How to make a traditional lobster boil in four easy steps

Sponsored feature: presented by The Captain's Boil

The thought of cooking lobster at home is intimidating enough to hobby cooks, but pulling off a traditional lobster boil is too delicious not to try.

We asked The Captain’s Boil, one of our NOW Access partners and the 2016 NOW Readers’ Choice winner for Best Seafood Restaurant, to guide us through how to make this mouth-watering dish step by step. Here’s how the professionals do it. 

STEP 1 – Pick it

Much of the challenge of cooking lobster begins and ends with selecting the right crustacean. Do your shopping as close to your dinner as you can to reduce any storage time, and try to make sure you’re buying from a reputable seafood shop with fresh catches.

When you’re taking a look in the tank at the store or market, look at the size of their antennae. The longer a lobster is in the tank, the shorter their antennae will be from other lobsters clipping at them. They also semi-regularly shed their shells, and some cooks think this can affect the flavour of their meat. New shells look a bit brighter and less banged up, which can mean the meat will be softer and sweeter, and the opposite for older shells. However, either can work for a lobster boil.

Pro tip: lobsters eat their own stored fat once they’re caught, so try to narrow the time between the open water and your pot so you get that flavour instead.

STEP 2 – Prep it 

Once you get the lobster home, place it in cold water in your sink or – if you’re worried about him getting away – in a closed container. Keep the elastic bands on around the claws until just before you’re going to put it in the pot. Check over the body and rinse any seafloor debris off the shell if necessary.

Your water should be at a rolling boil. The lobster will briefly cool the water temperature, so a high and consistent heat will help produce the best results.

Pro tip: If you’re using broth instead of water, it’s best to have this prepared beforehand and ready to boil. Use a large pot with enough liquid to cover the lobster. If using tap water, add a few dashes of salt. 

STEP 3 – Boil it

This is the final tricky part. With a rolling boil going in your pot, arrange your lobster for a quick transfer. If you’re cooking it live, face it away from you and wait until you’re ready before clipping off the elastic bands around its claws. Grip the tail and place – don’t drop – the lobster into your pot head-first. This lets the tail curl in and reduces your chances of getting pinched. 

Once the water’s back to a boil, it should take about 12-15 minutes for a small (approximately one pound) lobster to completely cook. Larger lobsters (approximately two pounds) may require up to 20 minutes. When it’s done, place it in an ice bath to cool the shell and slow further cooking.

Pro tip: Lobster shells will turn bright red as they cook. But don’t use this colour to gauge whether it’s done – stick with your timer.

STEP 4 – Serve it

This is the fun part. At The Captain’s Boil, your food is flavoured with your choice of sauce – cajun, garlic, lemon or a combination of all three – and adjusted for your heat preference (non-spicy to fire). You’ll get it in a plastic bag and go cutlery-free for the meal since the whole dish is ready to eat.

At home, you can create your own sauce or prep some melted butter with lemon juice for dipping. You should have some appropriate utensils like a nutcracker and a thin fork for pulling out any hidden chunks of meat (a chopstick can work in a pinch). You’ll also need a bowl for discarded shells.

Choose a Side

Pairing a traditional lobster boil is fairly easy. Since this is such a protein-rich dish, you’ll want some greens or roasted corn to go with it. A simple fresh garden salad or some steamed okra or asparagus is great. Ideally, you’ll want your side to have a low fat or oil content to really complement the richness of the main dish. 

For a drink, you can’t go wrong with a light beer like a pilsner or lager (or a non-alcoholic ginger beer). White wines like Viognier or an unoaked chardonnay will work well too.

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