Sous Vide Lobster
J. Kenji López-Alt is the Managing Culinary Director of Serious Eats, author of the James Beard Award-nominated column The Food Lab, and a columnist for Cooking Light. He lives in San Francisco. A New York native, Kenji cut his cooking chops the old-fashioned way by wo ...
Lobster was the first meat that I ever cooked sous vide, and it's still one of my favorites. If buttery, tender, sweet poached flavor is what you're after, there's no better way to cook it. It's better than the best steamed or boiled lobster you've ever tasted. How much better? If I were in a mood for writing in hyperbolic tropes I'd tell you that it's [insert arbitrarily large number here] times better. But if I'm being honest, it's a lot better than boiled lobster, significantly better than steamed lobster, and a plain old better than roasted lobster. It's also heck of a lot more foolproof than any of those methods and also affords the opportunity to infuse that lobster meat with extra flavor. Think: lobster with the butter built right into it. Doesn't that sound swell?
Sous Vide Lobster Cooking Temperature
120°F / 49°C - Soft and translucent.
130°F / 54°C - Tender and succulent.
140°F / 60°C - Close to traditional steamed lobster texture.
NOTE: If you can't get live lobsters, frozen lobster tails will work as well. Ignore all instructions pertaining to claws and serve 1 1/2 to 2 lobster tails per person, depending on their size. Start with Step 4 and omit any directions pertaining to claws or knuckles.
Pro-level cooking techniques made simple.
Ingredients for 2
2 whole live lobsters, about 1 1/2 pounds each
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 sprigs fresh tarragon
Lemon wedges, for serving
1/4 cup clarified butter, for serving
If using live lobster: Kill lobster by plunging a knife directly into its head, splitting its carapace in half. If using frozen lobster tails: Proceed immediately to step 3.
Twist off the tail and claws. Discard carapace or save for stock. Proceed to step 3.
Lay tails flat against cutting board and insert two stiff wooden or metal skewers along the length of the tail, keeping as close to the shell as possible.
Prepare an ice bath. Bring a large pot of boiling water or a steamer to a rolling boil. Add lobster tails and claws and cook for 1 minute. Remove tails with tongs and transfer to ice bath. Continue cooking claws for 4 minutes longer, then transfer to ice bath.
Shuck lobster tails by first squeezing the sides of the shell inward until they crack.
Pull the sides of the shell outwards. The shell should open up easily.
Remove tail meat and set aside.
To remove claw meat, break off the small pincer, being careful to get the meat out of it. Using kitchen shears or the spine of a heavy knife against the cutting board, crack the bottom of the shell to create an opening large enough to extract the meat. Carefully remove the claw meat by shaking the shell up and down or by using the back of a wooden skewer to prise it out.
To remove knuckle meat, snip open the shells with kitchen shears and use the back of a wooden skewer to remove the meat. If the knuckles are especially spiky, use a kitchen towel to help grasp them.
Place meat in a heavy duty zipper-lock bag or a vacuum bag. Add 2 tablespoons butter and tarragon sprigs. Remove all air from bag using the water displacement method or a vacuum sealer.
Set your Precision Cooker to the desired temperature according to your preferred level of doneness using The Food Lab Lobster Guide in the Anova App. Add meat to the water bath and cook for at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour.
Remove lobster from bag, discard tarragon, and serve immediately with lemon wedges and hot clarified butter for dipping.