This step-by-step tutorial and guide will show you how to butterfly a lobster tail into a beautiful masterpiece. We include detailed instructions on how to cut, split, and open the tails using sharp kitchen shears or a knife. This method works for baking, grilling, air frying, smoking, or broiling.
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Why This Method is So Popular
If you’ve never done it, it may take some practice. Butterflying involves cutting it lengthwise down the center, leaving the tail fin intact, so that it can be opened like a book.
This method also allows the lobster tail to cook evenly, so you don’t overcook it. It doesn’t hurt that it looks so beautiful!
What Type of Lobster to Use
There are two main types of lobster tails available: cold water and warm water.
Cold-water lobster tails are typically considered to be of higher quality and have a sweeter, more delicate flavor. They come from the North Atlantic (often Maine) and are caught in colder waters. Coldwater lobsters are larger than warm-water and have more meat. Because they live in cold temperatures their meat gets a lot firmer than those from warm water, which will produce tender meat when properly cooked.
Warm water lobster tails are less expensive and have a slightly softer texture and milder flavor. They come from the Caribbean, South Africa, and Australia, and are caught in warmer waters. They are not as sweet and delicate as cold-water lobster tails.
Lobster tails are typically 6-8 oz in size.
If you are looking for a high-end meal or celebrating something special, cold water lobster tails may be the best option. If you are looking for something less expensive, then warm water will work.
How to Shop
Look for a grocer that will display what type of lobster is sold (cold water vs warm water). If the display doesn’t specify and if the staff isn’t knowledgeable, I would buy from somewhere else. Lobster is typically a higher-end grocery item. I wouldn’t risk a poor-quality purchase.
How to Thaw
Thaw in the fridge overnight. You can also place them in cold water for 30 minutes. They should not be thawed at room temperature to preserve the quality of the meat. When thawed properly, they can taste as good as fresh lobster tails.
How to Clean
Cleaning is important so you ensure the lobster is safe to eat. Once you cut it open you will notice an intestinal tract you will need to remove (devein) and discard. From there rinse the lobster in cool water. You can read more about How to Clean and Prepare Lobster Tails here.
What Type of Kitchen Shears to Use
Kitchen shears or a sharp paring knife are needed to get the job done. It is best to use kitchen shears specifically designed for cutting seafood. These are usually made of stainless steel and are designed to be durable and rust-resistant. They have a sharp, serrated edge that easily cuts through the hard shells.
You will also want shears that are also equipped with a sturdy handle and finger guard, to help protect your fingers from the sharp edges of the shell. A good pair will have a hinge that allows the blades to be opened wide, which helps to get a better grip on the tail and make it easy to cut through the shell.
How to Butterfly Lobster Tails
- Pat the lobster dry.
- Use kitchen shears to cut through the top of the shell, starting at the base of the tail and cutting all the way to the end of the tail. Stop just before the fin of the tail.
- Flip the tail over and then press down onto the ribs. Crack each one. This will work wonders at making it easier to pull the meat out on the other side.
- Carefully open the shell like a book, without cutting through the meat. Slip your fingers under the meat and the shell and lift it out to prop over the shell.
- Remove the vein/intestinal tract that runs through the center of the meat.
- Clean the lobster tails.
More Lobster Recipes
How to Butterfly a Lobster Tail
- 2 lobster tails 6-8 ounces each is standard size.
- optional butter for serving
- Pat the lobster dry and use kitchen shears to butterfly the lobster tails. Take the shears and slice through the top shell down the middle until you reach the base of the tail (fin). You’ll also cut into the meat, which will butterfly it and cause it to sit better on the shell.
- Then flip the lobster tail over and press down on the ribs until you hear them crack. This will help release the meat when you go to butterfly it.
- Turn the lobster tail over and open up the shell. Remove the vein from the lobster if it hasn’t been deveined and wash the tail.
- Press along the edges of the shell on both sides to loosen up the meat. Keep the meat attached to the shell. Lift up the meat from the shell and lay it over the shell.
- Grill: Grill at 400 degrees, medium-high heat for 8-12 minutes until the lobster reaches an internal temp of 130-145 degrees. Smoker: Smoke at 300 degrees until the lobster reaches an internal temp of 130-145 degrees. Bake: Bake for 8-12 minutes at 425 degrees until the lobster reaches an internal temp of 130-145 degrees. Air Fryer: Air fry for 5-8 minutes at 370 degrees until the lobster reaches an internal temp of 130-145 degrees.