Lobster tails offer succulent, sweet meat. Panfrying lobster tail is well-suited if you are using the tail meat as part of a larger dish, such as lobster pasta. A quick-preparation method such as roasting can help remove excess moisture from the meat while cooking it through. To panfry a lobster tail, cook the meat in or out of its shell and season with a flavorful oil, spices or herbs.
Preparing the Lobster
To prepare the lobster tail in the shell, cut it in half, into rounds or butterfly it. Preparing the lobster halved, sliced down the middle, lets you sear the shell as well as the meat, adding extra flavor as the shell browns during the frying process. By contrast, using the butterfly method — where the top half of the shell is cut in two, exposing part of the lobster tail meat — makes for an elegant presentation. Cut the tail into rounds by slicing through the shell, along the soft tissue connecting the shell portions, or by cutting the lobster meat, removed from its shell, into rounds. 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.
Seasoning the Meat
Halved or butterflied lobster tail can only be partially seasoned. Only the exposed flesh will pick up the taste of any flavorings. Brush the exposed meat with clarified butter or olive oil, sprinkle it with salt and pepper and some fresh rosemary and let it sit for 20 minutes prior to cooking. The oil keeps the meat from drying. Whole lobster tail meat can be rubbed with a variety of spices and herbs, but sliced, raw lobster tail will absorb more flavor because it provides a greater surface area. Be sparing in your seasoning to avoid overpowering the natural sweetness of lobster.
Cooking the Tail
Heat a heavy bottomed stainless steel or cast-iron pan on your stove on medium heat. Add a thin layer of vegetable oil, and heat until the oil is shimmering. Pat the lobster dry — if you marinated it previously — and place it flesh-side down to sear the meat. To prevent the lobster tail from curling during cooking, insert skewers lengthwise through its center if you are cooking it whole. For a 1/2-pound lobster tail, cook it — meat side down — for two minutes, until it is browned. Lower the heat to medium, and flip the lobster so that the shell side is facing the pan. Cook it covered for another three to four minutes. If you are serving the lobster meat inside the shell — after it was removed — the shell needs to be cooked prior to serving.
Serving and Doneness
Lobster is fully cooked when the internal temperature reaches 135 degrees Fahrenheit. Before the lobster reaches this temperature, the shell will turn a bright red and liquid found in the tail will coagulate, 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 in the chunks with your favorite pasta sauce, like pesto or marinara.
References and ResourcesBon Appetit: How to Split a Lobster
Lobster Help: Butterflying Lobster Tails
BBC Food: Removing the Meat from Cooked Lobster
Dean and Deluca: Lobster Medallions with Herbed and Truffled Butter Sauce
Serious Eats: The Food Lab -- How to Cook and Shuck a Lobster
BBC Food: How to Cook Lobster with Spaghetti
Joy of Cooking; Irma S. Rombauer