If you are lucky enough to live in Maine, you have endless access to amazing fresh lobster. If you are on the coast, fresh lobster is still fairly often readily accessible. However, if you, like me, are in the middle of the country, fresh lobster is harder to come by, and even more expensive than the usually super-pricy crustacean. Great for a splurge, but not really useful for any sort of regular consumption.
Your best bet? Frozen lobster tails. Even Costco usually has these in stock, and the prices are much more palatable. Lobster tails are also much easier to prep and cook, since you don’t have to worry about managing the bodies or claws. All meat, so also a good value when you look at the price per pound. But how do you make them shine?
Thaw your lobster tails.
Place the tails on a rack over a sheet pan lined with paper towels. You want the water created by the thawing to drain away from the tails so that they don’t soak in the liquid, which will make them soggy. Too much liquid and they’ll get a little mushy during cooking and not be as good a texture when you eat them. Place the pan in your fridge and let thaw overnight.
Decide on your preparation.
Do you need the meat for a recipe removed from the shell, or do you want to serve whole in the shell? Do you want to steam, broil, or grill? If you are not working from an existing recipe, use this handy guide for basic cooking methods.
Prep your tails.
If you need to remove the meat from the shell raw, use a kitchen scissor to cut down the inner shell of the tail, starting at the large open end where it was removed from the body and cutting carefully down. Using a kitchen towel to protect your hands, grasp the two sides of the shell and pull outward, opening the shell like you would open a book with a really stiff spine! You should be able to remove the raw flesh from the shell and continue with your recipe directions.
This is the easiest way to prepare lobster tails and results in the most tender meat. It is especially good if you are going to use the meat to make lobster salad or lobster rolls. If you want the tails to be straighter for presentation, you can insert a wooden skewer into the center of the meat all the way thru the end of the tail which will prevent curling. Set up your steamer with two inches of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Set up an ice bath or run your cold water as cold as it will go so that you can stop the cooking when it is done. Place your tails in the steamer and cover with the lid. Tails will take between 4-8 minutes depending on size and how cold they are when they go in, you are looking for the shell to be evenly bright red and the flesh to be opaque. When they are done, drop them in the ice bath or run briefly under cold water to stop the cooking. Cut the shell down the center of the backside and gently pull the tail out of the shell and then serve as desired.
If you want a showier tail, cut an inch-wide strip out of the center of the back of the tail revealing the meat below. Set a rack in your oven in the top third and place your tails on a sheet pan with the exposed flesh side up. Brush with melted butter or a neutral oil. Heat your broiler to high and when fully heated, place your lobster tails in the oven. Broil for 4-5 minutes until the flesh is cooked. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce of your choice.
If the weather permits, grilling can be a great way to bring some extra punch to your lobster tails. To grill, carefully cut through the top shell down the middle, then using a heavy chef’s knife or cleaver, cut down through the opening in the shell, and cut all the way through the softer underside, leaving the end of the tail connected, and open the two sides like a book for a butterflied look. Brush with a neutral oil and grill over direct heat, flesh side down, for 2 minutes. Serve hot.