Lobster at home: tips for cooking this fine dining staple in your own kitchen

Lobster at home: tips for cooking this fine dining staple in your own kitchen

At Pigalle, we’re famous for our shellfish. From petite prawns in our prawn cocktail starter, all the way to the huge langoustines and plump tiger prawns we serve grilled with lemon butter and garlic, it seems that seafood is a firm favourite when fine dining is the order of the day. As a long-standing venue for fine dining in Johannesburg, we often hear from our clients about how intimidating it can be to cook seafood at home, especially for less experienced cooks, and especially considering the hefty price tag of seafood these days. The one product that most people seem absolutely petrified to cook at home is the almighty lobster – doubtless the king of crustaceans and the tastiest of the bunch. Here are tips from some of our chefs – the people behind the best fine dining Johannesburg has to offer – on how best to tackle the preparation and cooking of live lobsters.

Did you say live?

If you’ve got a good fishmonger with a passion for freshness and connections in all the right harbours, you’ll be able to find live lobsters without too much difficulty. This is even easier for our lucky friends who live along the coast, where it’s possible to haggle with local fishermen or even catch lobsters and crayfish yourself! If you are going to the expense of cooking lobster, it’s well worth the effort to procure fresh rather than frozen. Remember, if you are squeamish about killing a lobster yourself, your fishmonger will be happy to do it for you.


For a true taste of lobster in its purest form, steaming is the way to go. The intense heat of steam, cooks the flesh quickly, without giving it a chance to dry out, and allows you to appreciate the deliciously sweet flesh without sauces and sprinkles getting in the way. A simple bowl of melted butter with a hint of mashed garlic and a squeeze of lemon makes the perfect dipping accompaniment.


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On the braai

Definitely one of our favourite ways to enjoy lobster! The intense heat of a good braai sears the meat perfectly and seals in all those delicious juices. The rising smoke of a braai fire also adds a gentle smoky flavour to the lobster for an added dimension of flavour. In order to prevent the lobster tails from curling up once placed on the grill, we recommend splitting the lobsters lengthwise from head to tail. This will also help them to cook faster and more evenly.


Is it done yet?

Overcooked lobster is rubbery and not very pleasant to eat, so timing is vital. Most people already know that lobsters turn bright red while cooking, but this isn’t an accurate indicator that it is cooked. It is easy to check a butterflied or halved lobster simply by prodding the flesh – it should be white all the way through and not greyish or translucent. It should also come away from the shell easily when tested. Cooking times will vary according to the technique you choose as well as the size of the lobster and whether or not it has been cut open, so be sure to watch it constantly as it cooks to avoid a nasty (and expensive) surprise.