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Cooking Lobster: Is It Cruel to Cook a Lobster Alive?

This article will discuss how to cook lobster, and why you need to cook a lobster while it is alive. It is very dangerous to eat a lobster that has been killed before it is cooked, because the germs in the digestive tract will become active from the breaking down of proteins in the gut. If you have been squeamish about cooking lobster, but want to learn how, read on.

Why boil a lobster alive?

Most people are a little squeamish about tossing a live lobster into boiling water. It's really not cruel to boil a lobster alive because they don't have a developed central nervous system. They don't feel any pain before they die.

Most people cook a lobster while it is alive to insure its freshness. When a lobster dies, its digestive tract starts to break down; as a result, bacteria start growing in the meat.  Even if you kill a lobster just before cooking it the lobster will stress out and the meat will be spoiled. It might be possible to kill a lobster before you cook it, but you would have to be very quick about it, because they tend to decay very fast.  You can kill the lobster by plunging a knife into its brain at the back of the head behind the eyes.  You can also do this with crabs. There is a debate among some people who cook lobsters as to which method is more humane for the lobster. When you stab the lobster with a knife it will flop around due to its nervous system being cut into. If you just put the lobster into boiling water and put a cover on it, the lobster will die almost instantly.

I have always felt sorry for the lobsters in the tank at the grocery store. I always felt it was cruel to the lobsters until I did some reading about why lobsters are cooked while they are alive. We tend to humanize shell fish when we think about having to cook them while they are alive. They don’t have complex nervous systems like higher animals, so they don’t register pain like we do.

It was while reading about what happens inside lobsters and other shell fish if they die before being cooked. If you don't cook a lobster while it is alive, harmful bacteria will enter the flesh of the lobster and the person who eats the lobster can get very sick.

How to cook lobster

You can either boil or steam a lobster. To steam a lobster you will put it in a steamer. You may add vegetables in with it while it steams.  If you want to boil a lobster, you will need to fill a large pot with water.  Add one teaspoon of salt for every quart of water. So if you have four quarts of water you will add four teaspoons of water. Before you drop the lobster in the water you will need to know how much it weighs so you know how long to cook it. If you buy it at the grocery store, it should have the weight on it.

Wait for the water to cone to a full boil. When the water is at a rolling boil you should drop the lobster into the boiling water. Now you wait for the water to start back to boiling again. When the water goes back to boiling again, you boil the lobster for 10 minutes for the first pound. If the lobster weighs more than a pound, you will cook it foe an extra three minutes per pound. Thus if your lobster is four pounds you will boil it for a total if 16 minutes. Then you will remove it from the water to rest.  When the lobster is fully cooked it will be a bright red.   If you just can’t bring yourself to kill a lobster to eat it, you have one other choice. Buy it already precooked and frozen at the grocery store. 

What does lobster taste like?

Lobster meat is very light. To me, it tastes a little bit like shrimp.  It is very good eaten with clarified butter.


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Comments (5)

Excellent information on the correct way to cook a lobster.  I would still argue that it is cruel in that killing anything, even for food, is cruel, as we have taken life away from the animal.  That lobster might not have felt pain in the same way we would, but it still wanted to live.

Cattle on the other hand have brutal existances and their deaths are not terrific either but one dead cow feeds a lot more people than one dead lobster, so... which is more cruel? 


The answer is that killing is cruel no matter how you look at it, we do it for survival but should never deny the fact that we are taking a life.

Ranked #54 in Food & Cooking

I heard several people say that lobsters feel pain they squeal when they hit the boiling water though

Ranked #53 in Food & Cooking

Interesting subject, Charlene.I have boiled many pounds of Lobster alive and never once did I think that I was causing them pain and suffering. I don't know if they feel pain or not, and I'm not really concerned about it either, so I will continue to boil my lobsters alive. I love to hunt, fish, and trap too. Personally I think that many people take this cruelty issue to extremes.

Jerry, I agree with you.  Sorry for the pain if there is any, but thank you for the delicious meal!

Hi Jerry, if it weren't for hunters back in the day none of us would eat. I used to worry about the lobster or any animal being killed for food.. but it's a way of life. We are at the top of the food chain. If it were any other way, we would be the ones hunted for food. We are just lucky we are at the top.