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Jul 22, 2009 11:54 AM

Precooking lobster a day in advance

Im hoping someone can help me out here.

Im going camping tomrrow, and plan to bring out a few lobsters for a beach side feast. I will be grilling them, but I am concerned about keeping them alive for about 24 hours before I cook them. The fishmonger told me not to do it, as they might die, and you cant cook the bacteria out of a lobster...

So, I was hoping that I could boil them for about 3-4 minutes before I leave home, store them in the cooler, then spilt and grill them the next day.

Can anyone give me some advice?


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  1. Here's a good website to answer your questions

    I've cut out a couple answers for you

    How do you pack live lobsters to travel? Top of page
    We put lobsters in a styrofoam or insulated outer box with jell-ice packs to keep them cold and wet newspaper or seaweed to keep them moist. Lobsters packed like this will last up to two days.

    How long can you keep live lobsters in a refrigerator? How long will they stay alive? Top of page
    Most will survive for at least 24 hours. Keep them covered with a damp cloth or a layer of seaweed to provide moisture. Live lobsters cannot be stored in fresh water or enclosed in plastic bags.

    How long can you keep cooked lobster in the refrigerator? Top of page
    It will probably be good for 3 to 4 days.

    1. By cooking them for only a few minutes, you end up with the worst possible situation: the lobsters are definitely dead, but not cooked sufficiently to prevent spoilage. You should either cook them completely or keep them moist and cool so they'll stay alive for the 24 hours you need. Because you plan to grill them, the latter is the better choice and if the lobsters are in good shape when you buy them you shouldn't have any trouble keeping them alive using the method Salty_Loves_Sweet suggests.

      3 Replies
      1. re: FlyFish

        Agreed, FlyFish. Don't par cook them ahead. Not a good idea. Keeping them alive really is a no brainer, and knowing now that I can keep them 3-4 days in my cold fridge, I won't be waiting til the day of my clambake to order & pick them up!!!

        1. re: Phurstluv

          "No-brainer"? Wow. That might be appropriate language for someone like Joel Robochon to use, but there are a lot of ways to skin a cat, and I've not only met, but worked for, Master Chefs who don't know them all. Par-cooking, done correctly, is often the best choice.

        2. re: FlyFish

          I'm not sure what your culinary training and experience was / is, but par-cooking of some starches and proteins is very common in the top-rated fine dining restaurants. Par-cooking does not cause one to "end up with the worst possible situation". I spent nearly a year as a stagier in a Zagat's favorite restaurant where lobsters were often par-cooked on sheet pans at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I've also lived in New England, and I've eaten freshly-caught lobster in Maine, and I know the taste and mouth-feel of good lobster. Par-cooking allows for rapid finishing a la minute, and proper par-cooking, even of lobster, does not compromise color, flavor, or texture, nor safety and sanitation. Par-cooked foods have had some of the pathogens killed, though not all. If quickly brought to cooking temperatures and not left in the "danger zone", then rapidly re-cooled, par-cooked proteins are at least as safe and stable as freshly-killed raw ones, if not more so, and, again, if done correctly, with expertise, there is no loss of flavor or texture. At home, I kill lobster on the spot. For a camping trip, I'd par-cook 'em and just take the tails with me.

        3. lobsters are like prehistoric insects and relatively resilient. i'm curious why your fish guy seems to think his are so delicate?

          par-cooking is not the way to go. either bring them alive or cook them through ahead of time and make lobster salad.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hotoynoodle

            Great advice...thanks everyone. Im going ot wrap them in wet newspaper, put them in a dry cooler with ice packs, and hope for the best!!

          2. I'm reviving this thread because i have the delimna of wanting to serve lobster for my dad's birthday dinner on Sunday, but only being able to take delivery of a mail ordered lobster on Friday. The mail order website says to cook the lobster the same day they arrive, not to wait. They advise cooking, refridgerating, and then dropping in boiling water again just to warm right before service. that sounds like a recipe for nasty luke warm tough lobster to me.

            What say you.

            and...I thought 4 minutes WAS fully cooked for a small-ish lobster. no?

            2 Replies
            1. re: danna

              How are you cooking them? if your just doing them with drawn butter, cooking them ahead of time and reheating coated in some nice butter shouldn't make them rubbery at all... if your worried about it... when you get them just watch them, i dont see them arriving dead... and if u notice they start to go down hill/die then cook them quick.... if it dies minutes before it goes in the water is isnt going to kill you... and the whole "24 hours" is probably and estimate.. i know from experience ive had lobster alive almost a full week in the walk-in at work and they are still all over the floor when you come in, in the morning.

              1. re: Ryanpow

                thanks. yeah, I was just planning to serve them plain in the shell. Maybe I will just try the re-heat method. I usually don't worry much about such things when it's just me, but it's for my Dad's 75th and I don't want to make it his last.

            2. RodVito, please see my responses to FlyFish and Phurstluv above. I know that your post is over a year old, but I just ran across it while compiling some information for a friend of mine who is an instructing chef and a consultant. I've done enough camping and hiking, nevermind catering, to know that I want to keep campfire-side food prep easy. I treat the occasion like a fine-dining catering gig, and try to do the bulk of the prep before leaving the house, i.e. protein butchered, trimmed, & cut to individual portions, vegetables washed, trimmed, & cut, onions/garlic/shallots diced or minced, basil chiffonade cut, etc. Having everything prepped and portioned, with all flavorings and seasonings ready in sealed containers, makes camp-cooking and catering VERY easy. I've been on the catering team for a fine-dining Bastille Day party, and the lobster tails were par-cooked at the restaurant and finished a la minute, just as they would have been done for a customer "in house".

              1 Reply
              1. re: New_World_Man

                live lobsters and lobster tails are hardly the same. most tails are frozen and from the southern hemisphere. i have worked in restaurants and for private events companies all my adult life, over 20 years, and have never ever worked anywhere , nor done off-site events, where the lobster was par-cooked. never. ever.

                people in new england do clambakes and lobster boils outside all the time. we don't bring par-cooked clams or 1/2 cooked lobsters. not ever.