Cooking and handling of live lobsters

One of the most important steps in cooking live lobster is properly storing and keeping your live lobster. Live lobsters are extremely perishable; therefore, you should plan to cook them within 24 hours of receiving them. Here are some rules to follow when storing live lobsters:

  • After receiving your live lobsters, remove the lid and place the entire box in the refrigerator.
  • If you cannot fit the entire box, place the lobsters in a large bowl or in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator and store them overnight.
  • The key is to keep them between 35º and 45ºF.
  • Never place the lobsters in freshwater or airtight containers.
  • Do not put live lobsters in the freezer.


Steaming live lobsters

For many lobster lovers, steaming lobster is a rite of passage. Steaming whole lobster is the preferred cooking method, as it enhances the lobster’s natural flavor and allows you to monitor the lobster carefully for doneness, reducing the risk of overcooking it.

  • You will need a large deep pot, large enough to fit the lobsters.
  • Place steamer basket in pot (optional).
  • Pour 2 inches of water into the pot along with a little salt and bring water to a heavy boil.
  • Add lobsters, taking care not to overcrowd the pot, and cover with lid. Make sure there is some room between the lobsters and the lid to ensure plenty of room for steam to rise through all the lobsters.
  • Refer to the timetable below for steaming lobsters but do not rely on these timetables alone (heat of boil/steam/elevation all affect cooking time).


Cooking time will vary by size:

  • 1lb to 1.25lbs: 9 minutes
  • 1.25lbs to 1.5lbs: 10 minutes
  • 1.5lbs to 2lbs: 11 minutes
  • 2lbs to 2.5lbs: 13 minutes
  • 2.5lbs to 3lbs: 15 minutes
  • 3lbs and up: 17 minutes


Boiling Live Lobsters

Boiling lobster is another method for cooking whole lobsters. Boiling cooks the lobsters faster than steaming and makes the meat easier to remove from the shells.

  • You will need a large deep pot, large enough to cover the lobsters in water.
  • Fill the pot with enough water to completely submerge the lobsters, add a little salt, and bring water to a heavy boil.
  • When the water reaches its boiling point, place the lobsters one at a time into the boiling water and cover.
  • Refer to the timetable below for boiling lobsters but do not rely on these timetables alone (heat of boil/elevation all affect cooking time).


Cooking time will vary by size:

  • 1lb to 1.25lbs: 7 minutes
  • 1.25lbs to 1.5lbs: 8 minutes
  • 1.5lbs to 2lbs: 9 minutes
  • 2lbs to 2.5lbs: 10 minutes
  • 2.5lbs to 3lbs: 11 minutes
  • 3lbs and up: 13 minutes


When are lobsters done/cooked?

Cooked lobsters will turn bright red, and the meat will turn opaque white at the end of either a boil or steam. The old trick most Mainers use is the antenna test: if the antenna pulls off easily with a little tug, the lobster is done. For larger lobsters (2lbs+), we advise that you let them cook a few more minutes after the antenna pulls off.

Now what?

Once the lobster is cooked, remove it from the pot. Be careful, as the lobster will be extremely hot! You can serve the lobster whole or separate the claws, knuckles, and tail by pulling them apart from the body. Crack the lobster’s claws with a mallet and remove the meat. For the tails, lay them flat on a sturdy surface. Using your hands, press against the middle of the lobster tail to crack the shells and remove the meat. Before serving, check to make sure all the shells have been removed.

Some studies have shown that killing a lobster before cooking is more humane. If you choose to take this step, here’s how you do it.

  • Place your live lobster on a cutting board.
  • Locate the line that separates the head from the torso.
  • The next step needs to be done as fast and quickly as possible. Holding the lobster firmly with one hand, find the line that separates the head from the torso. Put the tip of your knife at that line, with the knife handle pointing toward the front of the lobster. Then, cut down into the head, splitting the head in half lengthwise.


Final Tip: Right before you are going to put the lobster in the pot, remove the bands around the claws. Once the bands have been removed, be very careful, as a lobster’s pinch can be strong enough to break fingers!