Tackling Lobster



Yesterday, I cooked lobster for the first time. My friend Chris wanted to spend an afternoon cooking and he’s not one to skimp and save when it comes to ingredients, so we faced a truly decadent meal of lobster* followed by roast grouse followed by four different types of cheese.

Over a glass of wine, we pondered how to dispatch them. I was the only one in our party of three to consider the freezer method. The RSPCA recommends 2 hours at -20C. I was even willing to get all cheffy and put a knife through the head if that was deemed the right thing to do but advice is very conflicting. Lobsters do not have a brain, just a simple nervous system. It is not possible to ‘kill’ them in the normal sense of the word but there is a debate over whether or not they feel they’re being cooked; some argue that the thrashing they do in the water is a reaction to toxins and not a pain response. I don’t know. Anyway my mates were having none of it – they went straight in the pot.





We wondered how long they needed. Again, advice varies. We ended up cooking them for 10 minutes then panicking and leaving them in for another 2. This was too long; they didn’t suffer hugely but I’d say around 8 minutes would be ideal. Once tonged from the pot it was a frenzy of twisting, cracking, picking and extracting while trying to avoid burns from bursts of boiling juices. A lack of proper tools wasn’t a problem – we just whacked the claws with a knife. Every last morsel of meat was extracted, the shells saved for bisque. It’s a crime to throw them away when there’s so much more flavour to be had for your money.

Lobster Cracking



To serve, a pot of golden mayonnaise (made with two super-rich Burford Brown yolks), a ramekin of clarified butter and some good bread. It’s all about the simplicity with crustaceans. I dunked quivering chunks of lobster meat into the mayonnaise and soaked up silly amounts of clarified butter with the bread. It seemed almost too good to be true.

The tail is of course the largest piece but the claws make the sweetest eating and the legs are the most fun – like lobster straws that make you work for their reward. We saved them until last and slurped and sucked out every last piece of flesh and juice. Perfect.

How to cook a lobster

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add plenty of salt. When you’ve got a rolling boil, drop your lobster in. When it comes back to the boil, start timing. We had 1.2-1.3 kg lobsters and cooked them for 12 minutes but this was slightly too long. 8-10 minutes would be ideal.

Remove and let them cool slightly. This website has detailed instructions on how to remove the meat from a lobster. We just hacked away at ours, twisting the claws and legs off then dealing with the rest as best we could.

Some lobsters contain a green liver or ‘tomalley’ which is edible and considered a delicacy by many.


2 egg yolks
Groundnut or vegetable oil (olive oil is to strong I find and certainly never use extra virgin)
A scant teaspoon mustard of your choice
Lemon juice (start with a tablespoon and see how you go)
Salt and pepper

Put the egg yolks in a clean bowl and whisk them together. Whisk in the mustard. Begin adding oil a few drops at a time, whisking as you do so and making sure each bit of oil is fully incorporated before adding the next. As you whisk in more oil and the mayo starts to thicken, you can start adding it in very slightly larger quantities until you are steadily adding it in a thin stream. The key with mayo is to be cautious with the oil until you get a feel for making it. If you add too much at once, it will split. If this happens, don’t despair. Take a fresh egg yolk in a clean bowl and begin adding the split mixture into it, very slowly, just as if it were the oil. This should bring it back. Add the lemon juice to taste and season with salt and pepper.

*The lobsters Chris bought through Marky Market who had the frankly rather genius idea of setting up a business where he acts as a middle man between you and a market you don’t have the time or energy to go to, like Billingsgate. He buys what you want then meets up with you to exchange the goods.

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  • Avatar
    Reply Rico September 19, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    Looks absolutely delicious those lobsters and sauce, and what a presentation, would love to have some right now…really would.

    Tried Tested Recipes Sharing

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    Reply Rich September 19, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    I had a similarly agonising time the other week working out how to kill a crab. “With a chopstick”, is the correct answer, as it turns out.

    This Marky Market chap? If he delivered to Yorkshire, I’d be giving him a call. What a completely brilliant idea.

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    Reply Lucy September 19, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    What a fantastic colour they came out! They look very intimidating though. Often I take on the notion that I don’t like having to work for my food and to be honest….I wouldn’t know the first place to crack to get the wonderful meat out.

    Coming out of that pan, they still look like living lobsters, not resembling food whatsoever. I have to wonder sometimes, who first had the gumption to eat lobster, just to check if it was actually edible.

    Looks delicious though…was the mayonnaise presentation deliberate? Looks exactly like a lobster.

