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Jun 20, 2011 12:16 PM

Two questions about steaming lobsters

1. There seems to be little consistency from one website to the next with regard to how long lobsters of various sizes need to be steamed. So I'd like to hear from the lobster pros: how do I calculate the correct steaming time?

2. This is something I haven't seen addressed anywhere. When figuring steaming time, do I need to take into account whether I'm steaming hard-shelled lobsters or soft-shelled ones? If so, what kind of adjustment do I need to make to the timing?

Oh... actually I have a third question: If I'm steaming lobsters of different sizes -- let's say they range in size from 1.25 lbs to 1.75 pounds -- do I simply do the math and place the larger ones into the pot first, wait a couple of minutes, add the next largest ones, wait again and add the smallest? I know, I probably ought to try to get them all approximately the same size, but if I can't/don't, what's the best way to time the steaming?


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  1. I think these may help you%3

    When I take the lobsters out of the steamer, I put them in a colander, head down, that has been placed over a bowl to collect the "juices." Less drippiness at table and gives you some broth to either dip the lobster pieces or to freeze for future use when making a fish stock..

    1. I usually boil lobsters and have always used the method that they float when they are done.

      15 Replies
      1. re: LifesAnOyster

        Your "floating test" really isn't all that reliable, especially if you're cooking larger lobsters. I normally cook 2+ pounders, & they're floating in a couple of minutes, but definitely are far from "done". Same goes for smaller lobsters - they float to the top almost immediately, but certainly aren't cooked through.

        1. re: Breezychow

          Jasper White has an excellent timing table for boiling lobsters. He spent a ton of time getting the timings down and the results speak for themselves. I usually boil lobsters in the range of 2.5-3 pounds each. Jasper's timing/heating instructions rely on more of a poaching method for the bigger guys. Results are outstanding.

            1. re: Gio

              Thanks. More lobsters tomorrow (summer is way more than warm weather and gin and tonics). I'll report back.

              1. re: steve h.

                You're killing me with all this lobbie talk...

                1. re: inaplasticcup

                  Exploiting the sea roach is what summer is all about.

                2. re: steve h.

                  Oh yes. Summertime is lobster time every which you want them. Of course, a G & T with Tanqueray & muddled lime just brings it all togather. Not to mention the clams, the corn on the cob, the wild blueberries... but I digress...

                  1. re: Gio

                    You never digress. Summer in New England is pretty good.

                3. re: Gio

                  There's a case in point. The steaming times given on that web site (East Coast Gourmet), copied below, are considerably shorter than those given in Jasper White's book.

                  Lobster Weight: Cooking Time
                  1-1/4 lbs. 7-8 minutes
                  1-1/2 lb. 8-10 minutes
                  2 lbs. 11-12 minutes

                  I can tell you that 11 minutes would never have been long enough fir my 1.75 pounder.

                4. re: steve h.

                  As a matter of fact, it was Jasper White's book, "Lobster at Home," that prompted my questions. Yesterday I steamed lobsters according to the steaming chart in his book. I had four lobsters to steam; they weighed 1.3 lbs, 1.55 lbs, 1.65 lbs and 1.78 lbs. Maybe I should mention that the shells on these critters were as hard as I've ever seen, and required a rubber mallet to crack them.

                  White's steaming chart gave the following steaming times:
                  1.25 lbs ......... 12 minutes
                  1.5 lbs ........... 14 minutes
                  1.75 lbs .......... 16 minutes

                  Based on the chart, I figured that the four lobsters needed steaming times of 12 minutes, 14 minutes, 14 minutes and 16 minutes, respectively, and I timed them accordingly. First I put the largest one into the steamer and covered the pot; two minutes later I added the two "middle-size" lobsters; and two minutes after that I added the smallest one. I factored in the heat loss from having removed the lid twice to add lobsters to the pot, so I added an extra minute of steaming time, and steamed them for 13 minutes after the addition of the fourth lobster.

                  Three of the lobsters turned out okay, but the largest one was way undercooked. I don't know how much more time I should have given it, or to what extent the cooking time was affected by those incredibly hard, thick shells. I posted my questions because I was seeking guidance for my next attempt.

