The Best Way to Peel Whole Lobsters & Lobster Tails

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The Best Way to Peel Whole Lobsters & Lobster Tails

This method heats the lobster meat up just enough to draw it back from the shell, making peeling easier and better preserving the quality of the meat. You have to work quickly once the lobsters come out of the steeping water to really realize the benefits though, so be ready!


  • Whole Lobsters or Lobster Tails (skip steps 1-4 and 8-9 if using just the tails)
  • 8 quarts of Water
  • ½ cup White Vinegar



    Optional: Put your lobsters in the freezer (briefly) or refrigerator (longer) until they slow or stop moving to put them to sleep (this is considered to be more humane).

    Position the point of a knife halfway up the head of each lobster, with the blade pointing towards the front.

    Drive the knife point down, through the lobster, then pivot the blade of the knife forward and down, splitting the head down the middle. Repeat with each lobster.


    Twist off the tails and claws.

    Bring 8 quarts of water to a boil on the stove. Place the lobster tails & claws in a large stock pot.

    Pour the boiling water and 1/2 cup of white vinegar over the lobsters. Put the lid on the stock pot. Let steep for 2 minutes.

    Remove the tails & immediately peel them. Twist back & forth on each tails’ fan until it releases. Then lift up on the remaining shell, wiggling back & forth, until it releases. Move the shelled meat to an ice water bath.


    Let the claws continue to steep for an additional 2 1/2 minutes.

    Immediately remove the claws from the vinegared water & peel them. Twist the pincer “finger” off of the claw. Use kitchen shears in the resulting gap or a crab cracker to split the shell so you can retrieve the meat. Crack & remove the meat from the other portions of the claw, knuckle, etc. Move all this meat to the ice bath with the tails.

    Once the meat has cooled, remove it from the ice bath. Put it in a container in your refrigerator until you’re ready to cook it.


    Tear the shell off of the heads by pulling each side up and towards the middle from the legs while pushing down on the center with your thumbs. Once the halves of the shell are folded off, tear them up & off.


    Remove any dark green sacs of roe. Use a spoon to scrape off the gills, digestive tract/tomalley, etc.


    Reserve the roe for recipes (like lobster roe butter), and the shells, cleaned body & legs for stock.

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