A Chef Explains Why You Should Never Grill Lobster Tails Without The Shell

Lobster is one of those foods that simultaneously delights palates and strikes fear in the hearts of cooks who have never worked with it. It can be sweet, buttery, rich, and tender when prepared correctly and bland and rubbery when not. The problem is, as with most shellfish, lobster meat has a reputation for being sensitive and tough to work with; if exposed to the heat for a moment too long all could be lost. But that's just bad press, in reality, lobster isn't that hard to work with, so long as you know what you're doing and pay close attention during the cooking process.

The grill is a great way to cook lobster tails as the high heat and cool sections are perfect for careful cooking. But you may wonder whether the shell is getting between the meat and the heat. Chef Franklin Becker of New York City's Point Seven answered this question in an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, sharing that yes it does, and that's a good thing. "I think the best way to cook a lobster tail on the grill is in the shell," Becker notes. "The shell will protect the flesh and help to keep it tender."

Just as that tough carapace keeps the living lobster safe from its underwater enemies, so too will it help to diffuse and distribute heat evenly to the meat and lock in the critical moisture therein.

Options abound for grilling lobsters

Is grilling a lobster tail as simple as putting a lobster tail on the grill and cooking it until it seems done? Only in the broadest sense. There are plenty of factors to consider before lighting up the charcoal or turning on the gas. First, if your lobster tail is frozen, make sure it is thawed out fully before cooking. Even if it was just in the fridge, it is a good practice to let it come up to room temperature to ensure even cooking. Second, note whether the tail has been split open or not. You can cook it either way, but a split-open lobster tail will cook faster as it has more direct exposure to the heat. That also means that you directly season the meat and get a bit more char on it as opposed to a tail with a fully intact shell.

If you're still a bit skittish about grilling the lobster tail, take a note from one of the most respected chefs around. Geoffrey Zakarian, restaurateur and food media personality, is a master of technique and elegant cooking and he starts the cooking process before the meat ever hits the grill, first poaching the lobster tails in salted water or court bouillon. This ensures that it is properly cooked with the grill used to add some final flavorful char before cracking open the shell and enjoying.