How to Steam Lobster

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If you spot a live lobster at the market, don’t be afraid… they’re easy to cook! > How to Steam Lobster

How to Steam Lobster

Every summer on our beach vacation to Massachusetts, we eat lobster rolls like crazy (duh), but we always eat whole lobsters at least once.  Sure, you can order lobster at a restaurant for a gazillion dollars, or you can find them on sale at a seaside market (or buy them cheaper on the docks as the fishermen come in!)  Cooking them at home is a much more affordable option, and it’s super easy to do.

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Yeah, here’s me getting wild and crazy with some live lobster.  They rubber-band the pinchers so you’re totally safe from attack.  I’ll admit that I used to be completely freaked out by the idea of cooking these things while they’re still alive.  It’s freaky, and it seems kind of mean, right?  Well, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve done it so many times now that it doesn’t really bother me much anymore.  You’ve gotta eat.  And lobster is something that is (um… really good) to eat in my book.

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First you need to make sure you have a big pot with a steamer insert and a lid.  I include specifics on size of pot needed for how many lobsters in the recipe below.

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Once you have two inches of salted water at a rolling boil, you’re going to put your live lobsters into the steamer insert.

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Then place the lid on top and steam for 12 to 15 minutes.  That’s it!  They’re cooked and ready to eat.

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Place the steamed lobsters on a platter to cool.  You’re going to want them to be cool to the touch before you attempt to crack them open and devour the lobster meat inside.  You’ll need melted butter, lemon slices, and lots of napkins and wet wipes.  You’ll also need a large bowl to set in the center of the table for discarding the shells as you remove the lobster meat.  I like to serve lobster with corn on the cob and a good hunk of sourdough bread.

Here is a great tutorial showing you how to crack open a lobster and eat it > How to Crack and Eat a Lobster by The Kitchn

Enjoy your lobstah!

How to Steam Lobster

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 15 min

Cook Time: 15 min


Four 1 1/2 to 2-pound live lobsters
1 tablespoon sea salt
melted butter and lemon slices, for serving


1. Find a pot with a steaming rack that is large enough to hold the lobsters comfortably. A 4-5 gallon pot should work for about 8 pounds of lobster. Fill the pot with about 2-inches of water. Add sea salt to the water and bring the water to a boil. Put your live lobsters onto the steamer rack and place the lid on top. It should take 12 to 15 minutes to cook the lobsters through (12 minutes for 1.5-pound lobster and 15 for one that is closer to 2 pounds). It's easiest if all of your lobsters are roughly the same size! Remove lobsters to a platter to cool. Serve with melted butter and lemon slices.


*Cooked lobsters will turn bright red.
*Cooked lobster meat will be white instead of translucent.
*Some say you can check doneness by pulling on an antenna... and if it comes out easily then it's done (but this does not always work for me- I just time 12 to 15 minutes for the size indicated and they turn out great!).
*1 pound lobsters should be done in about 8 minutes.
*2 1/2 pound lobsters (if you should be so lucky) take about 20 minutes.


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  • Lou Skodras wrote:

    Is there a rule of thumb you could use for cooking lobster by the lb. They give times for 1 to 2 lbs but no mention for 3 to 5 lbs ones!

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      I’m not sure… but I’m sure there are additional resources for that online. A 3 to 5 pound lobster would be huge!

  • Robert L Peck wrote:

    Hi Lori ,
      I enjoyed your article on How to cook a Lobster.. Ever since i landed on Pinterest i have enjoyed learning how to cook..Maybe it’s our economy..but it’s very enjoyable and lots of fun..A question that i would like to ask you is…I was taught that the moment that you place the lobster in the boiling water you should immerse it in on it’s back and not headfirst like your your illustration depicts..Something to do with the fact that the lobster will expire more quickly.I’m not sure .Maybe you  can look into it for us .Either way it taste great..Thank you Bob

    • Lori Lange wrote:

      Hi Robert, I have not heard this before… I’ve always made them the way that I showed you without too much though about what position the lobster is in when placed into the water.

  • Heather S. wrote:

    Great tutorial! Makes it sound so simple…simple enough that this Iowa girl thinks she should finally give it a try. Life’s too short to only eat lobster when I’m visiting the Northeast!

  • Tina wrote:

    Great post! It is amazing people are afraid to cook lobster. I guess living almost my whole life on Cape Cod I am just use to the task. We do 2 inches of water and a splash of white vinegar. To steam them, use a butter knife and gently rub between their eyes on top of their head back and forth.
    This puts them in a trance or kind of like to sleep. Their claws will go limp and you just drop them in the water. Some say by doing this it keeps the meat soft. They don’t tense up when you drop them in the water which makes the meat tough.

  • Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. wrote:

    I’m so intimidated by this process. I need to get over it because lobster is so good!

  • TidyMom wrote:

    My parents used to cook lobster and you are so right – it takes some getting used to……but oh it’s so worth the delish meal! I think we need to head to Maine soon! now I’m craving fresh lobster!!

  • Recipegirl’s Mom wrote:

    Hi. I’m back online. Now that I have a brand new computer that works, I can see all of the beautiful food you have been cooking. The lobster, my very favorite, looks pretty darn good! Wish you could have sneaked a couple in your suit case. Well, maybe NOT! Guess I could be just as happy with grilled salmon.
    Now I’m going backwards to look at all the goodies I missed. Bye!!

  • randi wrote:

    If you’re still freaked out by steaming a live Lobster put it in the freezer for 30 minutes to put it in sleep mode. Make sure the tail temperature is 175 degrees for a perfectly cooked Lobster.

  • Karen @ The Food Charlatan wrote:

    Okay, I had no idea cooking lobster was so easy. This doesn’t sound hard at all! Also I love your lobster pot 🙂

  • Amanda wrote:

    Sounds so simple and the taste is great at the end, I just have to get up the nerve!! 🙂

  • Carla wrote:

    Do you remember the scene in Julie and Julia where Julie puts a live lobster in the pan but then the lid flies off and she’s all freaked out? That would be me LOL Anyway, now that I’ll be living in the city soon, I’ll have access to fresh live lobster and may actually try this! Wish me luck 😉 PS Love that your lobster pot has a lobster on it.

  • Chelsea @chelseasmessyapron wrote:

    I love the picture of you holding the lobster! I’m still a bit scared and haven’t steamed my own yet, which is totally a shame since the husband and I love lobster! We went to Maine last year and ate it all week long – so good there! This is a great tutorial Lori!

  • Tom @ Raise Your Garden wrote:

    Every time we go to Tops, that’s our local supermarket here in Buffalo, my kid’s make me stop and look at the Lobster’s. My oldest, 4, always wants me to get one. “Emma I have no idea how to prepare a lobster!” Maybe we can get grampa to make it sometime. I no longer am dependent on my in-laws to cook lobster. Thank you it doesn’t look that hard after all.