Cooking lobster and recipes

Steaming or boiling lobster. Which is best?

Steaming or Boiling Maine Lobster

Steaming or boiling Maine lobster?  Which is best? That is the question. Lobster chef’s everywhere will be pondering “whether “tis better to boil or steam a live lobster.  What’s the best lobster recipe?”

Steaming or boiling Maine lobster

Two Pound Steamed Maine Lobsters

 Boiling a Maine lobster is the easiest way to cook and serve a whole lobster and a boiled lobster is easier to pick clean. When you have that large picnic or party and the kettle is kept full all day with lobster, boiling is just so much easier.  But steaming a lobster often yields the best results for eating. Steaming or Boiling Maine lobster, which is best?

Traditional Lobster Kettle


Steaming a Maine Lobster is More Gentle than Boiling

Here’s why:  steaming is a more gentle process of cooking the meat and it preserves more flavor and tenderness. Steaming a lobster is also more forgiving on the chef since it is harder to overcook a lobster in a steam pot.  For true lobster lovers, steaming is the way to go.
So let’s get started.
First step is to order some freshly caught, hard shell Maine lobster.  Hard shells are recommended as the lobsters are usually stronger and healthier and the hard shell lobster will have the most meat. 
Then choose a big four to five-gallon kettle or pot with a tight lid.  This size pot should be able to easily handle up to eight pounds of lobster.  Remember, don’t crowd the lobster into the pot or you will get uneven results.  It is best to have the right size pot.
Add two to three inches of sea water to the cover the bottom of the pot.  If you don’t have access to the Atlantic Ocean, don’t worry.  Use filtered fresh water and add lots of sea salt:  one to two tablespoons per quart.
Place a steaming rack inside the pot and use high heat to bring the water to a rolling boil.  If you wish, you may remove the rubber lobster claw bands.  Place the live lobster one at a time and head first into the pot and cover.  Start timing the lobster and do not overcook.

Steaming Times for Lobster

Hard Shell  Weight*
1 pound
8-10 minutes
1-1/4 pounds
10-12 minutes
1-1/2 pounds
12-14 minutes
1-3/4 pounds
15-17 minutes
2 pounds
16-18  minutes
2-1/2 pounds
18-20 minutes
3 pounds
20-30 minutes
5 pounds
35-45 (or more) minutes

*Reduce time by 3 minutes for soft shell lobster.
Half way through the allotted cook time, open the lid and move the lobster around in the pot.  It is important to shift the lobster so they all cook evenly.  If necessary, you may add a little more water but no more salt is required.
The most important step for all lobster chefs is determining when the lobsters are done.  The first rule, do not to overcook the lobster.  A lobster shell will be bright red when fully cooked and the meat white. 
So what’s the best way to tell when the lobsters are done?

Cooking Jumbo Maine Lobster Requires Careful Attention

Care must be taken with large lobster as they will be red but they may not be fully cooked.  And a lobster in the top of the pot may not have cooked as fast as one at the bottom.
One popular practice is to give one of the lobster antennae a good pull while the lobster is still in the steamer pot.    If the antenna pops off, it is a good sign the lobster is done.  Another step is to use tongs to remove one lobster and cut a small slice at the bottom of the tail.  If the meat is fully changed form translucent to white, it’s done.  Note: The lobster will continue to cook for a minute even after it’s taken out of the pot, so again, do not overcook.
Allow steamed lobster to drain for a minute. You may pierce the body and tail with a knife to help drain the water.  Then serve the lobster right away with a side of melted butter and a slice of lemon.   To make eating fun and easy, serve with lobster bib and steel cracker accessory kits.
© Wayne Howe 2017
Compare Maine Lobster Prices

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Live Lobster and Oysters Add Sizzle to Valentine Dinner | Lobster Fly
    February 6, 2012 at 11:58 am

    […] […]

  • Reply
    Fenway Celebrates 100 Years with Fenway Park Lobster RollLobster Fly
    April 20, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    […] […]

  • Reply
    Best Wine and Lobster Pairings for Outdoor Entertaining
    June 26, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    […] we are entertaining outdoors and a traditional steamed lobster dinner is on the menu.  So what wines are most enjoyable? I will start out by saying beware of serving […]

  • Reply
    Maine Lobster Picnic Made Easy with Portable Propane Steamer - Lobster Fly
    June 21, 2023 at 8:35 am

    […] aluminum pot with ridges and an internal steamer basket.  This gives the cook the option of steaming the lobsters or boiling them.  The internal basket is a must if you want to prepare hefty amounts of steamer […]

  • Reply
    A Few Tips on How to Eat a Whole Maine Lobster - Lobster Fly
    June 29, 2023 at 2:47 pm

    […] serving it is best to let a boiled or steamed lobster drain for a minute. It’s a good idea to pierce the tail at the chest of the body with a chef’s […]

Leave a Reply