Gallery: The Food Lab: How To Cook and Shuck a Lobster

Shucks Away
Shucks Away

I find the easiest way to shuck large amounts of lobster is to do it assembly-line style. Crack all the shells first, then pick all the meat.

Step 1: Kill It
Step 1: Kill It

It's not necessary, but if you'd like to kill the lobster before cooking it, do so by driving a knife into the center of its head and pushing down to split it open.

Step 2: Grab the Tail
Step 2: Grab the Tail

Grab the tail and the carapace firmly in your hands.

Step 3: Twist it Off
Step 3: Twist it Off

Twist off the tail, being careful not to stick your fingers into the underside—the lobster tail can stil contract quite forcefully through reflex reactions even when completely separated from the body, pinching your fingers.

Step 4: Set Aside
Step 4: Set Aside

Set the separated tail aside.

Step 5: Twist Off the Claws
Step 5: Twist Off the Claws

Twist off the claws below the first knuckle. The goal is to keep as much edible meat as possible.

Step 6: Repeat
Step 6: Repeat

Repeat with the second claw.

Step 7: Ready To Steam
Step 7: Ready To Steam

All the pieces, ready to cook. The head can be frozen and saved for stock if you'd like. Otherwise, take off the legs and discard the rest of the head.

Step 8: Steam
Step 8: Steam

Start cooking by steaming the lobsters over boiling water. The goal is to steam just long enough to get the meat to set. This takes just about 2 minutes.

Step 9: Done Steaming
Step 9: Done Steaming

Sometimes the lobsters tails will still be twitching a tiny bit even after the initial two minute steam. This is a reflex reaction. Don't worry about it.

Step 10: Roast
Step 10: Roast

Transfer the lobsters to a 350°F oven and roast until each piece hits 135°F. That's about 7 minutes for the claws and 15 for the tails.

Step 11: Take the Temp
Step 11: Take the Temp

Make sure to use your thermometer! This tail was slightly overcooked. Oops.

Step 12: Start Cracking
Step 12: Start Cracking

To peel the tails, start by running the under cold water to cool them a bit.

Step 13: Press Hard
Step 13: Press Hard

Crack the tails lengthwise by squeezing them hard. This will make it easier to split them open.

Step 14: Pull Open
Step 14: Pull Open

Pull the tails open lengthwise.

Step 15: Pick the Meat
Step 15: Pick the Meat

Pull the tail meat out in one large piece.

Step 16: Wash out the Gunk
Step 16: Wash out the Gunk

Lobsters sometimes have gunk running down their tails (gunk being the technical term). You can wash this out by running cold water into the tract, or if you're chopping the meat anyway, just wash it out after splitting the tails in half.

Step 17: Break off the Pincher
Step 17: Break off the Pincher

Break off the small pincer. If you do it carefully, you can break it off and remove the shell without taking the meat with it. This is the goal. But it's ok if you don't meet it.

Step 18: Remove the Cartilage
Step 18: Remove the Cartilage

Oops, I broke of the small bit of meat. That's fine. Once you've removed it, pull out the cartilage that extends into the main compartment of the claw and discard it

Step 19: Pick Out Any Hangers-On
Step 19: Pick Out Any Hangers-On

Sometimes meat gets stuck inside the little pincher, in which case you may have to fish it out with a chopstick or skewer.

Step 20: Attack the Claw
Step 20: Attack the Claw

Place the large part of the claw on a clean(ish) dish towel.

Step 21: Smack It
Step 21: Smack It

Fold the towel over and rap the claw hard with the back of a knife to crack it. If you have an exceptionally soft lobster, you can cut through the shell with just a pair of kitchen shears.

Step 22: Cracked!
Step 22: Cracked!

If you did it right, you'll have cracked through the shell while leaving the meat intact.

Step 23: Pull Out The Meat
Step 23: Pull Out The Meat

If you did it wrong, however, you'll end up accidentally cutting the claw meat in half. This is not the end of the world. Pull out the meat from inside the shell.

Step 24: Go For The Knuckles
Step 24: Go For The Knuckles

The knuckles have plenty of good meat in them too, see? It's the sweetest, most tender part of the lobster, and my favorite bite.

Step 25: Twist Them Apart
Step 25: Twist Them Apart

Twist off the knuckles using a dish towel or sturdy rubber gloves.

Step 26: Separate the Knuckles
Step 26: Separate the Knuckles

Each claw will have two knuckles attached to it. Separate them from each other.

Step 27: Push Out The Meat
Step 27: Push Out The Meat

Push the meat out of the knuckle with the back of a chopstick.

Done!
Done!

Your lobster, perfectly cooked and ready to eat!