Video tip: Working with lobsters in the kitchen

Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen director Noelle Carter, shows how easy it is to cook live lobster.

If you've ever tried to cook fresh lobster, you know how tricky it can be that first time. After all, most of us aren't used to dealing with our food, well, so alive. Even now, every time I encounter lobsters in the kitchen, I always think back to film classic "Annie Hall."

While you can cook lobsters live, many people prefer to kill them first. There are a lot of ways to do this, but I prefer the Trevor Corson method chef Michael Cimarusti details in our recent master class story:


Start by chilling the lobsters in the freezer for 15 minutes or so. Lobsters are coldblooded, and this slows their metabolic rate and dulls their response to pain.

Place the chilled lobsters belly-up on a cutting board. Thrust a sharp knife into the belly of the lobster between the first pair of legs and pull the knife down toward the head. If you are careful not to cut through the top side of the shell, your guests will never be able to tell.

To keep a lobster tail straight while cooking, run a skewer through the center of the fan and up the length of the tail. If the lobster is whole, run the skewer all the way through. As a lobster is cooked, the tail meat naturally wants to contract and curl; the skewer will keep it straight. This technique also works for large shrimp and prawns.

If you're boiling lobsters and are working with even numbers, you can also keep their tails straight by tying each pair together before boiling. Arrange the lobsters with their bellies touching and tails extended before tying; this will keep the tail meat straight without having to use skewers.

Cooking is fun — at least it should be! No matter how long you've been in the kitchen, there is always something new to learn, whether it's a simple twist on an old technique, or a handy tip to save time and energy. In this series of short videos, I demonstrate a variety of kitchen tips, ranging from how to hold a chef's knife for maximum control to using a spoon to peel fresh ginger. If you have any gadgets, kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.


Total time: 45 minutes | Serves 4

Note: To make garlic oil, place 4 to 5 crushed garlic cloves with a 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil in a pan. Infuse over a very low flame for 2 hours; this makes more oil than is needed for the recipe, the rest can be refrigerated until needed.

    4 (1 1/2-pound) Maine lobsters, preferably female
    1 cup (400 grams) garlic-infused olive oil (see note)
    2 cups lightly packed (40 grams) basil leaves, stems removed
    1 1/2 cups, lightly packed (40 grams) parsley leaves, stems removed
    2 teaspoons (2 grams) chili flakes
    About 1 1/4 teaspoons (8 grams) sea salt, plus more for seasoning the lobsters
    Champagne or white wine vinegar
    Espelette powder or cayenne pepper, for seasoning the lobsters
    Salted butter for brushing the lobsters and melted for the table
    4 lemons

1. Make the herbed oil: Place the garlic oil in the bowl of a food processor along with the basil, parsley, chili flakes and 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt. Pulse to blend together, but do not fully puree; it is best left slightly coarse.

2. Fill a pot large enough to accommodate the lobsters with cold water. Add enough sea salt to the water to approximate the salinity of the ocean. Add enough vinegar for the acidity to be noticeable but not strong. (You could also add herb stems, bay leaves and peppercorns, if you'd like.) Bring the water to a boil and add the lobsters.

3. Adjust the flame as needed to maintain a simmer, nothing more. Cook the lobsters for 3 minutes, then remove to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain the cooled lobsters.

4. Split the lobsters and remove the digestive tract and tomalley. If there is dark green roe in the lobster, make every effort to leave it undisturbed. Dab the flesh of the lobster with paper towels to dry.

5. Prepare the lobsters for the grill: Season the flesh of the lobsters lightly with sea salt and espelette, and brush the flesh with the herbed oil. Meanwhile, heat the grill to medium high.

6. Wipe down the grates with a touch of oil and allow it to burn off for several minutes. Place the lobsters, shell side down, for the first 2 to 3 minutes of cooking. Flip the lobsters, lightly brushing the shells with a touch of melted butter and sprinkling of sea salt. Cook the lobster, flesh side down, for 2 to 3 more minutes.

7. Remove the lobsters from the grill; the roe should have turned from green to red, and the flesh will be slightly caramelized. Brush the flesh with softened butter to make it glisten. Serve with lemon.

Each serving: Calories 402; Protein 34 grams; Carbohydrates 1 gram; Fiber 1 gram; Fat 29 grams; Saturated fat 4 grams; Cholesterol 256 mg; Sugar 0; Sodium 1,278 mg.

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