how to humanely kill and boil a lobster

How to prepare and boil lobster like a pro? Expert tips and techniques from the best chefs

Lobster is a delicacy that many seafood lovers relish, but preparing and cooking it can be so daunting that it often leads people to opt for frozen (and therefore often rubbery) lobster options, which pale in comparison to the fresh quality and delicate texture of live lobsters. In Gordon Ramsay's own words, "if you've got the bollocks to eat it, you should have the bollocks to cook it."

Explore expert tips and techniques from Rick Stein, Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal below to help you master the art of preparing and boiling lobster, ensuring you achieve the best flavour and texture every time. 

Whether you're a novice or an experienced cook, these methods will elevate your seafood skills to a professional level. Bonus: watch Gordon Ramsay teach his method to Jonathan Ross below too!

1. Chill Method:

Placing a live lobster in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour before boiling is a popular technique. This humane method, endorsed by chefs like Rick Stein, helps the lobster chill out to a dormant state before cooking.


  • Place the live lobster in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil with 2 tablespoons of salt per quart of water, then place the lobster headfirst into the pot
  • Cover the pot and start timing once the water returns to a boil
  • After cooking, transfer the lobster to an ice bath to stop the cooking process
  • Once cooled, you can break it down and extract the meat

2. Quick Kill Method:

Gordon Ramsay prefers to ensure the lobster is dead before boiling by quickly driving a sharp knife into its head. This method is precise and humane which is demonstrated in from the F-Word series here when Gordon Ramsay get Jonathan Ross down to business with a lobster

  • Place the live lobster on a stable surface
  • Position the tip of a sharp knife in the crack slightly behind the eyes, at the centre of the head
  • Press down firmly and swiftly, splitting the head in half
  • As before, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil, then place the now-dead lobster into the boiling water, headfirst
  • Cover and start timing once the water returns to a boil
  • After the cooking time, transfer the lobster to an ice bath to cool before breaking it down.

3. Separate Boiling Method:
Heston Blumenthal suggests boiling each part of the lobster separately for perfect cooking. This involves killing and breaking the lobster before boiling its parts to perfection.


  • Kill and Break Down: Kill the lobster using the knife method. Separate the claws, tail, and body.
  • Boil Separately: Boil each part separately to ensure optimal cooking. Claws may need about 7-10 minutes, the tail 5-7 minutes, and smaller parts like legs around 3-5 minutes.
  • Ice Bath: Transfer each part to an ice bath after cooking to stop the process.


4. Breaking Down Method:

Whether you choose to break down your lobster before or after cooking, ensure all meat parts are extracted neatly and keep the carcass for making lobster stock if desired. You watch Gordon Ramsay’s masterclass on how to break down a lobster here or read through in detail below.
  • Remove the Claws: Hold the lobster firmly and twist the claws off from their base. Separate the claw from the knuckle. Twist and pull to remove each part separately. 
  • Separate the Tail: Lift and open the tail from the lobster's body. Twist it to separate it completely.
  • Extract Tail Meat: Press the sides of the tail between your hands to crack the shell. Squeeze gently to free the tail meat from the shell. Remove the meat in one piece.
  • Extract Claw Meat: Use a large knife to crack the claw shell. Hold the claw and twist to separate it. Use your fingers to remove the meat from inside the claw.
  • Extract Knuckle Meat: Twist and pull the knuckle to separate it from the claw. Drain any liquid and extract the meat from inside the knuckle.
  • Remove the Legs: Use a large knife to crack open the smaller legs. Slice at an angle and use a rolling pin to push the meat out from inside the legs.
  • Extract Head Meat (optional): Cut off the lobster head at the base. Look for the V-shaped section and cut around it to remove the head completely.

Et voila! Whether you choose to put the lobster to sleep in the freezer, kill it quickly with a knife, or boil each part separately, the key is to handle the lobster with care and precision. By following these expert tips and techniques, you can enjoy perfectly cooked lobster.

Brunswick House Exec chef Andrew Vontobel-Newman also shared his recipe for a stunning Butter Poached Lobster (pictured below) on our recipe blog here.

Brunswick House Butter Poached Lobster

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