Grilling lobster at home or a clambake.
Dry-heat cooking on the grill adds rich flavors to lobster meat. There’s something uniquely complementary about lobster cooked over a flame. That’s probably what drives the popularity of grilling lobster. That, and being outdoors and the portability of grills, I suppose. But all dry-heat cooking methods, on the grill or in the household kitchen oven, have their idiosyncrasies, ★ on “Dry-Heat” Cooking.
First, however, all dry-heat options require the lobsters be dead. We do not grill live lobsters. At our house, we blanch our lobsters for two minutes, ★ on Blanching Lobsters. Others prefer to pierce the nerve channel at the base of the head with the point of a sharp chef’s knife. In either instance, once dead grilling lobster can begin immediately; or, wrap them in a kitchen towel and stow them in the refrigerator for up to two days before grilling. Dry-heat cooking in the shell, takes attention to be sure all parts cook evenly and don’t dry out. When the shell turns red and you easily can pull out an antenna, they are not undercooked. (Also, when an instant-read thermometer registers an internal temperature of 140 degrees it is not undercooked.)
Over-cooking is a concern with all seafood. Regardless of the cooking method, over cooking results in less juicy, less enjoyable, tougher meat. We think that is particularly problematic on a grill.
Here’s our approach to grilling lobster:
We cut the body in two, right down he middle, from antenna to tail, exposing two equal halves of the meat. We crack the claws, not wide open, but simply break the shell enough to allow the flames to do their magic when we place the meat on the grill. The knuckle meat seems to get done when the claws are done.
Then we make a simple marinade, which we apply quite liberally to the exposed tail-halves. We dip the cracked claws into the marinade for a few minutes, too. A marinade can enhance the taste but its primary purpose is to keep the meat from drying out in the dry heat. We use lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and black pepper, for example, for our quick marinade.
We stretch the body- and tail-halves over the hot flames, making sure the knuckles and claws are more at the edge of the fire where the heat is lower. After a minute or so, we slather more marinade on the exposed tail-halves and turn the split body over, so the split-tail meat is directly over the flames, for say, three minutes. Then we turn the split bodies back. And here is where we touch the exposed tail meat with a finger. It should be soft and giving. When it starts to get firm, we immediately remove it from the fire.
If there are many guests of different ages, we separate the claws form the knuckles; the knuckles from the carapace; and the tail-haves from the carapace. And we put them all in a bowl that we put out on the table for guest to help themselves. If we have four or six guests, we set out the whole lobster halves on a platter on the table.
Because the tail meat is exposed, it is easier for guests of all ages to extract and enjoy. Because the bodies are split, a child or any person with a smaller appetite can start with one half. A strapping teen or hungry adult may start with two half-bodies. Extras may be available for some guests, or extras can be set aside, wrapped, and put in the refrigerator for salads or roles the next day.
That’s what we do and it seems to work for us. But there are many roads to Maine.