Full Steam Ahead! How to Steam Lobsters

by Charlie ~ April 19th, 2009. Filed under: East Coast Recipes, Maine Lobster Recipes | Print Print

Two popular ways to cook fresh lobsters is boiling and steaming. Charlie’s favorite way to cook lobsters is steaming. All you need is a good size pot, water, salt (preferably sea salt), unsalted butter, and the Maine ingredient-fresh lobsters.

Make sure you pick out a mad lobster. It’s easy to find one; it’s the lobster who will raise its claws and flap its tail. The mad, feisty lobster will be the freshest lobster! It’s best to cook lobsters the day your receive them. You can keep a good hard-shell lobster alive for a day or two in the coldest part of your refrigerator, usually the bottom shell.

Why steam lobsters, rather than boil them? Charlie prefers steaming lobster because he says it makes less of a mess and cooks up a more tender lobster than boiling. Steaming lobster preserves the ocean fresh taste of lobster. Since steaming cooks lobster a little slower, there is less of a chance of overcooking. It’s a good choice if your cooking lobster for the first time. Cooking for a big group? You can find out how to boil lobsters here.


If you are just cooking a couple of lobsters, a 3-4 gallon soup or pasta pot will do the job. If you are cooking a bunch of lobsters you can get a larger pot or steam your lobsters in batches. Just make sure the lid goes on tight to keep in the steam. A steamer rack is not a necessity. It just keeps the lobsters from getting charred on the bottom of the pot. You can use an vegetable steamer rack inside the pot or an upside colander.

Now for the all-important cooking times. The first rule of cooking lobsters-do not overcook. Second rule-do not overcook your lobsters. For soft-shell lobsters you might want to subtract a minute or two from the cooking times.

Directions for Steamed Lobsters

To steam live lobster: Fill pot so that water comes up sides about two inches. Add 2 tablespoons of salt for each quart of water. If you have sea salt-even better. Bring the water to a rolling boil, and put in lobsters, one at a time. (Feel free to use a steaming rack to place the lobsters on or just add directly to the pot.) Bring water to a rolling boil over high heat. Place lobsters in the pot (head first), cover tightly, return to a boil as quickly as possible and start counting the time.

Steam a lobster for 8 minutes per pound, for the first pound. Add 3 minutes per pound for each additional pound thereafter. See chart below for approximate cooking times. Regulate the heat if the froth starts to bubble over.

Steaming Lobster-Cooking Times

Lobster Weight: Cooking Time
1-1/4 lbs. 7-8 minutes
1-1/2 lb. 8-10 minutes
2 lbs. 11-12 minutes
2-1/2-3 lb. 12-14 minutes
5 lb. 20-22 minutes

Lobsters are done when the outer shell is bright red and when the meat is white, not opaque. Again, DO NOT overcook your lobsters. Carefully remove lobsters from the pot with tongs. Be careful, they are very hot. Note: Your lobsters will continue to cook a little after you take them out of the pot. To stop the cooking process, place your steamed lobsters in a bowl of ice before cracking. Now just melt the butter. You can get fancy and whisk in a little lemon juice in your butter. Now dig in!

Looking to buy some real feisty live lobsters! Be sure to check out LobsterAnywhere.com. This company only ships premium hard-shell Maine lobsters. You might pay a little more, but you will get your money’s worth and more. Lobsters always arrive on the day requested, guaranteed, plus they always weigh a little more than the size listed.

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119 Responses to Full Steam Ahead! How to Steam Lobsters

  1. Treena born on the Skeena

    I undestand steam is very hot, but I don’t want my lobster to suffer even a second longer then it needs to. Whats the best way of taking care of that beforehand?

  2. Michelle

    We are planning on steaming 24 – 1.25 lb lobsters, possibly with shrimp and corn, between 2 large (80 qt ) pots on burners outside this weekend. What would you recommend for cooking time? Do you think the lid to the pot will be adequate for steaming or would you recommend something else. Thanks!

  3. Charlie

    The steam will kill the lobster quickly. The research on whether lobsters feel pain or not is still inconclusive. We do know that lobsters have a primitive nervous system. That’s why in Maine we refer to them as “bugs”. Another option is to put the lobster in the freezer for 15-20 minutes or so before cooking. Be sure you do not freeze the whole lobster.