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    Reply GoingWithMyGut September 19, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    I once had a lobster larger than my pot. Cooking it was a gawdawful half-at-a-time process. I’m still surprised PETA or RSPCA hasn’t busted me for it

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    Reply shayma September 20, 2010 at 1:23 am

    lobster straws- i love that. those are my fave parts of the lobster. my husband has been keen on making lobster at home (read: have his wife prepare lobster at home)- i am going to go with your recipe.gorgeous photos-what a lovely way to spend the afternoon. x shayma

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    Reply Maunika September 20, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Love Lobster helen its my fav. Apart from cooking it in a curry this is the only other way that I would love to eat it. Simple yet very very delectable. As always your photos are amazing & the food looks scrumptious!

  • Avatar
    Reply markymarket September 20, 2010 at 9:56 am

    Hi guys,
    I’m really glad you were happy with your lobsters, they look like they turned out really well. And thanks for the name-check; I really appreciate it.
    mw x

  • Avatar
    Reply Lizzie September 20, 2010 at 10:40 am

    I am somewhat surprised I had NO QUALMS with dropping them straight in the water… What can I say, the belly rules all. Or my hangover rendered me numb. One of them.

  • Avatar
    Reply Sarah, Maison Cupcake September 20, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    I’ve never given it much thought how I would feel cooking lobsters myself although I’d have no qualms sending them to their death in a restaurant. I suppose the big question is whether I have a saucepan big enough!

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    Reply Food Urchin September 20, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I’ve done the whole freezer/put them sleep before and plucked one out only to have it start thrashing around like some mutant uber lobster! Scared the shit out of me until I thrust it head first into a pot of boiling water.

    Good work Helen!

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    Reply James September 20, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    You mean you didn’t put them on the stove top and watch them hot-foot it accross the heat? Or take the bands off the claws, put them on the work surface and watch them fight?

    No course I wouldn’t……

    Reminds me of Saturdays and Sundays cooking & disassembling them by the hundred +.

    When they’re cooked if you run them under luke warm water it cools the shell down so you can crack them without burning yourself. Plastic gloves also help. If you do it in cold water or in the fridge the lobster meat sticks to the shell when you try and crack it and the whole thing is ruined.

    If you like the clarified butter you could try butter poached lobster? You boil the lobsters just for a minute so it set the shell so you can crack it. The meat inside isn’t cooked – but you finish cooking it in clarified butter. Maybe vanilla too. Decadence.

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    Reply Foodie in Berlin September 20, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    When I went to chef school in London a few years back, we had to stab them in the head with a knife. I couldn’t do it, kept waiting for mine to die of heart failure or something….

  • Avatar
    Reply KSalty September 20, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    Love it – clarified butter and homemade mayo: gloriously decadent but simple at the same time

  • Avatar
    Reply Tv Food and Drink September 20, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    When in doubt, Julia can always help!

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    Reply Jonathan September 21, 2010 at 12:40 am

    Good work. Looks delicious. Loving the golden mayo.

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    Reply Anna Johnston September 21, 2010 at 3:34 am

    I love nothing more than a good lobby, love the Marky Market idea, brilliant.
    OK, I’m going back to drooling these pics. Awesome.

  • Avatar
    Reply Shaheen {The Purple Foodie} September 21, 2010 at 6:28 am

    I am petrified of lobsters! This makes t seem less daunting.

  • Avatar
    Reply An American in London September 21, 2010 at 10:13 am

    The Marky Market tip is brilliant. Though not sure if I should laugh or cry at the name.

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    Reply Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen September 21, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Looks divine Helen! I am still too scared to ever cook one myself!

  • Avatar
    Reply Helen September 21, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Lucy – the presentation wasn’t deliberate and I hadn’t even noticed!

    Thanks all for your encouraging comments. I’m glad I tackled it. James, you are sick, man 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply Joshua September 22, 2010 at 10:17 am

    With homemade mayonnaise and freshly cooked lobster you really don’t need anything else, well maybe a little bread to wipe the plate with.

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    Reply ginandcrumpets September 23, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I was told to put the crab/lobster into a pan of cold seasalty water and then bring that slowly to the boil because that lulls the crab/lobster into a coma and they don’t notice being boiled alive.

    However, given that when I tried this the crabs/lobster either kicked the lid off the pan and tried to climb out or I had to weigh down the pan lid with every weight in the kitchen and a few books to boot, I don’t believe it works. It’s a painful, screaming death or nothing for the crustaceans.

  • Avatar
    Reply Tom September 29, 2010 at 3:14 am

    I’ve never cooked a lobster and am still quite scared to try. This has (almost) pushed me into doing it!

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