Lobster tails come in a range of sizes, from upwards of a pound or more to merely a few ounces. While smaller tails are prized by some as being sweeter, they are easier to overcook. However, their small size makes them well suited to quick cooking techniques, as there is less risk of the outer flesh burning. Small lobster tails can be served as meat only or in the shell, with a variety of sauces and seasonings, just like larger lobster tails.
Fresh or Frozen
Smaller lobster tails are often sold frozen, as their size means they freeze quickly, so the meat stays at a high quality. While you can cook small lobster tails from frozen it is best to defrost the tails completely before cooking. The safest defrosting method is to store the frozen tails in the refrigerator overnight. However, you can also use the defrost setting on a microwave. Defrosting not only lets you season the flesh before cooking, it also ensures more even cooking.
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Cook whole lobster tails in their shell for minimal fuss, or, for a fancier presentation, butterfly or halve the lobster tails prior to cooking. Exposing the meat by cutting through the shell of the lobster allows charring, faster cooking and seasoning options that would otherwise not be available. Brush any exposed meat with clarified butter or olive oil to keep it moist during cooking.
Small lobster tails take well to fast cooking methods that use high heat, such as boiling, broiling or grilling. When broiling or grilling tails, splitting the tails produces a more flavorful tail, as the exposed meat chars and picks up smoke from the cooking process. Grill or broil lobster tails on high heat, around 500 degrees Fahrenheit, for two minutes per ounce of tail meat. Boil lobster tails for one minute per ounce. Slower cooking methods, such as steaming or roasting, can also be used for smaller tails, although it may be more trouble than it is worth for only one or two tails. However, for large servings of small tails, roasting produces sweet, tender meat that rarely overcooks. Steam lobster tails for two minutes per ounce, and roast for one minute per ounce in a 450 F oven. For all cooking methods, cook for two minutes longer if the tails are being cooked from frozen.
Doneness and Serving
All lobster meat, regardless of how it is cooked, is done when it reaches 135 degrees Fahrenheit. The cooked meat will turn white and opaque, and the juices from the lobster will congeal and develop a whiteish appearance. Cooked lobster separates from the shell easily.
Serve cooked lobster hot, immediately after cooking, either in the shell or out. Clarified butter as a dipping sauce, along with fresh lemon juice, is a classic accompaniment, but consider other seasoning options, including garlic mayonnaise, marinara sauce, or a Japanese-soy and ginger dressing.