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How to Host a Live Lobster Party: Cooking and Prep Tips

Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.

Learn everything you need to know to host a live lobster party!

Learn everything you need to know to host a live lobster party!

Cooking live lobsters and then eating them is one of those experiences that should be on every bucket list. While this is a popular event in coastal areas with plentiful lobsters, you can cook live lobsters in any virtually any location, as you can order live lobsters from many different online sources. It is not difficult to learn how to cook and eat lobsters, and it is well worth the price of the meat and supplies. Enjoy!

Necessary Supplies

  • Stove or outdoor heating element, such as a high-pressure outdoor gas cooker: You can use any regular stove to cook lobsters. If you are cooking them outdoors, I recommend a high-pressure outdoor gas cooker.
  • Large pot with a steamer basket and lid for the lobsters: The size of the pot that you will need will depend on how many lobsters you want to cook at one time. A steamer basket is not required, but it will make it easier to put the lobsters in and then remove them from the pot.
  • Small pot for the butter: Melted butter is a must for fresh lobster! Any small pot will be fine for melting it. You can also choose to use a microwave-safe container.
  • Tongs: Hopefully it's a given that cooked lobsters are really hot. You'll want to use tongs to remove them from the pot.
  • Lobster crackers or nutcrackers: You will need some type of crackers to break the cooked lobster shells.
  • Wooden skewers for picking out the lobster meat: Look for wooden skewers in the kitchen section of big box stores or the cooking supplies (pots, utensils, etc.) section of grocery stores.
  • Knives: You can pull lobster meat apart with your fingers, but you may decide to cut some of it, particularly when it is not.
  • Newspaper for the table: Sheets of newspaper or disposable tablecloths are the easiest way to clean up all of the lobster shells and other meal remains afterward.
  • Small cups or dishes for the butter: People can take individual servings of butter from the larger melting pan or dish.
  • Lots of napkins and wet wipes: Fresh lobster is a very messy finger food. Don't skimp on the napkins and wet wipes. You may also want to provide plastic lobster bibs like you get in restaurants to prevent some of the spray from cracking the shells.

Food Items for Your Shopping List

  • Fresh 1 to 1.25 lb lobsters: You can choose to purchase larger lobsters if you like. If you purchase this size lobster, you'll need about one lobster per person. Adjust accordingly for larger lobsters.
  • Saltwater or other broth for cooking the lobsters: Fill your pot 3/4 with water or broth. Add 2 tablespoons of salt for every quart of liquid (source). Many people also choose to add homemade or store-bought vegetable stock or some combination of herbs, broth, and wine.
  • Lots of butter for dipping: You'll need 2-3 tablespoons of melted butter for each person.
  • Any sides that you like (salads, fruit, desserts, etc.): Fresh lobster can easily be a meal in and of itself, but many people choose to serve sides with it.

Optional Cooking Broth Additions


Lemon Juice


Red Pepper Flakes

Vegetable Stock or Broth

Bay Leaves

Chicken Stock or Broth




Where to Purchase Live Lobsters

If you live in an area with a fresh food market, a high-end grocery store with a dedicated meat department, and/or a specialty meat grocery store, it is likely that you'll be able to purchase live lobsters locally.

There are also a number of options for ordering live lobsters online. Call or browse around to get price quotes and to learn more about shipping options. For the event pictured in this article, we purchased 1- to 1.25-pound lobsters from the Milwaukee Public Market for approximately $15 per lobster. (Please note: That figure is accurate as of July 2015. Availability and price are subject to change at any time without notice.)

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Online Sources for Live Lobsters


Tips for the Set-Up Process

  • Research your broth options ahead of time: If you are interested in using a homemade vegetable or chicken stock or other broth that requires additional cooking time, you will need to have it ready before you start to cook the lobsters. Make sure that you allow an adequate amount of time for this preparation.
  • Research your cooking options ahead of time: There will be different cooking logistics for indoor and outdoor food preparation. Consider the methods that you want to use for cooking your lobster and your side dishes and make sure that you have a plan for getting everything cooked and heated so that your serving schedule goes smoothly.
  • Cover your serving table(s) with newspaper or other disposable coverings before you lay out any of the food, utensils, and tools: Eating freshly cooked lobsters is a very messy process. You can significantly reduce your clean up time by covering your eating surfaces with materials that are disposable.

How to Cook the Lobsters

  1. Heat the saltwater or broth until it is boiling. Do not put the lobsters in the water until the water is boiling.
  2. Load the lobsters in your steamer head first or get ready to plunge the lobsters in headfirst. Whichever method you choose for adding your lobsters to the pot, make sure that you put them in headfirst.
  3. Cover the pot. Open it occasionally to stir. The lobsters will cook themselves largely undisturbed.
  4. Follow the cooking times table below. The table below will give you accurate cooking estimates for lobsters of different weights. When lobsters are fully cooked, they will be bright red as you typically see when lobsters are served in restaurants.

Lobster Cooking Times













4 per pound

Cooking Times Source

How to Eat Lobster

You can choose to complete these steps in a different order if you find it easier to start with one component of the lobster over another.

  1. Take the lobster tail in one hand and the body in your other hand. Bend the tail away from the body and give a good pull to get them apart. When you open it up, you'll see the green "tomalley," which is the lobster's liver. If you have a female lobster, you'll also see the bright red "coral" or roe. Some people choose to eat one or both of these things. This is completely optional.
  2. Give the tail a few hard squeezes to loosen the shell so you can pull it off. Pull the top of the tail off to remove the digestive vein.
  3. You will most likely need to use a cracker to remove the shell from the body. Once you've removed the shell, you'll be able to pull out all of the meat.
  4. It depends on the size of the lobster as to whether you want to eat the knuckle and leg meat and how you want to crack those shells. Most likely you will be able to follow a similar procedure to the tail of bending them back and then prying off the shell. Feel free to use the crackers again or to use a pair of scissors to cut through the shell, particularly with the knuckles.
  5. Once you have extracted your meat, make sure to dip it in the melted butter before you eat it.

Video: How to Eat Lobster

The Aftermath and Cleaning Up

  • The aftermath: If you've had a successful lobster party, you'll have a messy table full of lobster shells and empty butter cups. Everyone will be satisfied and will have greasy, orange fingers and happy smiles.
  • Cleanup: The newspaper and/or disposable tablecloths will make the cleanup process go quickly. Remove all of the silverware, lobster crackers, and other utensils and items that you don't want to throw away. Then simply scoop up all of the lobster shells and other remains and throw it all away at once. A large garbage bag and/or garbage can will make the process even easier.

© 2012 Rose Clearfield

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