How to Grill a Lobster

Mj 618_348_how to grill a lobster

If you have easy access to fresh-caught lobster and aren’t grilling them, you're missing out. Sure, they're delicious boiled, steamed, or stuffed into a sandwich or risotto — okay, fine, you really can’t go wrong. But "grilling a lobster is so much easier than people make it out to be," says Michael Serpa, chef and partner at the recently-opened SELECT Oyster Bar in Boston. In short: Boil 'em, throw 'em on a grill, add butter, and eat.

But first, you've got to pick a lobster — and don’t go for size. Sure, a giant three-pound sucker looks impressive, but you’re sacrificing taste for size — their meat is less sweet and tougher, according to Serpa.

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He prefers smaller ones weighing less than two pounds — "little chicken guys," he calls them, saying they’re "more fun" and "faster and easier to cook." 

Speaking of cooking: While it might seem fun to kill your lobster on-the-spot with a jab of the knife, if you’re planning to grill the little sucker, choose boiling.

"Cooking it in water partially beforehand will save you a lot of time and be harder to fuck up," says Serpa. Especially if you're cooking for a crowd, you don’t want to deal with killing ten live lobsters and trying to grill them consistently — just boil them for about seven minutes (for a 1.25 lb lobster) and let them cool on the counter, no ice-water shocking required.

Once it's cooled enough to touch, split your lobster down the middle of its underbelly and clean out the insides. Remove the sand sac near the head, carefully pull out the gray intestinal vein, running along its back, and take out the liver. Crack the claws a little, which will help you judge the level of done-ness once it’s on the grill.

Now you're ready to cook. Whether you use a charcoal or gas grill doesn’t really matter — either will get your lobster nice and delicious. But Serpa is a strong advocate for charcoal. "I have a gas grill and it’s fine, but it isn’t a real grill" he says. "Charcoal tastes like you're cooking outside."

Either way, oil your grill (leave your lobster alone!) and get it hot — but not too hot. Serpa says you don’t want it to be "ripping hot," but your grill should still be turned up enough to color the shell. (Think around 600°F.) Grill them flesh-side down first for three minutes, tops, just enough to get a "tiny bit of browning." Then flip.

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When the shell side is directly on the grill, it creates a cup for the juices in the lobster's head area — if you'd like to add some butter, garlic, lemon or herbs (Serpa recommends thyme), now’s the time. If you’re using charcoal, which can quickly overheat, keep a careful eye on the temperature. You want the shell to be red, not charred to blackness.

Remember those cracked claws? Once you see the liquids boiling inside, you’ll know dinner's ready.

Simple Grilled Lobster


  • 1¼ pound lobster per person
  • Thyme
  • Butter, melted
  • Lemons, cut into wedges


  1. Cook for 7 minutes in boiling water, then cool on countertop.
  2. Split open and clean out the innards. 
    Partially crack claws with the butt of heavy knife.
  3. Heat grill, and throughly clean and oil. Cook flesh side down for approximately 3 minutes, making sure not to burn — just a touch of brown on the flesh. 
  4. Flip to shell side so juices remain in the cup of the shell.
  5. Cook for additional 3 minutes, until juices start to bubble.
  6. Toss some thyme on top as they lobsters finishing grilling.Arrange on platter, douse with warm melted butter, cracked pepper, and lemon wedges.

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