How To Butterfly A Lobster Tail Without Hurting Your Fingers

There's no need to bring bibs and wet wipes when upgrading from a whole lobster to lobster tails. Although the claws have a considerable amount of meat, the bulk is in the tails, saving you a lot of work. For an elegant presentation, chefs butterfly the tail before cooking, making it easier to enjoy the lobster meat. With a sharp pair of kitchen shears, you can quickly master the technique.

Here's how to butterfly a lobster tail: Start by facing the top shell up and cutting the length of the tail, but stop just before the fins to keep the body in one piece. Doing this will expose the lobster's digestive system, so remove the black artery. Flip the lobster over and use your thumbs to crack the underside. Begin at the fins and press firmly until you hear a crack. Repeat this process a few more times, moving towards the opening. Flip the tail over again.

Now, you can spread the shell apart to separate the meat from the sides and gently pull the lobster from its body, keeping it attached to the fins like an anchor. Squeeze the shell back together and rest the meat on top. As it cooks, the lobster will plump, making it look impressive on the serving plate. This technique is helpful if you want to serve the tail in one elegant piece. However, it's unnecessary if you plan to chop the meat for a lobster roll or lobster macaroni and cheese.

How to cook your lobster tails

Lobster tails can be cooked in various ways: broiling, steaming, grilling, boiling, and baking. For the best presentation, run a skewer the length of the lobster tail. This technique prevents it from curling as it cooks, enabling the tail to sit upright on the plate.

Take advantage when the weather is warm and grill your lobster tails outdoors. Since it's a lean protein, brush the exposed meat with melted butter to prevent sticking (and because it's the perfect combo). Grill over medium heat for about 12 minutes until the meat is opaque, flipping halfway through the cooking. If it's too cold or rainy to go outside, use the oven to bake or broil the shellfish. Place the butterflied tails on a sheet pan, meat side up, and baste them with butter. Broil them four inches from the heat source until cooked. Similarly, bake the lobster tails at 425 degrees Fahrenheit without flipping.  

If you want to save the melted butter for serving, boil or steam the tails. This is traditionally done with salted water, but seasonings like Old Bay can be added to flavor the meat. Boil the crustacean uncovered until the shell turns red, roughly eight minutes, depending on their size. Or fill the pot with a can of beer and cook the lobsters in a basket or an upturned colander to steam. Whichever way you prepare them, don't forget a lemon wedge, melted butter, and a garnish of parsley.

Best places to purchase lobster tails

The American lobster, alternatively known as Canadian, Atlantic, or Maine lobster, is a highly sought-after delicacy in New England. It is caught off the Atlantic coast, stretching from Canada to North Carolina. Apart from the American lobster, there are other varieties available that vary in size and color. Lobsters are harvested all year, but peak season is from late June through December when they are the most affordable. Expect higher prices when the supply dips during the first half of the year.

If you don't reside near a lobster-fishing community, you may have to purchase frozen or previously frozen lobster tails from your local fishmonger or an online retailer. Reputable suppliers flash freeze the catch, so the quality is excellent. Inquire about how the lobsters are harvested to ensure sustainability measures are taken. If the tails are frozen, it's necessary to defrost them in the refrigerator before butterflying and cooking. Please note that the tails may take up to eight hours to thaw completely, so plan accordingly.

Lobster tail sizes range from 3 to 36 ounces. When preparing it as the main course, plan on serving one six to eight-ounce tail per person. Prices will vary, but expect to pay between $20 and $33 each. Six to eight ounces is roughly the amount of tail meat you get if you purchase a 1.5-pound live lobster and break it down yourself. Remember to save the shells for fish stock!