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A meal of home-grilled lobster will be most memorable when the right charcoal is used, the cooking process is diligently monitored, and the lobster is served as soon as it’s done. Side dishes like vegetables or pasta should be prepared from the freshest possible ingredients and cooked to highlight their natural flavor. Elaborate sauces and strong spices should be avoided, and the entire process should be kept as simple as possible.
The most important tip to follow when grilling lobster is not to overcook it. Like all seafood, lobster cooks very quickly and is ready to serve in minutes. Recipes that call for a lobster to spend more than 20 minutes altogether on the grill probably have not been field-tested; it’s possible that the timing instructions were guesstimated by the author and not double-checked by the publisher. Average-sized lobster cooking over direct heat may be done in as little as four or five minutes per side.
Some meats have acceptable grades of “doneness” like “rare,” “medium” and “well-done.” These grades don’t apply to lobster, which is done when the shell is bright red and the thickest part of the meat is opaque. As soon as these criteria are met, but not before, lobster should be removed from the grill and served.
Live lobster is always preferable to frozen, but there are many places where live lobster is either unavailable or prohibitively costly. Those who are squeamish about using live lobster should also use the frozen variety. Frozen lobster should be thawed slowly and carefully, either by moving from the freezer to the refrigerator for a day or so, or by sealing in a plastic bag and placing in a bowl of cold water. Trying to speed the process along by thawing frozen lobster in the microwave, or in a bowl of hot water, will cause the meat to lose its nice firm texture. Live lobster, on the other hand, should be kept alive until the very last minute.
Another tip for grilling lobster is to grill it in the shell. It’s fine to cut or even split the shell to expose the meat, but the meat shouldn’t be removed from the shell before cooking. Not only does the shell protect the meat from overcooking and drying out, it also imparts a wonderful flavor of its own. It’s not unusual for the shell to char somewhat during the process; this adds a nice flavor to the meat.
The flavor of grilled lobster is the main attraction — it shouldn’t be overpowered by sauces or seasonings. It’s fine to prepare a simple sauce to brush on the lobster prior to placing it on the grill and to baste it if desired, but all ingredients should be as fresh as possible. Most lobster-lovers, though, will be just as happy with lobster that’s been basted with a light brushing of olive oil or clarified butter.
A good hardwood charcoal is the preferred method for grilling lobster because of the flavor. Adding smoking chips like cherry or apple wood will add a pleasant smoky flavor and will compensate somewhat for the lack of charcoal if a gas grill is the only method available. The cooking grate should be cleaned and oiled before grilling lobster to prevent sticking.
For the very best flavor, grilled lobster should be served immediately upon removing it from the grill. Setting it aside while waiting for some other food to cook will let it cool down, losing flavor; if it’s set on a warming rack, it will continue to cook and dry out. Thus, the lobster should be the last dish grilled. Grilled lobster is most often served with clarified butter as a dipping sauce; it’s perfectly acceptable to flavor the butter lightly with appropriate herbs and spices like garlic and rosemary.
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