Preparing the Lobster
To prepare the lobster tail in the shell, cut it in half, into rounds or butterfly it.
Cooking the lobster halved, sliced down the middle, sears the shell as well as the meat, adding extra flavor as the shell browns.
To cut the tail into rounds, slice through the shell along the soft tissue connecting the shell sections. Or, remove the lobster meat by cutting through the soft underbelly of the tail, stripping off the shell and prying out the meat with a knife or fork; then cut the meat into rounds.
Using the butterfly method—in which the top half of the shell is cut in two, exposing part of the lobster tail meat—makes for an elegant presentation.
To prevent the tail from curling during cooking, insert skewers lengthwise through the center of the whole lobster tail.
Seasoning the Meat
Season conservatively to avoid overpowering the natural sweetness of lobster. Whole lobster tail meat can be rubbed with a variety of spices and herbs, but sliced, raw lobster tail absorbs more flavor because of its greater surface area. Halved or butterflied lobster tail can only be partially seasoned—only the exposed flesh picks up the flavorings.
Brush the meat with clarified butter or olive oil (to keep the meat from drying), sprinkle with salt, pepper and fresh rosemary and let it sit for 20 minutes prior to cooking.
Cooking the Tail
Heat a heavy-bottomed stainless-steel or cast-iron pan on the stove over medium heat. Add a thin layer of vegetable oil and heat until shimmering. Place the lobster tail flesh-side down to sear the meat. For a 1/2-pound lobster tail, cook it meat-side down for 2 minutes until browned. Lower the heat to medium, and flip it shell-side down. Cook it covered for another 3 to 4 minutes.
Cook the lobster shell if you plan to use it as a serving vessel.
Serving and Doneness
Lobster is fully cooked when the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Before the lobster reaches this temperature, the shell turns bright red and liquid in the tail coagulates, turning opaque and white. Overcooked lobster has a chalky, rubbery texture.
Once fully cooked, let the lobster rest for a couple of minutes. Season it with a garlic, herb and white wine butter sauce, or toss it into your favorite pasta sauce.
Cynthia Au has studied at the Cordon Bleu in Paris and currently works as a chef instructor specializing in food styling. She has worked as a writer and editor with a focus on food and food science since 2007 and regularly teaches both adults and young children about the joys of home cooking.