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When it comes to thinking about some fancy food to eat for a special occasion or for a date night, there is an insanely high chance that you will think about either steak or lobster. Both of these foods, when at their prime, are amazingly tasty and perfect in every single way. To ensure lobster is as good as possible, not only do you want to have it as fresh as possible, but you also need to know how to properly prepare it.
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Butterflying A Lobster
If you are to research this on your own, it is almost guaranteed that you will see people talking about how to butterfly lobster tails or why butterflying lobster tails is the best method. This can most likely intimidate a lot of new chefs or home cooks so much that they refuse to try it.
Butterflying lobster tails is surprisingly easy and can be done by anyone with a little patience and commitment. While you might not be perfect immediately, after a few tries over the course of a couple of months, you will get a lot better. After all, practice makes perfect.
What Is Butterflying?
The term ‘butterflying’ can have different culinary uses depending on what food it is being related to. You might have heard about butterflying chicken breasts. This is where the breast is almost cut in half horizontally but a bit of meat is left so that you can unfold the breast and flatten it. The term is used here as the chicken breast will slightly resemble the shape of a butterfly.
When it comes to lobster tails, butterflying is slightly different. The lobster tail shell is cracked open on the top so that when the lobster meat cooks, it raises out of the shell and can be seen a lot easier. This preparation method is not only used for the entertaining presentation but also because it can make the meat a lot easier to access. The term butterflying is used here as the lobster tail slightly resembles a caterpillar breaking out of a cocoon and becoming a butterfly. This is rather abstract, yet still works as a great way to describe it.
Why Butterfly Lobster Tails?
It might seem like this takes a lot of time and effort just for some presentation points. However, this is not entirely the case. When it comes to fine dining, where lobster and steak are increasingly popular, presentation is everything. The food can taste as amazing as possible, however, if the presentation is not intriguing, complex, or even a slight bit fancy, then a lot of people will stray away from it.
On top of butterfly lobster tails being great to look at, they also make the meat a lot easier to access while remaining fresh and in the shell. A large part of eating lobster is the hope that it is fresh and delicious. If the lobster meat is served normally on the side of a plate, there is not much to show how fresh it is. However, if the lobster meat is served in the shell still, then it is a lot more likely to be fresh.
How To Butterfly Lobster Tails
Before you start to butterfly the lobster tail, you will want to ensure it is at the right temperature. This temperature is similar to that of the fridge. If you have frozen your lobster, it is good to let it thaw overnight before use. Room temperature is bad for any type of fish as it quickly makes them decrease in quality. Alongside your lobster being cold, you will also want some kitchen shears or something similar as the lobster’s shell is incredibly thick and strong.
Cut The Shell Open
Firstly, you are going to want to cut or break the shell open. This must be done in the right place otherwise the presentation will look bad and the meat will cook unevenly. Place your lobster tail shell side up on a cutting board. With your kitchen shears, line the bottom blade with the center of the shell. Ensure the blade is pressed up against the shell as we want to make sure that nothing else is damaged during this.
With one hand, firmly hold the tail so that you have good control over it and do not slip. With your other hand, operate the shears and gently cut down the shell of the lobster. Continue this cutting all the way to the base of the tail. Everything else, such as the tail fan and undershell should remain intact.
If you do not possess a pair of kitchen shears, you can use a very sharp knife. It is important to use a high-quality knife that is very sharp and professional grade as you do not want to slice through the bottom of the shell or anywhere else. The sharper your knife is, the more it will help you have control and precision. A good knife set will have you prepared for any situation in the kitchen with the proper tools needed.
Pry The Shell Apart
Once you have pierced the lobster tail’s shell properly, you will want to pry it apart to expose the meat. This must be done carefully so that the shell is only loose and not actually separated. If you are not careful, this will rip the tail in half and ruin your presentation and the meat inside.
Using your thumb and fingers, gently pry the shell away from the meat so that it is clearly visible.
Pull The Meat Out
While you may want to skip ahead and just yank the meat out, it is very important you do not do this. To pull the lobster meat out of the tail, you will want to carefully separate the majority of the meat from the bottom of the shell but leave the meat near the end of the tail still connected.
Pull the meat upwards so it is out of the tail, and gently push the tail shell closed so that it lightly traps the meat on the top. To expose more of the meat, make a single and precise slit down the middle of the meat so that you can fold it over the shell sideways.
Season Lobster Meat
Now that your meat is presented nicely and ready to be cooked, you can optionally season it with seasoning, marinade, and spices. For this step, you can choose what to do. Either brush your lobster with some marinade or sprinkle it with seasoning and spices.
Once the lobster has been flavored to your preference, you can choose to skewer it. This will help protect the presentation of your lobster. Insert either a metal or wooden skewer into your meat lengthways as this will help keep it flat and even during the cooking process.
Cook The Lobster
While some professionals will argue that you should broil your lobster tail once it has been prepared, the choice is still yours. It can be broiled, baked, grilled, roasted, and much more. While cooking your lobster, the tail meat will continue to puff even more which will expose more of the meat.
To keep a consistent and even flavoring, you can take the lobster out halfway through cooking and add more of your marinade, butter, or seasonings to it. Once the lobster is cooked to your liking, you can remove the skewers. When fully cooked, the lobster will remain flat so the skewers are no longer needed. The only step after this is to serve and eat your beautifully prepared lobster.
Fresh Vs. Frozen Lobster
Similar to a lot of other fish or shellfish dishes, lobster is best eaten frozen. When compared to every other type of meat, fish is the top meat for how quickly it decreases in flavor and quality as it becomes less fresh. While all meat is better when fresh, you are more likely to notice when a fish is a few days old than you are to notice a steak or a chicken breast being slightly old.
While both fresh and frozen lobster tails are tasty and fine, they both have their own pros and cons as to why you should or should not buy them. The majority of this is personal preference, financial comfort, and your intentions on what to do with the food.
Fresh lobster is easily the way forward if you are wanting to maximize quality. The only caveat is that it is both difficult and expensive to acquire. Fresh lobster may be the best for consistently high quality, yet the price you pay for it is a lot higher than the price of frozen lobster. Fresh lobster is, however, also a lot higher in quality which can be noticed by both how it tastes and how it looks, making it the best choice for flavor and presentation.
The main reason for buying frozen lobster is that it is affordable and can be stored. Fresh lobster is only considered fresh for a day or two, so if you do not have time to cook it within this timeframe, you might as well have bought frozen lobster. Frozen lobster, alongside being cheaper, lasts a lot longer than fresh lobster as it has been properly stored and frozen so it is ready to eat whenever you decide.
While both frozen and fresh lobster has their ups and downs, it is still undisputable that they are both delicious. While there is a gap in quality between them, this does not necessarily mean that either option is bad. Frozen lobster is still very delicious and can be enjoyed thoroughly. If you are really wanting to prioritize presentation while still sticking to a budget, you can buy frozen lobster with the lobster shell still attached, which helps make it look really nice.
Is Butterflied Lobster Tail Worth It?
If you are looking for the perfect lobster tail meal to impress your guests with for a dinner night, then this is absolutely worth it. The presentation alone should be enough to impress even the most unshockable of guests. However, if you are wanting a quiet night in and fancy lobster, the steps for this may be a bit over-the-top and it may be better to just cut lobster tails into pieces and make a lobster salad or something similar.