Boiling lobster is the traditional cooking method
Boiling lobster for any home-event celebration is the easiest and clearest recipe to follow. The most important thing to watch when boiling is not to grossly overcook. It’s good to have a clock or a timer handy. Once you learn how long to let the lobster stay in the boiling water, it’s easy peasy. And your lobsters will be juicy and full of the classic lobster smells and taste.
Chefs we know say the meat is easier to get out of the shell when lobsters are boiled. So, for guests who enjoy lingering and extracting all the meat out of the tail, the claws, knuckles, legs and the carapace, boiling is a great choice.
Boiling lobster at home on the stove:
For boiling, choose the largest pot available, even if it’s for only two lobsters. The more room the merrier. Avoid overcrowding. A 16- to 20-quart pot is large enough to hold about eight pounds worth. But don’t be stressed if you don’t have the exact quart-to-pound ratio. Don’t get stressed about anything. Enjoy doing with what you have. They should be boiled submerged, so they cook evenly. Go with that rule.
One minute or two minutes on either side of any recipe’s suggested boiling time will not have a major impact on how they taste or how fun or engaging they are for the average guest to savor. With this in mind, fill your pot three-quarters full of seawater, or tap water with some added salt. Then go talk to your guests. Or, set out the table with side dishes and drinks, maybe.
About 20 minutes before you want to begin eating, bring the water to a rolling boil. Submerge chilled lobsters head first, and return to a boil as quickly as possible.
When water returns to an energetic boil, cover the pot tightly. Only then, start monitoring the time, as per the chart below.
Remove them from the boiling pot, put them in the sink to let them cool down a bit and let water run out. If they’re hot, they are still cooking. After sink time, serve when you are able. Remember, they are not more or less enjoyable hot than warm. If guests want to pick away for all the meat, it takes a while, like maybe an hour, and the last mouthful of this room-temperature entrée is usually as wonderful as the first.
Size: Cooking time Sink time
1 & 1/4 pound 7 minutes 1 minute
1 & 1/2 pound 8 minutes 1 minute
1 & 3/4 pound 9 minutes 2 minutes
2 pounds 10 minutes 2 minutes
3 pounds 13 minutes 2 minutes
4 pounds 16 minutes 3 minutes
5 pounds 18 minutes 4 minutes
A lobster is fully cooked when its raw translucent meat has turned white. If the shell is bright red and you can easily pull out an antenna, it is probably ready. If you remove a tail and the meat still looks translucent, simply return it to the boiling water for a minute or two more. We serve with melted butter and lemon wedges. But, there is some wonderful buttery olive oils available, too. And, some folks, myself included, can enjoy the marvelous taste better without butter or oil. A little salt is all.