Boiling a Maine lobster is the easiest way to cook and serve a whole lobster and a boiled lobster is easier to pick clean. When you have that large picnic or party and the kettle is kept full all day with lobster, boiling is just so much easier. But steaming a lobster often yields the best results for eating.
Here’s why: steaming is a more gentle process of cooking the meat and it preserves more flavor and tenderness. Steaming a lobster is also more forgiving on the chef since it is harder to overcook a lobster in a steam pot. For true lobster lovers, steaming is the way to go.
So let’s get started.
First step is to order some freshly caught, hard shell Maine lobster. Hard shells are recommended as the lobsters are usually stronger and healthier and the hard shell lobster will have the most meat.
Then choose a big four to five-gallon kettle or pot with a tight lid. This size pot should be able to easily handle up to eight pounds of lobster. Remember, don’t crowd the lobster into the pot or you will get uneven results. It is best to have the right size pot.
Add two to three inches of sea water to the cover the bottom of the pot. If you don’t have access to the Atlantic Ocean, don’t worry. Use filtered fresh water and add lots of sea salt: one to two tablespoons per quart.
Place a steaming rack inside the pot and use high heat to bring the water to a rolling boil. If you wish, you may remove the rubber lobster claw bands. Place the live lobster one at a time and head first into the pot and cover. Start timing the lobster and do not overcook.
Hard Shell Weight*
35-45 (or more) minutes
*Reduce time by 3 minutes for soft shell lobster.
Half way through the allotted cook time, open the lid and move the lobster around in the pot. It is important to shift the lobster so they all cook evenly. If necessary, you may add a little more water but no more salt is required.
The most important step for all lobster chefs is determining when the lobsters are done. The first rule, do not to overcook the lobster. A lobster shell will be bright red when fully cooked and the meat white.
So what’s the best way to tell when the lobsters are done?
Care must be taken with large lobster as they will be red but they may not be fully cooked. And a lobster in the top of the pot may not have cooked as fast as one at the bottom.
One popular practice is to give one of the lobster antennae a good pull while the lobster is still in the steamer pot. If the antenna pops off, it is a good sign the lobster is done. Another step is to use tongs to remove one lobster and cut a small slice at the bottom of the tail. If the meat is fully changed form translucent to white, it’s done. Note: The lobster will continue to cook for a minute even after it’s taken out of the pot, so again, do not overcook.
Allow steamed lobster to drain for a minute. You may pierce the body and tail with a knife to help drain the water. Then serve the lobster right away with a side of melted butter and a slice of lemon. To make eating fun and easy, serve with lobster bib and steel cracker accessory kits.
The next time you invite the family over for a lobster outing try this traditional old-time favorite Maine lobster steamed-in-beer recipe. It’s a fun, easy way to prepare lobster and gives the lobster a great, robust down-east flavor.
You will need a pot or steaming kettle large enough to hold six lobsters, some seasalt, beer, fresh whole lemons and butter. That’s it.
Add about an inch of water to the pot. (Some Mainers use only beer)
If you don’t have seawater, add two tablespoons of sea salt. You need to add salt even if you use all beer. Always add salt when cooking live lobster.
Add two 12-oz. cans of beer, IPA beer is a good choice. Don’t use light beer.
Bring the water and beer to a roiling boil over high heat.
Remove the rubber bands from the claws and add the lobsters head first. Cover tightly. Wait for the pot to return to boil and start timing.
Steam the lobsters 14 to 15 minutes. About halfway through, stir the lobster at least once to move the bottom lobsters to the top of the pot.
Melt the butter in small pan and slice the lemon into wedges.
When done the lobsters will be a bright red and the tails will be curled under the body of the lobster. Remove the lobsters with tongs and pierce the body with chef’s knife to allow water to drain.
Serve immediately with melted butter poured in ramekins, lemon wedges and cracking utensils.
Note, if you want to cook different size lobsters you can. For each pound, cook the lobster 13 minutes. Then three minutes for each additional pound. While steaming is a flexible way to prepare lobster, be careful not to overcook.
Are you ready to enjoy your Maine Lobster? Here’s a few tips on how to eat a whole Maine Lobster and have you looking like a seafood aficionado in no time.
First gather up a nutcracker (or pliers), a small fork and nut pick. After molting, a lobster will have a soft shell and be pliable. If you have a hard shell lobster, a pair of lobster scissors will make short work of cracking the claws and getting the meat out.
Before serving it is best to let a boiled or steamed lobster drain for a minute. It’s a good idea to pierce the tail at the chest of the body with a chef’s knife to allow water to drain faster. Serve the lobster hot.
A bib is recommended when cracking as you can never tell when some water is likely to spray out right onto your shirt. Make sure you have plenty of towels, too. Melt the butter and slice up some lemon. Put the bib on and you are ready.
Hold the body of the lobster with one hand and twist the claw off with the other. The claw will break off where it connects to the body.
Crack each claw along its length with the nut cracker or cut with the lobster shell open with the lobster scissors. Remove the meat from the claws by pushing the meat out from the end of the claw with the small fork or pick.
Grab the lobster body again and twist the tail from the body. Pull the flippers from the tail. Crack the tail along its length and push the meat out from one end with the fork. Remove the tail meat in one piece and discard the vein that runs along the length. Next pick the meat from the flippers.
Twist the small legs from the body and remove the meat from the legs with the pick. You can also choose to squeeze the meat from the legs with your teeth.
Next separate the shell from the body by pulling the shell apart on the underside. The shell will disconnect from the body exposing the tenderest meat of the lobster. Remove and discard the green substance called the tomalley. Remove the meat from the body and leg joints with a pick.
The rest of the lobster should be discarded.
Note: If found, the roe (red female eggs) are often considered a delicacy and used to make lobster butter or is used in the stuffing for baked stuffed lobster.