  4. Charlie

    You want to steam your lobsters for about 10 minutes. See our chart for approximate times. Again, you want to start timing when you pot comes back to a boil and creates a steam!.

  5. debra

    I just purchased two live lobsters 1-1/2 lbs each that were steamed and split for me. I need to reheat…any ideas? Grill, oven?

  6. Patty

    I’m taking over for my Dad steaming 100-150 1lb lobsters for a huge clambake. I have his big Army cookpots, but I don’t know the capacity. I remember my Dad saying that the key was to not pack too many lobsters into the pots. How the heck do I know how many is too many in a pot big enough to boil a person in??? Also, I won’t be able to tell when the 2″ of water has re-boiled, so how long should I “assume” if I’ll be using liquid propane burners to cook with?

  7. Charlie

    You need to have some room for the steam to escape and cook the lobsters. Too tightly packed and your burning the lobsters on the bottom of the pot. Try cooking your lobsters in a couple of batches.

  8. Zella

    I am an old hand at steaming lobsters, but the last two times something odd has happened: all dozen lobsters (all female) seemed fully cooked: the flesh was fine and the tomally green…but there were what looked to be uncooked and slimy black eggs in all of them. Some eggs were coral, but most were black and slimy. If I had cooked the lobster any longer, the flesh would be overdone! What I did was just scoop then out.. but I don’t want to make my guests ill should this happen again and I expect it might.

    Any solutions? (and what was the cause?)

  9. Charlie

    Sorry for the late reply. The black slimy stuff is the beginning of the eggs in the female lobster that have yet to move down the tail. Sometimes they will turn a bright red. You did the right thing not to overcook the lobsters. But the best thing you did was simply scrape them out and rinse out the meat. Granted, it does not look appetizing, but it is more than safe to eat. By the way, what size lobsters to you get and how look did you steam them.

  10. Kathy

    Are your cooking times per lobster or total weight of all lobsters? If I had 5/ 1 1/4 lobsters how long to I steam?

  11. Charlie

    Hi. Times for steaming are for all lobsters in the pot. Just make sure you have some room in the pot for the hot steam to cook your lobsters. Your looking at about 7-8 minutes tops! Again, this is not per lobster, but for your whole batch.

  12. Shannon

    I am planning on cooking a 10lb lobster this weekend. Just trying to figure out what size pot I need to cook it in and for how long. I plan to steam not boil.

  13. Joe Aversano

    Sorry for being stupid but you said the steaming times are for the weight of all lobsters in the pot so if I have two two pound lobsters, four pounds total, the total cooking time would be 22-24 minutes? Thanks

  14. Joe

    I just got it! 8 minutes for the first pound then add 3 min, for each subsequent pound so two two pounders about 17min. Ha!

  15. Jenifer

    Hi…I have a friend that is going to be cooking lobster and clams for 20 people. No corn, no potatoes…just lobster and clams. She wants to do 3 -32 qt pots so that all food will be ready at the same time. With 1 to 1 1//2 lbers. how many do you think that she could fit in a 32 qt pot at one time? I am trying to figure out if she should be using larger pots. Help!!

  16. Richard

    I followed these directions for steaming four two pound lobsters and they were undercooked. My friend from Bar Harbor, who brought me the lobsters, recommended a cooking time of 18 minutes–not the 12 minutes recommended here. I will do that next time because, as said, steaming per this timetable left them undercooked.

  17. Lillian Cheatham

    I’m curious to ask about the conflicting advice on steaming times. Lobsterfrommaine.com states 1 1/4 lbs for 12 minutes and 5 lb for 40-45 min. Your site states 1 1/4 lbs for 7-8 minutes and 5 lbs for 20-22 minutes. Any comments?

    I learned on your site that the times are for the weight of all lobsters – that was a huge help!

  18. Steven

    No cerebral cortex Charlie, therefore no pain, @ least not as humans would define pain.. Simple twitching is neuron based without emotion.

  19. Hiroshi Asada

    We have 4 lobsters. The total weight is about 5.7 lb. In other words, each weighs from 1 1/4 to 1 1/2. Should we consider the total weight (5.7) when we use your guideline? Or should we use individual weight (1 1/2)? Thank you!

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