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Can You Overcook Lobster?

Everything you need to know (and nothing you don’t) to never worry about overcooking lobster again.

Lobster is a dish that is a first-class upgrade in the seafood category. Many people enjoy it.

Restaurant chefs prepare them to perfection, as any establishment-goer knows, and home cooks try to cook them at home. But finding the perfect temperature and the correct boil rate can be challenging.

One of the biggest mistakes when cooking lobster is overcooking. The good news is that we are here to help with valuable information so that you can get your lobster dish cooked to perfection.

So, can lobster be overcooked?

All seafood can be overcooked, including lobster. Cooked too much, will be tough and rubbery to chew. The perfect internal temperature for lobster is 145°F, and any reading over that is a sure sign that your crustacean is overcooked.

It is critical to get the lobster done to perfection—and the best way to do so is by checking the temperature using a meat thermometer.

Overcooked lobster is a disappointment, and undercooked lobster can go so far as to make a person deathly ill. Read on, and we will get you to the middle marker, where the lobster will melt in your mouth and show pristine whiteness and tenderness.

To Steam or Boil Lobster?

Many wonders which one is better: to steam or to boil a lobster.

Steaming is much more forgiving to the cook as the lobster is much more difficult to overcook using this method.

On the other hand, boiling will get the lobster to perfection if the timing on everything is accurate but removes the tenderness and flavor if it is overdone.

How to Steam Lobster

The excellent news about steaming is that it offers more control since it cooks slower and it is less messy.

You will not need a steamer rack to steam lobsters because they will not be in the pot long enough to char at the bottom. However, if you wish to use a steamer rack, we suggest an upside colander in the pot or a vegetable steamer rack.

You want to keep the lid on the pot to build the steam and to use a big enough pot to hold the lobster with about 2 inches of water. Below are the steps and the time allotted for each pound to steam:

Step 1: Fill the pot with two inches of water and 2 tablespoons of salt per quart, cover, and bring to a hard boil.

Step 2: Add the live lobsters one at a time, head first to the pot, and allow the water to boil again immediately.

Step 3: Begin keeping track of the time and steam the lobsters 7 minutes per pound each for the first pound. Add 3 minutes per pound after that for each lobster.

Step 4: Remove the lobsters and set them aside, allowing them to cool for up to 5 minutes before cracking. This will let the meat finish cooking in its residual heat.

Use this information below to steam each lobster. A common mistake is people total up the number of pounds in the pot. This leads to inadequate cooking and should be counted as each separate lobster per pound within the pot.

Lobster SizeSteaming Time
1 – 1¼ pounds7-9 minutes
1½ pounds9-11 minutes
2 pounds11-12 minutes
3 pounds12-14 minutes
5 pounds22-24 minutes
Steaming times for lobster

How to Boil Lobster

When it comes to boiling, the heat is more intense and cooks the lobsters quickly.

The extreme heat makes removing the meat from the shell easier, but caution must be taken not to overcook it. It is best to cook four or more lobsters when boiling. Also, boiling cooks the lobsters more evenly compared to steaming.

Below are the steps and time allotted for each pound to boil. Like steaming, any time over the time listed will overcook the lobster, so be careful on keeping track of the time:

Step 1: Fill the pot with water to go over the lobster by 3 inches.

Step 2: Add 2 tablespoons of salt to each quart of water and bring the water to a rolling boil on the highest heat setting.

Step 3: Add the lobsters to the pot one by one and keep the underside of their body away from you as you submerge them headfirst. This will keep them from splashing the boiling water on you if they flip their tail.

Step 4: Put the lid on the pot and boil quickly. Begin timing from when the water boils again. On the side, melt plenty of butter while you are waiting for the lobsters to boil.

Step 5: Remove the lobsters and set them aside, allowing them to cool for up to five minutes before cracking.

Lobster SizeBoiling Time
1 – 1¼ pounds5-6 minutes
1½ pounds7-8 minutes
2 pounds8-9 minutes
3 pounds10-12 minutes
5 pounds12-14 minutes
Boiling times for lobster

Special Reminder: Do not forget it goes by the individual weight of the lobsters, not the entire weight of what is in the pot.

Overcooked Lobster and How to Fix It

Some stories have been told that the bigger the lobster, the tougher it will be. This, we can confirm, is entirely false.

If you follow the times we added in this article, 5 to 6-pound lobsters can be just as tender and melt in your mouth as the small ones. However, we all know mistakes happen in the kitchen, either by not watching the clock, too much multitasking, or simply forgetting in the hustle and bustle of cookery.

Finding out how bad the lobster is overcooked is the first thing to check. 

Cracking the shell is the first thing—and if you see the meat inside is hard as a rock—you are at the point of no return. If it has a little resistance and can pass a finger poke test (if it has some spring back), try putting butter to the max and heat in the oven for a minute or two wrapped in foil.

Butter tends to be a tenderizer for most foods that are overcooked, and by wrapping in aluminum foil and putting it in the oven, the heat penetrates the butter to bring back moisture to the meat. Once again, anything that is burnt to a crisp or solid as a rock is unsalvageable.

Undercooked Lobster and How to Fix It

Undercooked shellfish can be deadly, and food poisoning sets in any undercooked meat but is more toxic in seafood. The differences in cooked lobster are white and slightly firm, while the undercooked lobster is translucent and mushy.

Another way to tell undercooked lobster is the color of the shell, but this is not 100% accurate. Fully cooked lobster is most of the time entirely red, while the raw lobster is greenish-brown. To be 100% safe with telling, check the temperature using a meat thermometer.

Salvaging undercooked lobster is ten times easier to fix than overcooked lobster. It is as simple as putting it back in the boiling water, steamer, or wrapping it up in foil and putting it in the oven for a minute or two at a time till it is done. It is something that you will have to keep a closer eye on when reheating.

Final Words and Thoughts

Butter can only do so much if lobster is overcooked, so be careful when reheating it when drenched in butter. Low and slow is the best way to go, even though you are ready to tear into that lobster. Just be safe!