Steaming lobster is my preferred way of cooking lobster. I believe it is a more gentle method of cooking lobster which results in slightly more tender, flavorful meat. Here are instructions and tips on how to get perfectly steamed lobsters.
To properly steam a lobster, fill a large pot with about two inches of lobster (yes, just two inches – you are cooking the lobster in steam, not boiling it). If you have access to fresh sea water, use that. If not, you can add a bit of salt to your water. There are companies that harvest Maine sea salt which I use for cooking lobster when I am not in Cutler or close to the ocean. Place a lid on the pot and bring the water to a steaming boil.
Once the water is steaming, remove the rubber bands from the lobster (cooking the lobster with the bands on can negatively impact the flavor of the lobster). Place the lobster or lobsters into the pot of water and replace the lid.
In terms of how long to steam lobster, I recommend the following:
- 1 and 1/4 pound lobster – steam for 10 to 12 minutes
- 1 and 1/2 to 2 pound lobster – steam for 15 minutes
- 2 and 1/2 to 5 pound lobster – steam 20 to 25 minutes
If you are steaming multiple lobsters of varying sizes in the same pot, as I often do, getting the timing right can be tricky. At times, the smaller lobsters or the lobsters at the bottom of the pot can end up slightly overcooked in an effort to ensure all the lobsters are cooked through. If you are cooking more than three lobsters my suggestion, after years of trial and error, is to divide the lobsters into several pots for cooking. If you need to use a single pot, try to rotate the lobsters part way through cooking.
When the lobsters are cooked, they will be bright red in color and will likely have a small amount of white ‘goop’ on the shell (which is the lobster’s blood). This is harmless and tasteless.
When it comes time to serve, I recommend pairing steamed or boiled lobster with a medium-bodied California Chardonnay. Look for a wine with more mineral than oak – such as a Russian River Chardonnay (The 2011 White House State Dinner in honor of President Hu Jintao featured poached Maine Lobster, which was paired with a 2008 Russian River Chardonnay). If you want to go sparkling, try a rose champagne, such as a Mumm Rose. A nice craft beer is another great option. Here are more recommendations on which wines to pair with lobster as well as recommendations on the best side dishes to serve with lobster.