Making lobster mac and cheese takes your classic comfort dish to luxurious new heights. The sweet, succulent lobster combined with the creamy, cheesy pasta is a match made in culinary heaven. However, to truly perfect this dish, you need to start with properly cooked lobster.
Undercooking the lobster can leave the meat rubbery and lacking flavor. Overcooking results in tough, chewy meat. Follow these simple tips and techniques for cooking tender, flavorful lobster that will make your lobster mac and cheese memorable.
Choosing Your Lobster
The first step is selecting high-quality lobster. Here are some tips:
- Live lobster – Choose active, lively lobsters that are energetically waving their claws. Avoid any with cracked shells or limp lobsters.
- Size – 1 to 1 1/2 pound lobsters are ideal for easy handling and cooking. Larger lobsters may be tougher.
- Frozen lobster tails – Thaw completely before cooking. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
- Pre-cooked lobster meat – Convenient option but can lack flavor compared to fresh cooked lobster.
Pick lobsters packed with fresh, ocean flavor to infuse your mac and cheese with delicious essence of lobster.
Preparing Your Lobster
Before cooking your lobster, it helps to prepare them:
- Cleaning – Give live lobsters a cold water rinse and scrub with a brush to remove any debris.
- Twisting off claws – Live lobsters should have rubber bands put around the claws to prevent injury when they are thrashing in the boiling water. Give the claws a firm twist and pull to detach them from the body.
- Splitting – Use kitchen shears to cut lengthwise through the top of the lobster tail shell. This allows seasons to penetrate the meat and cooking to go faster.
Proper preparation leads to tender, juicy lobster meat ready to mix into the mac and cheese.
Boiling Perfectly Cooked Lobster
Boiling is a quick, simple way to cook lobster:
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Use about 2 tablespoons salt per quart of water.
- Gently lower the live lobster head first into the boiling water. Cover and return to a boil.
- Cook for 8-10 minutes for 1 pound lobsters. Add 3-5 minutes for larger lobsters.
- Lobsters are done when shells turn bright red. Carefully remove them with tongs.
Boiling concentrates the sweet essence of lobster into the meat while cooking it to tender perfection.
Steaming Lobster Gently
Steaming locks in moisture and delicate flavor:
- Fill a large pot with 2 inches water and bring to a boil.
- Place lobster directly on rack or steamer basket, cover and steam 8-12 minutes.
- Add lemon, garlic, and fresh herbs to the water for extra flavor.
- Shells will turn red when fully cooked. Use tongs to transfer lobster to plate.
Steaming is gentle cooking that keeps lobster succulent and tender.
Grilling Lobster for Barbecue Flavor
Grilling imparts a smoky, charred flavor:
- Preheat grill to medium high heat, about 400°F.
- Split lobster tails lengthwise and brush with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Grill split side down for 5-6 minutes until opaque. Flip and grill 2-3 minutes more.
- Baste with lemon-garlic butter for more flavor during grilling.
- Grill lobster claws for 9-11 minutes, turning occasionally.
The hot grill sears in robust flavor while the meat stays moist inside.
Broiling Buttery, Tender Lobster
Broiling is fast cooking under direct heat:
- Preheat broiler on high. Place lobster tails shell-side up on sheet pan.
- Brush with melted butter, season with salt, pepper and paprika.
- Broil 4-5 inches from heat for 5-7 minutes until opaque. Check frequently.
- Drizzle with lemon juice and extra melted butter after cooking.
Broiling gives lobster great caramelized flavor with a tender, silky texture.
Tips for Perfectly Cooked Lobster
Follow these tips for flawlessly cooked lobster:
- Check water temperature with thermometer – should be at a bare simmer, 190°F to 205°F.
- Don’t overcook – lobster gets tough and rubbery. Remove immediately once opaque.
- Cook similar sized lobsters together for consistent results.
- Let lobsters sit 5 minutes before removing meat from shells.
- Chill lobster once cooked if not using immediately to lock in moisture.
Proper cooking is the key to tender lobster bursting with sweet, briny flavor.
Getting the Lobster Meat
Once your lobster is cooked to perfection, it’s time to get the precious meat out of the shell:
- Use a nutcracker to crack the shells. Remove meat in chunks.
- Use a cocktail fork to pull out smaller pieces of claw meat.
- Twist and pull the tail fins off the tail meat.
- Lay tail on cutting board, shell-side up. Slice tail open.
- Use a fork or spoon to push tail meat out of bottom shell. Remove vein if desired.
- Cut tail meat into cubes or slices as needed.
Take your time removing all the lobster meat. It will reward you in the mac and cheese later!
Making Creamy Lobster Mac and Cheese
Once you’ve cooked and shelled your lobster, it’s time for the main event! For sensational lobster mac and cheese:
- Boil and drain elbow macaroni, reserving 1 cup pasta water.
- Make a cheese sauce with butter, flour and milk. Stir in cheeses like cheddar, Gruyère, Parmesan.
- Fold cooked lobster meat into cheese sauce. Season with salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne.
- Add sauce to cooked pasta and mix well, adding pasta water as needed for creaminess.
- Top with extra cheese and breadcrumbs, then bake until golden on top.
- Garnish with snipped chives. Serve immediately.
Now you can enjoy the fruits of your labor – each bite filled with tender lobster drenched in cheesy pasta goodness.
Making It Your Own
Once you’ve mastered the basics, put your own spin on lobster mac and cheese:
- Fold in blanched broccoli florets or roasted red peppers.
- Add crispy cooked bacon or prosciutto for a salty crunch.
- Mix in fresh herbs like chives, dill, or tarragon.
- Try using fontina, Gruyère, gouda or other melted cheeses.
- Top with buttery garlic breadcrumbs or crushed crackers.
- Garnish with tomato, fresh basil, or lobster tomalley.
Let your imagination run wild to invent your own signature lobster mac and cheese masterpiece.
With tender, sweet lobster and rich, cheesy pasta, you just can’t go wrong. From choosing your lobster to properly cooking and preparing it, use these tips to create restaurant-worthy lobster mac and cheese at home. Impress your family or guests with this sensational meal.