Butter Poached Lobster with Fresh Tomatoes



lobster, butter, how to cook lobster

I enjoy lobster cooked any which way, though I do think that my least favorite way (other than overcooked) is steamed or boiled lobster, as the high heat that it’s usually cooked on ruins the texture of the delicate meat. If I’m going to pay $16.99 per pound for a whole lobster, it better darn well melt in my mouth.

Instead of boiled lobster, I enjoy Lobster Carpaccio (a recipe from Nobu) and lobster slow-poached in a creamy, buttery sauce. Throw in the freshest tomatoes you can find, maybe some fresh herbs and I’ll be as happy as a clam human (I don’t think clams eat lobster)

If you’re squeamish about handling a live lobster, that’s totally okay. Many people are, including 9 out of 10 squeamish teenage grocery store cashiers who have to ring it up.

But let’s just say that if you’re really not into bringing a live lobster home, you can still make this dish.

You can use lobster tails.

Or, if your seafood department has complimentary steaming service (many do!) – have them steam the lobster for exactly 3 minutes and then immediately package it in ice to cool the lobster off. When you get home, remove the meat from the lobster and continue the recipe with the butter poaching.

If you’re okay with live lobsters, go for it.

There are many theories on how best to prepare the lobster for its final moments – some suggest you freeze the lobster for a few minutes to slow down its metabolism and put it to “sleep”, some suggest piercing a knife in its head to kill instantly.

Our method was a family decision – the kids pet the lobster and thank Buddha for providing such delicious creatures.

“Ahhh, Good lobstah….you had a good life in the tank. May you reincarnate into a butterfly”

For whole live lobster

Boil a big pot of water, add in the lobster and for 3 minutes. I don’t want the lobster to cook all the way – I just want to partially cook the lobster and make it easier to remove the meat.

Instead of using the traditional lobster/crab cracking devices, I use little sharp kitchen shears. Makes less of a mess, the lobster meat comes out cleanly and most importantly, I don’t get lobster juice squirtin’ in my eye (which usually happens when I use those stupid metal cracking tongs)

See, this is much easier, no? Just cut straight down the middle (shell only) and peel back.

Same thing with the knuckle. Just snip the shell.

And the big claw.

If you’re the patient sort, you can tear off the itty bitty skinny legs and try to extract the meat from them too. Some people use a rolling pin to squeeze the meat out, but I’ve found that it results in more eye-squirtin’ lobster juice than I’m comfortable with.

For Lobster Tails

No need to dunk in hot water – just use a pair of kitchen shears, cut shell along length of back. Flip lobster tail over, cut shell along length of bottom (between its tiny feetsies). Pry shell open, remove meat and freeze the shell to make seafood stock.


Lobster Ready? Let’s Proceed!

This is the buttah for the lobstah. If you’re cooking more than one lobster, you can add more butter. I’ve used just one stick and cut it into small pieces.

In a pot just like this, start with 2 tablespoons of water over medium-low heat. Once it starts bubbling, add one piece of butter and whisk. When the butter has melted, add another piece, and so on and so on until you’ve used all the pieces.

Slowly adding the butter will help it emulsify – which basically means mixing two liquids together that normally don’t mix well (water and oil). What you’re after is a light yellow, creamy, buttery sauce called “beurre monte”…. NOT melted butter with white globs of milk solids (is there a fancy French term for this?)

To do this, you have to use low heat and add the butter pieces at a time. Make sure the mixture does not boil – otherwise it will separate.

Keep the heat on medium-low and add the lobster pieces and poach for 5 minutes. Every minute or so, I’ll turn the lobster.

Then remove the lobster. Now it’s time to gently cook the garlic and tomatoes for just a couple of minutes.

Finish off with some fresh basil and done!


Butter Poached Lobster with Fresh Tomatoes

Servings: Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter. Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes

I recommend using salted butter, which is all the salt that's needed to flavor the dish. If you're using unsalted butter, you might want to season with a bit of salt while cooking the tomatoes. An important tip is to make sure the butter mixture does not come to a boil - keep the heat low so that the butter emulsifies (turns into a nice, smooth creamy sauce) instead of breaking up.


1 3/4 pound live lobster (or 2 uncooked lobster tails)
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick), cut into 1 tablespoon chunks
1 clove garlic, very finely minced
2 tomatoes, cut into large chunks
few fresh basil leaves, chiffonade


1. **If you are using lobster tails: Use sharp kitchen shears to cut shell of lobster all the way down its back. Turn over and cut bottom shell all the way down. Peel off shell and remove meat. Continue with step 2.

**If using live whole lobster - bring a large pot of water to boil. Turn off heat and add the lobster. Cover with lid and let cook for 3 minutes. Remove all lobster meat from shell and cut into large chunks.

2. In a sauce pan, bring 1 tablespoon of water to simmer over medium-low heat. Whisk in 1 piece of butter. When butter had melted, add another piece. Continue with remaining butter pieces, one at a time. Make sure the mixture does NOT come to a boil, otherwise the butter will separate.

3. Keeping the heat on medium-low, add the lobster pieces and cook for 5 minutes, turning the lobster pieces every minute or so. Make sure mixture does not boil. Remove lobster pieces and divide amongst the 2 serving bowls.

