How to Boil Lobster in 6 Easy Steps

how to cook lobster

For the longest time, we thought of lobster as food that only existed in two places: stuffy restaurants that serve it on domed silver platters and charge more than our mortgage, and dockside cafés that jut out from the rocky Maine coastline on a summer day. But while we’re not knocking either of those experiences (especially our little Maine fantasy), we’ve since come to realize that enjoying lobster in our own kitchen is literally as easy as boiling water. And if we can do it, we promise you can too. Here’s your official guide for how to boil lobster.

Step 1: Pick Your Victims

This is the tough part. That said, here’s how you pick a good one: Look for a lobster with a little pep in his step (no bottom dwellers, please), no visible cracks in the shell and no missing limbs. (Bonus points for any lobster couples holding claws, like we presume Ross and Rachel are doing in sitcom heaven.) Lobsters can only live for 36 hours out of seawater, so you’ll want to go shopping on the day you plan to cook. Once you bring home your lobsters, store them in the refrigerator (not the freezer) until you’re ready to cook.

Step 2: Pick Your Pot 

Think like David Foster Wallace and consider the lobster (or at least, the size thereof). An eight-quart stockpot will hold one lobster; a 16-ounce pot could fit two or three. It’s important not to crowd the lobsters as they cook, so work in batches if you’re doing a bunch.

Step 3: Boil The Water

Once you’ve chosen your pot, fill it three-quarters full of water. Add a tablespoon of salt for every quart of water—the water should be as salty as seawater. Bring to a rolling boil.

Step 4: Drop In The Lobsters

OK, this is the scary part. Grab the lobster by the body and drop him claws-first into the boiling water. (Tip taken directly from Annie Hall: Don’t drop him and let him run under the refrigerator.) You can take the rubber bands off the claws right before you lower the lobster into the pot, but if you’re nervous, it’s fine to leave them on.

Step 5: Boil The Lobsters

Once our friendly crustaceans are safely in their hot tub, bring the water back to a boil. Then boil the lobsters for 10 to 20 minutes, according to weight. Keep an eye on the pot: You’ll know the lobster is done when the shell turns bright red. 

How long to boil lobster:

  • One-pound lobster should take 10 to 13 minutes
  • 1½-pound lobster will take 12 to 18 minutes
  • Two-pound lobster will take 18 to 23 minutes 

Step 6: Serve And Enjoy

Use tongs to lift the lobsters out of the boiling water and place them on a plate to drain and cool. When they’re cool enough to handle, transfer them to plates with nutcrackers, bowls of melted butter and about twice as many napkins as you think you’re going to need. Also, we’re not trying to tell you how to live your life, but in our opinion, it would be criminal not to make extra so you have enough for lobster rolls tomorrow.

Mini Lobster Rolls