How to cook lobster tails, including buying and defrosting.
If the prospect of acquiring and cooking a whole live lobster seems too daunting, buying frozen lobster tails may be the perfect alternative for a wonderful dinner, especially if you are looking to impress your guests.
Lobster tails are easier to obtain than whole lobsters, easier to prepare and easier on the pocket, and serving up a perfect platter of mouth-watering lobster tails will definitely provide you with a meal that your dinner guests are not likely to forget.
Feasting on lobster was formerly common amongst fishermen and sailors, yet nowadays it is considered a delicacy and a special treat for most.
Buying a whole lobster can be very expensive, and as most of the meat is found in the claws and in the tail, it may therefore be more economical to just buy a quantity of frozen lobster tails rather than the whole lobster itself.
Most of the frozen lobster tails that you will find on the market come from a spiny clawless species of lobster, of which there are around 45 different species all over the world.
Whereas a clawed lobster is preferable if you are eating a whole lobster; for lobster tails, the clawless species are much better, as their tails contain more meat in them.
Cold or warm water tails?
As you may expect, different types of lobster will taste and cook differently. With lobster tails, the difference is in whether the lobsters come from warm waters or cold waters.
Lobsters from cold waters are mainly found around South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, whilst warm water lobsters are found in the waters of Central and South America and Florida.
According to several expert seafood and shellfish chefs, one fifth of warm water lobster tails are poor quality, whereas lobster tail meat from cold water lobsters are very rarely "bad".
This is a fact that is reflected in the price of lobster tails. Cold water lobster tails will be significantly more expensive, however you will almost always be guaranteed an excellent tasting and good quality lobster meat.
On the other hand, purchasing warm water lobster tails will be cheaper, yet you may be disappointed with what you buy. If you particularly want to prepare a special meal to impress, it is probably safer to pay the extra for better and guaranteed quality.
When a warm water lobster tail is "bad", the lobster meat may either remain mushy after cooking, fall apart on eating or contain a pungent smell of ammonia.
Cold water lobster tails are said to taste cleaner, have a whiter appearance and be much more tender in texture.
Buying frozen lobster tails
When buying frozen lobster tails, you should always buy from a fish market that is well known for selling good quality produce.
If you are unsure of where the lobster tails on sale originate from, as there are no signs, make sure to ask the vendor if they are warm water or cold water tails. If he does not know, assume that they are warm water tails, especially if they are priced inexpensively. Good quality cold water tails will not be priced very cheaply.
Look out for any discolouring of the meat and avoid tails that have a grey colour or black spots in the flesh.
Lobster tails can usually be bought in different sizes ranging from around 3 oz to as large as 24 oz.
Defrost the lobster tails
The lobster tails may be cooked from frozen, however, the best results are obtained if the tails are defrosted first.
To defrost the lobster tails, place them in the refrigerator for a period of 8 - 10 hours or alternatively place them in a bowl of cold water. They can be defrosted in the microwave, but make sure that you do not start to cook them instead.
Once the tails have been completely defrosted, they will be ready to cook.
How to cook lobster tails
There are several methods of cooking lobster tails. They can be boiled, grilled, steamed or baked.
Boiled lobster tails
Steamed lobster tails
- Fill a large saucepan with water and add 1 teaspoon of salt for each litre of water.
- Bring the water to the boil and drop the lobster tails into the pan.
- Boil the tails for about 1 minute per oz of total weight. If there are 5 oz of lobster tails, you will need to cook them for 5 minutes.
- Drain the lobster tails and serve hot with melted butter, lemon juice or mayonnaise.
Grilled lobster tails
- Pour 1 cup of water into the bottom of a pan and add salt.
- Bring the water to the boil.
- Insert a wooden skewer or cocktail stick down the length of each lobster tail. This will prevent them from curling up upon steaming.
- Place the tails on a steaming rack placed inside the pan and cover with a lid.
- Steam the tails for about 7 or 8 minutes, drain and serve hot.
Baked lobster tails
- Insert a wooden skewer into the lobster tails to prevent them from curling on boiling.
- Prepare a large saucepan of salted water according to instructions above for boiling lobster tails.
- Once the water has reached a fierce boil, drop the tails in and cook for 4 minutes.
- Drain the tails and position them on their backs once they have cooled slightly.
- With a sharp knife, split the soft top shell of the tail, lengthways down the middle, but leave the hard shell underneath in tact.
- Pour some melted butter and lemon juice over the meat of the tails or brush a marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, salt pepper, garlic powder and paprika over the meat and place shell side down into a pre-heated grill.
- Grill for approximately 7 - 8 minutes under a medium - hot heat or until the meat is opaque, no longer transparent and firm to the touch.
- If you wish, you may turn the tails over half way through cooking.
- Remove from the grill and serve hot with lemon, melted butter or mayonnaise.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
- Split the soft shell of the lobster tail in half lengthways with a sturdy knife.
- Place the lobster tails on a baking tray and brush them with melted butter.
- Bake in the oven for between 8 and 10 minutes.
- Serve hot with lemon slices, melted butter or mayonnaise.