                  And now you know the REST of the story.

                  1. re: CindyJ

                    Wow. I've never tried four lobsters in one pot before. I can see where the big guy might have been undercooked.

                    1. re: steve h.

                      It's a huge pot -- with a 19-quart steamer insert. It could have held one or two more lobsters and not been overcrowded.

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        Size is important. So is the mass of the product.

                    2. re: CindyJ

                      This is the time table I use also. Owned a lobster boat with a 1000 plus traps out of Dorchester for 20 years.

                      This was last night's dinner, albeit, bought at MB for 4.99lb. Great sale too, as this guy was nearly 2lbs.

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        Sorry, didn't add the picture in the 1st post and you can't edit it afterward.... geesh.

                5. When the water is boiling, quickly add the lobsters to the pot and cover. Steam the lobsters, shaking the pot occasionally, until cooked through, about 8 minutes for 3/4 to 1 pound lobsters, about 10 minutes for 1 to 1 1/4 pound lobsters, and about 11 minutes for 1 1/2 to 2 pound lobsters.
                  This is from an Alton brown recipe, he actually added rocks to the cooking pot and steamed the lobsters on top of the rocks

                  1. I don't know about steaming, but boiling 1-1/4 to 1-3/4 pounders I've found are pretty much done at the same time - around 15 minutes or so. And I put them in at the same time.

                    1. I agree with Steve H. above about Jasper White. His "Lobster at Home" is my lobster bible - all recipes I've made (baked stuffed, pan-roasted with cognac, grilled, lobster casserole, salads, lobster rolls, lobster melts, Thermidor, Newburg) have been winners and his detailed directions are foolproof:

                      For steaming:
                      1 pound -- 10 minutes
                      1-1/4 pounds -- 12 minutes
                      1-1/2 pounds -- 14 minutes
                      1-3/4 pounds -- 16 minutes
                      2 pounds -- 18 minutes
                      2-1/2 pounds -- 22 minutes
                      3 pounds -- 25-30 minutes
                      5 pounds -- 40-45 minutes

                      For boiling, it's 1 pound for 8 minutes, 1-1/4 for 9-10 minutes, 1-1/2 for 11-12, 1-3/4 for 12-13, 2 pounds for 15 minutes, 2/12 for 20 minutes....

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: Rubee

                        The man knows his stuff. I like the way he begins timing from the moment the lobsters are dropped into the pot rather than waiting for the water to return to a boil. Yeah, I'm talking about boiled lobsters here. Further, he insists that "jumbo" lobsters, those in excess of 2 pounds, be poached. Specifically, he recommends that temperature be reduced (!) as soon as you drop the bad boys into the pot. Excessive use of salt is also highly recommended.

                        The man did a lot of scientific research so we here on the East Coast can enjoy all that the sea roach has to offer. His recipe for bisque is mighty tasty, too.

                        1. re: steve h.

                          I know. E doesn't usually like to cook but because of Jasper White, he does all the lobster prep now (parboiling, splitting for grilling, boiling, steaming etc.) because it's so foolproof. He gets the book out, props it up on the counter, and takes care of those lobbies. I haven't tried his bisque yet - will add it to the list!


                          1. re: steve h.

                            you're killing me with the roach talk, steve.

                          2. re: Rubee

                            I hadn't seen your post when I wrote my reply to SteveH. I have that book and those were the guidelines I used. The water was at a rolling boil, the steamer section of my pot was large enough to hold all 4 lobsters comfortably, and still there was a problem.

                            1. re: CindyJ

                              Hi CJ,
                              That was a lot of mass you had there absorbing the heat (four lobsters in one pot). Maybe dial back to two or three guys in the same pot next time.
                              Keep us posted.

                              1. re: steve h.

                                I think I'll try to keep them all around the same size, too. Thanks!

                              2. re: CindyJ

                                Oh so sorry to hear it didn't work out! Interesting question though. It sounded like you thought everything out - even for opening the lid. I wish I had personal experience, but I've never done different sized lobsters.