Grilled lobster tails are a big trend for the summer and Hank Shaw is on top of it. His take on it is fast, easy, and uncomplicated. Grill them fast, slather them with butter, dip them into anything you like, and devour them. Repeat all summer long.
Grilling lobster tails is a thing in Florida and Southern California, where the spiny lobster lives, and it is indeed a fun way to cook them in hot weather. It’s a bit alien to me, given that I grew up on Maine lobsters eaten, more or less, in only one way: steamed or boiled, with melted butter. But the grill adds that element of smoke, and you can baste the lobster with melted butter if you want. Or you can go with any number of other flavors, like olive oil, or sesame oil, or salsa, or ponzu sauce, or chimichurri or . . . you get the point.
This is more of a method than a recipe. There are a lot of ways to prep a lobster tail for grilling, but the easiest way I’ve found is to use shears to cut the shell on the top of the tail back to the fins. By doing this, you will likely cut the tail meat too, and that’s OK, because you’re going to open the tail like a book to grill it. You want the bottom of the shell intact; doing this, as opposed to cutting the tails in half completely, allows the shell to protect the meat somewhat. I will also use my fingers to work the raw meat away from the shell a little, which will make it easier to remove later.–Hank Shaw
- Lobster tails*
- Mild vegetable oil or melted butter (2 to 3 teaspoons per tail) for brushing
- Herb butter melted butter, or chopped chipotle pureed with melted butter, for serving
- Get your grill hot. This is a hot and fast cook, not slow and low. Clean the grates.
- Use shears to cut the lobster shell along the top, all the way to the fins. You want the top of the shell open but the bottom intact. Use your fingers to pry the shell open, and loosen the raw lobster meat slightly from the shell.
- Paint the lobster meat with oil or melted butter and set, meat-side down, on the grates. Press the tail down with your tongs or a spatula for about 30 seconds. Grill the meat side for 4 to 5 minutes, then flip. Paint the meat with more melted butter or oil.
- Grill the shell side until the lobster is cooked through and the internal temperature is between 135°F and 140°F (57°C and 63°C), 2 to 6 minutes more.
- Remove the cooked meat from the shell and discard the intestine. Serve with more melted butter, herb butter, or chipotle pepper pureed with butter.
*Do I need to rinse lobster tails before I cook them?Whether fresh or frozen lobster tails, they should be rinsed before you start cooking them. But—and this part is important—only the tails' exterior. Give the shell a good scrub but avoid getting water on the exposed meat. And don't submerge the tail in water. Lobster meat will quickly absorb the water, leaving you with a watery lobster. Which, in our opinion, is a lot less fun than a rock lobster. Rock rock!
Recipe Testers' Reviews
Yum! I’ve grilled lobster like this before but not for a while. It's better than I remembered. The only problem I had was that I pressed too hard on one of the tails and the shell got stuck in the grill grate. I was prying it out with the tongs when it started flaming up. I thought it would be all burned up but it was fine.
I really like how working the meat away from the shell with your fingers before cooking works. The tails came out of the shells perfectly. This lobster comes out so delicious. I highly recommend it for summer cookouts. We had mac and cheese with ours, a perfect combo. My husband wants it again tonight!
This method for grilled lobster works quite well. I've always enjoyed grilled lobster whether it be a whole lobster or simply the tail. Grilling gives the lobster a nice, smoky flavor that's quite different from the flavor you get when boiling or steaming it.
Be sure to baste the tails with whatever your preference is for flavor. There are many good suggestions in the intro but I went with a simple melted butter which worked very well. Also, hold some of the basting ingredients on the side for dipping after grilling if that's your preference. I served the tails with French fries and sautéed spinach.
Originally published May 29, 2021