming rack into a large pot and fill with two-and-a-half inches of water. Clark is a fan of adding aromatics to the steaming liquid such as seaweed, bay leaves, or lemon. Steam the lobster for 12 to 16 minutes, depending on the size, and serve immediately with drawn butter.

Once you've cooked the lobsters, take the meat out of the shell right away, even if you don't plan on eating it immediately. According to French, lobster meat that stays in the shell won't be as tender and high-quality. "Store the meat in the refrigerator in an airtight container or vacuum-sealed bag and use within three to five days," she says.

No matter which cooking method you choose, there's a surefire way to avoid overcooked lobster meat. French says set a timer and keep a close eye on the crustaceans. "Don't have a glass of wine, walk away, start having conversations, and forget about them."

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