A recent conversation was overheard that revolved around the common question “can you smoke lobster tails?” Though they may be “fragile” compared to other things that are smoked, the answer is absolutely yes!
Smoking lobster tails low and slow versus steaming or broiling them imparts a delicious smokiness that can significantly elevate the flavor of the meat even further, without overpowering them and ruining their delicate yet rich flavor profile. And you can have delicious, plate-ready lobster tails in an hour!
But, some extra care and attention will be needed to help ensure that you end up with a good final result. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be intimidated, we’ve got you covered. They’re actually easier than you may think.
In this article, we’ve broken down some pro tips for how to smoke lobster tails perfectly:
A major part of getting good results when it comes to smoking lobster tails is to start with fresh, good-quality lobster. Ideally, you want to go with cold water tails (versus warm water lobster) for the best flavor and texture.
No matter which type you get, make sure it does not have a fishy smell or look slimy. Fresh lobster will have a neutral smell and may even smell slightly sweet. You’ll also get the best taste from lobster tails that were freshly caught or fresh-frozen. Also, avoid any lobster that is rinsed with or soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate or other preservative chemicals.
Important note: Make sure you have enough lobster for the number of people who will be eating. In general, you should plan for two 6-7 oz tails per person.
For best results, you are going to be smoking the lobster tails over indirect heat. So, make sure your grill/smoker is set up for two-zone cooking. This means one side is the direct heat side and the other side is the indirect heat side. Cooking the tails over indirect heat will ensure they cook through without overcooking.
Remember, lobster is a delicate meat. So, if you are using wood pellets or chunks as either your main fuel source or a secondary source for flavor, you don’t want to overpower it with a strong flavor of wood. Avoid things like Mesquite or Hickory wood.
Your best bet is to go with a lighter/mild fruitwood. Some good options are Maple, Applewood, or Cherry wood. Both of these will impart a deliciously light smoke flavor with a hint of sweetness.
It is important to let your smoker preheat to the proper cooking temperature before you put the lobster tails on. You are going to be cooking the lobster between 225°F to 250°F. So, if you let the smoker preheat while you are prepping the tails, you’ll be good to go.
The most important part of prepping the lobster tails before smoking them is to carefully put a slit in them. This is the best and easiest way to help enhance their taste even further. Slitting the shell allows both the smoke and the melted butter to get down to the lobster meat.
First, make sure that the tails are not frozen at all. Rinse them in cold water and then place them on a cutting board, with the top of the tail facing up. With a pair of kitchen scissors, carefully cut the shell down the middle of the tail, just until you reach the fin. Gently pull the shell apart, just slightly, enough to expose the meat. The meat should be visible but still attached to the inside of the fin.
It’s important to be very careful not to break or crack any more of the shell beyond this. After slitting the tails, rinse them again under cold water to wash any broken shell fragments away.
Important Note: The lobster tails are going to go onto the grates with the slit side facing up.
Make sure to also grab some skewers (wood or metal will work). Lobster tails, similarly to shrimp, will often curl up when cooked in a smoker/grill. So, skewers work well to prevent this from happening by holding the tails straight. For each lobster tail, just carefully push through the exposed meat and out the tail fin at the other end. If you are using wooden skewers, make sure you pre-soak them so that they don’t burn in the smoker.
Bonus tip: Brushing a light coating of olive oil onto the lobster tails after you skewer them will help prevent them from over-charring.
Source: Dinner at the Zoo
For best results when smoking lobster tails, baste the lobster tails with the butter halfway through the smoke (roughly at the 20-minute mark) rather than right when they go in the smoker. Then, the meat will be hot enough for the butter to melt, while also still giving the lobster enough time to cook in the juices.
When basting halfway through, make sure to save about a quarter of the butter mixture to baste again right before pulling the tails out of the smoker.
(Portioned for 4 lobster tails) -
In a small saucepan, combine the butter, lemon juice, black pepper, minced garlic, and sage. Then, just put the pot on the cooking grate in the smoker next to the lobster tails. For a little added spice, you can add a ½ teaspoon of paprika to the butter mixture. Once the butter has fully melted, remove it from the heat, stir thoroughly to mix everything well and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
Like with many items cooked in your smoker or grill, it is important to smoke the lobster tails to the proper internal temperature versus trying to rely on a specific amount of cooking time. So, make sure you have a good digital meat thermometer on hand and place it in the thickest part of the tail’s meat.
Remove the tails from the smoker when the meat’s internal temperature reaches 135°F. At this temperature, the meat should have turned an opaque white and/or pearly color.
Remove the tails as soon as they reach this temperature to avoid overcooking. Once removed from the heat, the internal temperature of the tails will continue to rise by a few degrees. Ideally, you want them at 140°F when you are serving them.
Bonus tip: Make sure to serve the smoked lobster tails with lemon wedges and extra melted butter mixture on the side! Plus, a light, crisp glass of Chardonnay will pair very well with the lobster also.
If you’re looking for something different to cook in your smoker and are craving seafood, why not try smoking lobster tails? These make a great option if you want to have a nice dinner with family or friends or even for a random Tuesday night.
If you follow the pro tips above, you’ll be well on your way to confidently smoking lobster tails to delicious, buttery perfection.
Do you know of any other tips for smoking lobster tails? Plan on smoking lobster tails for the first time after reading this article? Leave a comment below and tell us about it. We want to hear from you!
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