How to Steam a Live Lobster



How to Steam and Pick a Live Lobster

Marriage is hard work.  When you’re going to work every day, and paying mortgages, and walking the floor all night with a fussing baby, it can be easy to forget just how much you love that person who falls asleep, exhausted, next to you the second his head hits the pillow.  But, like most things in life, you get out of marriage exactly what you put into it.  If you are ignoring and neglecting your partner, then your marriage will look worse than the federal budget.  If you are daily investing love and care into your spouse, then, little by little, you will start to see the shoots of beautiful growth.  They may be slow and hard to see, at first, but just keep watering and tending, and they will certainly grow.

Today, I want to show you how to steam and take apart a whole lobster.  Not only is this experience slightly freaky and scary, but it’s also incredibly fun and (obviously) very tasty.  So even if you don’t have family, nearby, to help watch the kiddos, or even if you work all the time, or even if you don’t have a lot of money for a fancy meal out . . . you can put the kiddos to bed that night, steam a lobster, shrieking in laughter and fear, together, and then share a sweet, romantic dinner.  Because lobster, like marriage, is worth the work.  There’s a life lesson in there somewhere 😉

What are we waiting for?  Let’s do this!

How to Prepare a Live Lobster


1-2 live lobsters (these cost roughly $12-$20, apiece, depending on weight)

1 large steam pot or stock pot

Steamer basket (more on this later)

Crab crackers and hammer


Boil 1 inch of water in the bottom of the pan, with steamer basket just above the water line.  You don’t actually want the lobsters to touch the water, if you can help it– they aren’t boiling, but steaming.  Steam lobsters for 14 minutes, until they turn bright red.  Remove lobsters from water and allow them to cool, slightly, so that you can handle them without getting burned. Crack shells, remove meat, and dip meat into melted butter.  Decide that this is the best meal you have ever had and do it again.  Soon.  You’re welcome.

Now, in pictures! 🙂


To start with, let’s talk a little bit about those freaky looking crustaceans called lobsters.  They are cool to look at in the tank, at the grocery store, but what happens when the guy fishes one out for you and hands you the bag, with that wiggling, writhing, creepy thing inside?  Eeeeeeekkkk . . .

Don’t be afraid. The seafood clerk will probably put your lobster into a bag partially filled with ice.  The ice will kind of lull the lobster to sleep, so that it won’t try to grab at you while you finish your grocery shopping 😉  However, as the ice melts, the lobster will become a little more frisky, so I would recommend putting the bag into the sink or bathtub when you get home (clean the sink with Clorox, when you’re done, just to be safe) in case they poke through the bag and try to escape (mine tried staging the Great Escape, so I was glad they were captive in the sink when they cut through the bag 😉

I want to extend a special thank you to my buddy, Jacqui, who helped me conquer this lobster task and helped me take photos, when my hands were full.  I couldn’t have done it without her 🙂

Lobsters are steamed, not boiled– this means that you need only about an inch of boiling water in the bottom of a big stock pot to steam them.  You don’t want the lobsters to touch the water.  If you have a vegetable steamer basket or pasta basket for your stock pot, this works well.  If you don’t have either of those things, a piece of foil, coiled into a rope and twisted into a figure 8 at the bottom of the pot, works fine too.


Once your water is at a rolling boil, go ahead and put the lobsters in there.  Now, “putting them in there” isn’t as easy as it sounds. They are definitely going to fight you every step of the way.  You can grab the lobsters around the middle of the body, if you have a thick glove that will protect you from the steam.  Alternatively, you can use tongs to grab the lobsters around the tail and lower them, claws-first, into the steam.  Make sure that the lobsters aren’t touching the water, but are just above the water, getting steam, only.  If you can, have someone help you hold the pot, because they will bang around quite a bit, and you don’t want the pot to turn over and frantic lobsters to be free to race around your kitchen.  Eeeeekkk!!!  Cover the pot and bring it to a rolling boil, again.  Then, with the pot still covered and water still at a rolling boil, time the lobsters for 14 minutes.


After 14 minutes, you can turn the heat off under the pot (unless you are steaming multiple lobsters– then just restart the process), and then use the heat glove or tongs to remove the bright red lobsters from the steam.  Sit them on a cutting board or plate to cool a little bit.  They don’t need to be completely cold– just cool enough that you can handle them without getting burned.  Remember that they will have hot water inside, too– and when you crack them, you don’t want to get splashed and burned.  I let mine cool for about 10 minutes, and the meat was still warm, but nothing was hot enough to burn me.  Aww– isn’t that sweet?  They’re blushing . . .


