Basic Lobster Cookingby Sidney Carlisle
Selecting and Cooking Lobsters
Finding the perfect entrée for a special holiday gathering can be a chore. Turkey, ham or even goose may be required for a family meal, but when planning a menu for guests most of us want to serve something unique. Lobster fits the bill nicely since almost everyone likes it and not everyone will attempt to prepare it at home.
Lobsters are easy to cook, a fact not often shared among friends. While they may be broiled or grilled, they are also delicious when just boiled or steamed. Boiling is probably the simplest method, as long as a large stockpot is available, and the cooked lobsters need only melted butter as an accompaniment.
Acquiring decent lobsters may be a challenge, but even that is manageable if you know where to look. Unless you live on the east coast of the U.S., live lobsters are available three ways: from a fishmonger, from a supermarket tank or from an air freight purveyor. Fishmongers are few and far between in Texas, leaving most of us to choose from the tank or splurge on the more expensive freighted lobsters.
Lobsters shipped by air arrive at their destination the day after they're caught and are guaranteed to be fresh and lively. Supermarket lobsters can actually exist for weeks in a store's closed system tank, an ordeal that can leave them sluggish. They lose weight if held for long and the claw meat begins to shrink, so it's important to choose carefully to get a healthy lobster. Many lobster fans believe there's a big difference in the taste and that shipped lobsters are well worth the price.
Timing can be important when ordering lobsters by air. Although the lobsters are carefully packaged in special containers for air travel, they can survive for only about 36 hours. Shippers recommend that the lobsters be cooked and served on the day they arrive. If that's not possible, the lobsters should be partially cooked and then refrigerated until needed. They will need to be dropped back into boiling water to finish cooking. While instructions may differ from shipper to shipper, live lobsters packs should contain complete directions for their preparation.
Lobster tails are also popular with savvy cooks. Tails may be easier to obtain than fresh lobsters since upscale seafood markets either keep them in stock or have a source for special orders. They are almost always frozen and are available in sizes ranging from 3 to 24 ounces. Once thawed, they may be served grilled or boiled. The meat from the tails may also be used in recipes specifying cooked lobster meat.
Whether you opt for a box of live lobsters or are dealing with tails, the following should guide you through the cooking process. And for great grilled lobster, try the recipes shared by Dan Zawacki. The founder of Lobster Gram (www.livelob.com), Dan ships lobsters all over the world. He's known in culinary circles as Dan the Lobster Man and as the ultimate lobster cook. Enjoy!
To Boil LobsterUse a pot big enough to hold 6 quarts of water and two lobsters at a time. (You can get large stock-pots from Amazon by clicking here) Bring the water to a boil. Drop the lobsters in headfirst and cover the pot. Once the water returns to a boil, cook 10 minutes for the first pound of lobster and 3 minutes for each additional pound. (If the lobsters weigh 1-1/2 pounds each, they will be done in about 12 minutes. Base the time on the weight of one lobster, not the total weight.) Remove the cooked lobsters from the pot and drain before serving.
To Steam LobsterPlace a rack in the bottom of a pot that will hold the lobsters without crowding. Add two inches of water and 1 tablespoon of salt. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil. Add the lobsters and cover the pot. Weight down the lid so the steam doesn't escape. Once the water returns to a boil, cook about 14 minutes for 1 pound lobsters, adding 2 minutes per 1/4 pound on lobsters heavier than 1 pound. Base the time on the weight of one lobster, not the total weight.
To Cook Lobster TailsThaw the tails in the refrigerator or in a bowl of cold water. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the lobster tails and bring the water back to a boil. Cook 7 minutes for 5-ounce tails, 7-1/2 minutes for 6-ounce, and about 8 minutes if the tails weigh 8 ounces.
Maine Lobster on the Grill by Dan Zawacki
For two grilled lobsters, fill a stockpot with enough water cover the lobsters. Bring the water to a boil and plunge the lobsters headfirst into the water. Cover the pot. When the water returns to a boil, cook for 6 minutes. Turn the lobsters on their backs, shell side down. Use a sharp knife to cut through the middle of the soft shell, but don't cut through the back shell. Pour melted butter and lemon right onto the meat. Crack the claws and pour additional melted butter and lemon on the claw meat. Grill the lobsters over medium-high heat with the shell side down for 8 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
Grilled Lobster Tails by Dan Zawacki
Thaw the desired number of lobster tails. Insert a metal skewer into each tail lengthwise to keep it from curling. Drop the tails into a large pot of boiling water and set a timer for exactly 4 minutes. Remove from the water and lay the tails on their backs. Use a sharp knife to cut the soft top shell lengthwise down the middle without cutting through the back shell. Pour melted butter and lemon onto the meat. Grill, shell side down, over medium-high heat about 7 minutes for 6-ounce tails and 8 minutes for 8-ounce tails.
Sidney Carlisle lives on a ranch in Meridian, Texas