How to Steam Lobster (and How to Eat Lobster!)

This video also demonstrates how to shell and eat lobster. Not for the squeamish! 🙂

Laurel made me do it.

Then I made her do it.

Then we ate our victims. Chris helped and we all guzzled champagne. How sick is that?!?

Well, I hope you don’t think it’s too sick. It was really tasty lobster and you know what they say about breaking eggs and making lobster omelets and killing God’s creatures and birds in the bush, right? Yeah, I never understood that one either.

The good news is that your conscience is likely the trickiest hurdle to steaming a live lobster. Once you get past that one, the rest is gravy, or lemon-butter as the case may be.

But first:

How to pick out a lobster

  • Lobsters are harder shelled in the winter months than the summer, so they are harder to crack, but winter lobsters have more meat on em, too, so there’s a pro and a con either way you slice it.
  • To feed one person, you’ll need at least a 1.5 pound lobster, 2 to be safe. As Laurel pointed out, in Maine they’ll often steam mussels and clams alongside the lobsters to fill out the meal. And don’t forget the boiled potatoes and corn on the cob! (Unless you’re on a date, and then you’ll probably want to skip the corn.)
  • Get a feisty one. Don’t let that old lady at the fish counter try to sell you a lazy lobster.
  • They’re all wild-caught, mostly off the coast of Maine where they have strict regulations to prevent over-fishing (or over-lostering). No such thing as a farmed lobster. FYI.
  • Store them in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours if you must before cooking.

And then:



How to Steam Lobster

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5 from 3 reviews

The preferred method for cooking a live lobster

  • Author: Hilah Johnson


  • Lobsters – one per person, all approximately the same size
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Seaweed (optional, if you can find some)
  • For dipping: melted butter and lemon juice


  1. In a large pot (4-5 gallon) put one inch of water and 2-3 tablespoons of salt. Bring to boil over high heat.
  2. Use tongs to grab the lobsters firmly and without squeamishness (do as I say, not as I do) and put them in the pot as gently as you can manage. Throw the seaweed on top if you have it.
  3. Put the lid on the pot and set the timer (see chart below for times).
  4. When the timer dings, turn off the heat and remove them from the pot to cool on a bed of newspaper (aka a Maine tablecloth)
  5. Cool 5 minutes.
  6. Shell and eat as shown in the video – start with the legs, then the claws, then the tail. Whether or not you eat the tomalley is up to you!
  7. If you like, dip pieces of lobster meat into melted butter mixed with lemon juice – about equal parts of each.
  8. Quick notes
  9. Cooking times: Start the timer as soon as you put the lid back on
  10. -1.25 pound lobster = 10-12 minutes
  11. -2 pound lobster – 12-18 minutes
  12. -3 pound lobster = 18-25 minutes
  13. *Note that cooking times are not cumulative. That is, cooking two 2 pound lobsters should take just about the same amount of time as cooking one 2 pounder. For our two 1.40 pound lobsters, we set the timer for 14 minutes.
  14. Lobsters are done when the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F, or when a leg can easily be pulled off. The only thing worse than overcooked lobster is undercooked lobster!


Cooking times: Start the timer as soon as you put the lid back on
1-1.25 pound lobster = 10-12 minutes
1.25-2 pound lobster – 12-18 minutes
2-3 pound lobster = 18-25 minutes
*Note that cooking times are not cumulative. That is, cooking two 2 pound lobsters should take just about the same amount of time as cooking one 2 pounder. For our two 1.40 pound lobsters, we set the timer for 14 minutes.

Like they do in Maine, you might also want to steam some mussels and clams alongside the lobster, and serve with boiled potatoes, corn on the cob, and French bread!

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  1. Great Stone Face on February 7, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    French bread is good, or Parker House rolls. I wish you’d shown pulling the whole tail from the shells. The green tamale is delicious, too, but some folks don’t like it. A special treat is if you get a female lobster that’s full of red roe. Now, you’ve got me homesick for New Hampshire.

    • Christopher on February 8, 2012 at 10:27 am

      Unfortunately, we hit a technical snag right at the moment you’re talking about. I was experimenting a little more than usual with the two camera setup and the close up cam hit the end of it’s card at the tail pulling moment. The main camera followed almost immediately after. So, I missed the shot!

      • Great Stone Face on February 8, 2012 at 10:40 am

        Well, the important thing is that it was a delicious episode anyway. Thanks, Hilah & Laurel & Chris!

  2. Ali on February 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    I wish we could get fresh seafood in Nebraska that didn’t involve irrigation ditches and rivers. Oh, and that lame “lake” by our house that is currently frozen, and all the stinky dead fish are laying on top. These looked so good… its making me depressed!

    • Hilah on February 8, 2012 at 6:23 pm

      Oh no! I’m sorry Ali!
      I hope it warms up soon there. 🙂

    • Barbara on May 23, 2021 at 2:55 pm

      I ordered lobster from and they ship it overnight. I don’t like them but my son wanted some for his birthday. We live in Arkansas and they were still kicking when they arrived.

  3. Patrick Soltis on February 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    I ate a lobster in France once, and the French do the whole business differently. They hold the live lobster down on the kitchen counter and drive a knife through its head. (Supposedly that’s slightly more humane than steaming it to death.) Then they split the body in half lengthwise and clean out the inedible guts. There are several ways to proceed from there. The one I ate was poached gently in white wine with a few vegetables and herbs, then served in a sauce made by boiling the poaching liquid down, straining it, and thickening it with butter and maybe an egg yolk. You can also grill the beast, and of course the possible sauces are too numerous to mention.

    • Hilah on February 12, 2012 at 11:01 am

      Hi Pat!
      I have heard of that method. I don’t think I’d try it, though! Seems dangerous… and messy. I have to admit I’d be very curious to watch someone else do it – ideally a professional.
      Grilling it sounds fantastic, though, and I suppose you’d have to do it the French way if you were to grill one. Getting grilled to death sounds even worse than steaming.

  4. Albert on July 3, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    Hilah you’re so pretty you should be mermaid. 🙂

  5. Great Stone Face on July 3, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Are you road-tripped out yet? We’re going to New Hampshire and Maine later this month!

    “In Maine, lobster that is cheaper than bologna —
    ‘To heck with hot dogs and hamburgers … they’re very affordable'”

  6. sara on July 20, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Thanks for the information. We are taking a vacation to Maine next week and I am doing a research on how to cook like a native. Now we are ready for Lobster every night of the week.

    • Hilah on July 20, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      Oh, how nice, Sara! I visited the Bar Harbor area a few years ago and had a great time. It’s beautiful. Take a lobster boat tour if you can!

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