How to Cook Previously Frozen Lobster Tails

They stare at you from the tank at your favorite fish market, their beady eyes challenging you to go away. So you leave because plunging a living thing into a vat of boiling water and hearing it scratch at the sides of the pot as it slowly dies just isn’t in your wheelhouse. You turn to the cold case, where frozen lobster tails are more appealing. Your next challenge is to cook those previously frozen lobster tails to perfection without turning that luscious lobster meat into rubber.

The Delicate Art of Defrosting

Unless you’re standing on the wharf and getting your lobster tails fresh from the boat, your store-bought tails are previously frozen. Flash-freezing immediately when the lobster is dragged onto the boat is today’s trend, and it ensures that the meat inside stays fresh and tender ‒ if you defrost it correctly.

Defrosting in the Refrigerator:

  • Place the frozen tails on a plate and leave them to defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
  • The slower the frozen tails defrost, the more tender the meat will be.
  • Plan to serve one 12-ounce tail per person.
  • After 24 hours, bend the tails a bit to make sure they’re flexible and fully defrosted. A fully defrosted tail’s meat won’t stick to the shell when cooked.
  • If they need a bit more defrosting, place them in a zippered plastic bag and plunge them into a pot of COLD water for 30 minutes.

Defrosting in a Vat of Water:

  • If you don’t have time to thaw your tails overnight, put them into a zippered plastic bag, making sure to squeeze out the air before sealing.
  • Plunge them into a pot of COLD water for 30 minutes.
  • If they are not fully defrosted after 30 minutes, change out the water and cold-soak them for another 30 minutes. Repeat until they are “bendy.”


Defrosting in a microwave works ‒ if you like your lobster chewy and tough.

Cooking Your Tail

Before cooking the lobster, regardless of technique, bring the tails to room temperature.


To prevent the tails from curling as they boil, insert a metal skewer through the tail lengthwise.

  1. Fill a pot with cold water, enough to cover the tail(s). Salt the water. Use high heat to bring the water to a boil. Carefully drop the tails into the pot, one by one. Use a long pair of tongs to prevent the hot water from splashing and burning you.
  2. Bring the water up to a low boil again. If you’re working on an electric range, reduce the temperature setting to medium before dropping in the tails.
  3. Slow boil for 8‒12 minutes for 12-ounce tails, or approximately 1 minute for each ounce. When the shells turn bright red, remove them all from the pot, but keep the water boiling, just in case you have to return them for a final finish.
  4. Test the lobster’s doneness by slicing one tail from the underbelly to the tail, or tail to center if you’re using kitchen shears. Look at the meat. If it’s snow white, it’s done. If you see roe, be sure it’s red, not black.
  5. If it needs to cook a little more, return the tails to the boiling water for a minute at a time until the meat is done.
  6. Drain all the tails.
  7. Put a kitchen towel in one hand and wrap one tail in the towel. Cut it in half from the underbelly side, and either leave it in the shell or remove and place it on top of the shell. Get fancy by brushing the tails with clarified butter; then sprinkle with seasonings such as paprika or herbs such as parsley.
  8. Serve with clarified butter, lemon and a lobster bib!

Clarifying Butter

A pot of clarified butter served next to a steaming lobster tail completes the meal. If you’re clarifying at home, be patient and don’t rush the process. You’ll be rewarded in the end.

  1. Melt sliced unsalted butter in a saucepan.
  2. Bring the butter to a boil and watch as the water and the proteins in the butter separate and rise to the top. Don’t start skimming at this point, but bring the pot to a boil. As it boils, the foam at the top sinks to the bottom. When all the water is separated, the boiling diminishes, leaving a sea of beautiful golden butter.

Grilling Lobster

What’s better on a hot summer day than a backyard barbecue featuring a chilled bottle of dry white or rose wine and lobster fresh off the grill! One of the easiest ways to serve previously frozen lobster is by grilling. However, the technique is temperamental if socializing takes your attention away from the deliciousness on the coals.

Instead of boiling the tails to completion, experts recommend that you parboil them instead, which simply means to boiling them a little.

  1. Drop the tails into a pot of boiling, salted water and cook for 2 minutes if they weigh 4‒5 ounces each. Remove them from the water and drain.
  2. Lay the tails out on a counter, belly-side up. Using a sharp paring knife, slice them down the center, open the shell and separate the shell into two pieces. Insert a metal skewer into each to prevent them from curling as they grill.
  3. Using the clarified butter that you’ve already prepared and have kept warming on the side, brush the meat of each lobster. Place the tails on the grill, meat-side facing up, and grill for about 2‒3 minutes. Gently tap the meat with your finger to test for doneness. If the meat has a little spring to it, remove the tail from the heat.
  4. Monitor your grilling lobsters carefully ‒ if you finger-test to find a solid wall of meat, you’ve overcooked your tail. Serve them with lemon wedges, more clarified butter and chilled wine or an ice-cold beer.

Getting Fancy by Broiling

A popular restaurant technique is to create what many upscale lobster houses call “exploding lobster.” The tails are ceremoniously served perched atop the shell, seasoned, baked and glistening with clarified butter. You can make exploding lobster at home with just a few extra hands-on moves.

  1. Place your defrosted lobster on a counter, belly-side down. Using a sharp paring knife, slice through the shell from top to bottom. Stabilize the tail with one hand and cut with the other. Be sure to leave the meat attached at the tail “fan” (sometimes called its “fin”). You’re also cutting the meat in half.
  2. Spread open the shell and clean the disgusting bits from the lobster; then gently pull the meat through the slit, again making sure it’s still attached. This gives it the support it needs to remain on top of the shell. Close the shell and lay the meat over the top of the housing.
  3. Now that you’ve successfully butterflied your lobster tail, cut additional slits into the meat to make it extra fancy. Brush with clarified butter and sprinkle with the seasoning of your choice. Paprika adds a lovely color, and a dash of cayenne gives the meat an extra punch. Just be careful not to overdo the cayenne, or your diners may explode too!
  4. Insert a metal skewer into the meat to keep it from curling while baking; then place them into a 350-degree Fahrenheit oven until the temperature reaches 145F. A digital instant-read thermometer gives the best results. Brush with more butter just before serving.

Reheating Your Leftovers

If you’re lucky enough to have any leftover cooked lobster, take it from the refrigerator and reheat it by simply brushing the meat with clarified butter. Place in a 350F oven for 5 minutes. The butter keeps the lobster moist, and the short baking time won’t dry it out.