Before you actually get into the “nitty gritty” of taking the lobster apart, make sure you have some paper towels ready, and you’re wearing an apron– it can get messy 🙂  You also want a nice, big table or counter, because shell fragments and water are probably going to go everywhere. Hey– it’s all part of the fun 🙂

Start by twisting off the tail– just grab the middle and tail with separate hands and twist in different directions.  The tail will kind of pop off, and it may splash, a little. But, look– you did it!  Great job!  Let’s keep going.


Next, we want to take the big claws off.  The same way you did with the tail, just twist the body and claws in separate directions until they twist off.


Pop goes the weasel!  🙂  Good job.  Sit that claw aside and do the same thing to the other one.


Now look at that– you have the most important parts done– you have the tail and both claws removed.  Yay!  You’re so awesome.  I love working with you.


Now, go ahead and twist off those little feathery leg things on the bottom.  Are they legs?  Feathers?  Who knows.  Pull ’em off, anyway.  Yuck.  Throw them out.


Get a sharp pair of scissors or kitchen shears (these will need to be washed and sanitized afterward) and gently cut through the bottom shell of the tail, all the way to the fan at the end.


When you have cut all the way to the fan, gently pull the shell apart (it will crack a little bit, as you pull).  When the opening is wide enough, carefully wiggle the tail meat out.  If you’re lucky, it will come out in one piece.  If it doesn’t come out in one piece, no worries– just get it out, in large or small pieces. Do the best you can.  It will still taste great 🙂


Now, this part is super gross.  Inside the tail meat, there is something called the “mustard.”  It’s kind of like the lobster’s poop/stomach contents.  BLECK.  Lobster purists leave this in, but I wretch just looking at it, so I scraped out what I could with a butter knife, and then I rinsed the rest off.  That’s technically not what you’re supposed to do, but I couldn’t stand it, so I washed it out.  Eeeeeew (skin crawls).  Please don’t tell the lobster police on me.


Once that nasty task is behind us, let’s start getting the meat out of the claws.  Twist the joint opposite of the way it bends, and it should pop right open (probably splashing you in the process).  Hey– I told you you’d need paper towels 😉  I hope everyone bought some Bounty paper towel stock before we began, because it’s going to rise . . .


Once the joint has popped open, use a crab cracker or hammer to crack the shell, and then reap the bounty of delicious lobsta’!  Yummo.  Cracking this part of the claw is much like cracking a crab leg– just kind of use your crackers to pinch open the shell and then wiggle the meat out.


Now it’s time for Big Daddy– (picture the Toy Story Aliens’ voices: The CLAW!!!).  Pull the little piece of claw in the opposite direction of the way it clamps, and it should pop out.


Crack the little piece of shell with your crab crackers and remove that teeny sliver of meat.  Hey– every little bit helps 🙂


Use a hammer or crackers to crack the big part of the claw (lay claw flat to if you choose to hammer), and remove the rest of the meat. And look at that!  You did it!  You totally grabbed a creepy crustacean, steamed it, pulled it apart, never fearing the salt spray, and gathered yourself a beautiful, gorgeous pile of lobster meat that is muy delicioso.  Wow.

Grab yourself some melted butter and dip away.  If you want to light some candles and play your favorite music, then go right ahead.  Because even parents deserve a nice dinner and fun date night, sometimes, even if there isn’t anyone to watch the kids, and even if there isn’t money in the budget for a fancy restaurant.  You are the silent soldiers that weather the infamous grocery store meltdowns, never fearing the disapproval of strangers.  You are the heroes who make 10 hour road trips to Grandma’s for Christmas, carrying more snacks and baby gear than a door to door salesman . . . you are the unsung faithful who help with homework and volunteer for school fundraisers and sit up watching Tom and Jerry into the wee hours because your little guy doesn’t feel good.  You totally deserve this.

How to Steam a Live Lobster

You babysat your own kids and still managed to pull off a date night.  You spent $15 and had a fantastic lobster dinner that would have cost you $50 at a restaurant.  You had fun, splashed some seawater on each other, and learned some mad skillz.  And you did it . . . like a boss.

You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.




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