Grilled Whole Lobster

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Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4

Lobsters are great on the grill. When using live lobsters, be brave and take on the role of executioner, a daunting but necessary task. Don’t be squeamish about dispatching live lobsters; a quick downward stroke with a knife kills them instantly. It’s over in less than a second.


  • Salt, to taste 
  • 2 live Maine lobsters, each 1 1/2 to 2 lb., or 2 frozen spiny lobster tails, thawed 
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter 
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced 
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon, plus 2 lemons, thinly sliced into rounds 
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 3 Tbs. minced fresh herbs, such as chervil, flat-leaf parsley and tarragon, or any combination  


Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Have ready a bowl of ice water large enough to fit the lobsters.

On a cutting board, use the point of a chef’s knife to cut an incision through each lobster head shell about 1 inch from the eyes, pushing down hard through the shell to instantly kill the lobster. Immediately plunge the lobsters into the pot and cook for 2 minutes, then transfer to the ice water. When the lobsters are cool enough to handle, split them in half lengthwise. Remove the intestinal vein from the tails, the grain sacs from the heads and any green tomalley from the bodies; reserve any black egg sacs in a small bowl.

Pour 1/4 cup boiling water over the egg sacs and, using a fork, gently break the membrane to release the roe; it will turn bright red in the hot water. Strain through a sieve and let dry on a paper towel.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the herbs and 2 Tbs. of the reserved lobster eggs. Keep the garlic-lemon butter warm.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill. Brush and oil the grill grate.

Brush the cut side of each lobster half with some of the garlic-lemon butter. Place the lobsters, cut side down, on the grill. Cover and grill until the flesh is opaque and firm to the touch, 5 to 6 minutes. Grill the lemon slices over the hottest part of the fire until lightly charred, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

Brush the grilled lobsters with the remaining garlic-lemon butter and transfer to a platter. Garnish with the grilled lemon slices and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma On the Grill, by Willie Cooper (Oxmoor House, 2009).

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