4. In the same saucepan with the remaining butter, turn the heat up just a bit, add the garlic. When fragrant, add the tomatoes and cook for just a couple of minutes until the tomatoes have released some of the juices. I like to gently smash the tomatoes a bit so more juice comes out. Throw in the basil and you're done. Spoon tomatoes over lobster and serve immediately.

Other Lobster Recipes

Lobster Mac & Cheese | Steamy Kitchen

Lobster Carpaccio | Steamy Kitchen

Grilled Lobster with Garlic Butter Sauce | Steamy Kitchen on Tasty Kitchen

Boiled Lobster Recipe, How to Cook and Eat Lobster | Simply Recipes

Lobster Yee Mein (Lobster Noodles) Recipe | Rasa Malaysia

Lobster Rolls | Apartment Therapy

use leftover lobster shell & head to make Lobster Bisque

And for a real treat, watch my friend (and incredibly talented storyteller/videographer) Liza de Guia’s video on Lobster Rolls.

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Comments 66

  1. Pingback: Just eat it, eat it, eat it, eat it; Get yourself an egg and beat it | Mitzie Knows Best

  2. Susan Robertson

    Delicious recipe! All I had were two small lobster tails (6 oz. meat total), so I adapted it a bit. Great idea to boil a bit of water and then whisk in the butter ounce by ounce. I ended up using three tbs of butter, which was more than enough. I had an ear of roasted corn on hand, so I cut the kernels off and added those. I served it over whole wheat spaghetti, which was robust enough to stand up to the sauce. Delicious and plenty for two. Thank you!

  3. Luan Do

    This is a great recipe. Thanks! I only added shallot and substituted water with lobster juice.

  4. Melissa Costa

    Sounds great and looks perfect! Lobster where I live is now about $3.99 a pound. I had lobster poached in butter in a restaurant for the first time a week ago. I loved it, and wondered how to do it. Thank you so much!
    I will probably make this for Thanksgiving. We have lobster on Thanksgiving as we are more thankful for that than turkey. I do a turkey with all the trimmings on Sunday following Thanksgiving.

  5. Grammie

    As a New Orleans girl (or rather “girl” some 60 plus years ago) with a French heritage Mama and hunting/fishing father, brothers, uncles and then husband I am not squeamish about cleaning, dressing and cooking anything that walks, flies, swims and tastes good. Unfortunately, I rarely have access to whole live lobster these days but did pick up about a dozen or more 6 oz lobster tails @ 6.99 lb at my local Publix recently.

    I passed on the already thawed tails in the case and bought them still frozen so I could defrost them in the refrigerator, wash well and then carefully broil with garlic butter. I’ve found the quality has been decent and the finished tails tasty and fairly tender (I watch the tails like a hawk and cook until just done).

    I’m going to try your recipe today but found your instructions for just tails a bit incomplete as to whether to par boil similar to the instructions for a live lobster. So, this is how I’ve decided to treat the tails: I’ll wash them well in cold water to remove any frost or debris; immediately drop them into a large amount of vigorously boiling salted water, cover and turn the fire off; let them sit for 3-4 minutes; then drain and plunge into ice water before proceeding with your recipe sans the tomatoes that really wouldn’t be good this time of year. Of course I’ll crush the shells up and add them to my bag of other such shells already in my freezer for a lobster stock.

    I don’t know if you’ll respond to this but even if you do I’m certain it won’t be in time. I’ll let you’ll know later how it turns out.

    Thank you so much for the recipe and I think I’ll browse through your blog later.

  6. Ian Warner

    Mind-blowing! Added 2 Tbsp of chopped shallot, red and green bell pepper, half a jalapeno and a tbsp of chopped fresh basil. First time making lobster….and first time EATING it too! LOL Veteran lobster eaters raved. I used frozen tails. No muss or fuss. Enjoy!

  7. Stephanie S

    Oh my goodness this was da bomb! We thoroughly loved every last morsel. I even dunked my roasted asparagus in the extra butter sauce in the bowl. The tomatoes and basil added such a freshness to the sweet succulent meat! Thanks for the detailed directions. First time cooking lobster and we did 3 whole in 2 sticks of butter and 2 cloves garlic! Again fantastic directions and recipe!!!

  8. Tim

    Not a bad recipe taste-wise, but 3 minutes pre-cooking is not nearly enough to get the meat loose from the shell. More like 6 or 7 I’d say and because of the struggle to get the meat out on your too-short cooking time, it looked like hell. Still, it tasted great.

  9. Kim Beaulieu

    My dad was from the East Coast so we grew up seeing lobsters hanging out in our bathtub until he cooked them. I’m allergic to shellfish(boo hiss) so I can’t partake but I love checking out seafood recipes. I wish I could eat it. I think it’s awesome that your kids are aware and part of the decision how to cook it. I’m a carnivore but also an animal lover so I love the way you handled it.

    Passing this on to my sis in law, they are in Nova Scotia where lobster is plentiful.

  10. [email protected]@

    For a girl who lives in Florida, you sure know how to handle a lobster! We live on the coast of Maine and this summer, we got a recreational lobster license . It’s been so much fun! It’s like Christmas when we pull up the traps – you never now what you’ll get. I’ve been preparing lobster many different ways, but have never tried butter-poached. Sound absolutely delicious and can’t wait to try it. I do not like dropping them in the into the steamer live, but I DO like the idea of thanking Buddha for their deliciousness.
    Many thanks…

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