Intro: How to Boil Lobster
To tell you the truth I prefer it steamed. Less water infiltrates the shell. More water inside means more mess when you open them up and loss of flavor. To see how to steam a lobster click here.
If you go on vacation in the northeast you'll find that it's much, much cheaper to cook your own lobster than buying it at a restaurant. That's particularly true this past year (2012) and this year (2013) because the price of lobster in Maine is down and you can find it for as little as $3.50 a pound.
Of course you'll have to be staying somewhere with a kitchen and you'll find that a lot of the time it's cheaper to rent a house than stay in a hotel for a week. Rent a house or stay in a bed and breakfast. In a pinch stay in a hotel with kitchenettes, but sometimes they don't have a lot of cookware so you'll have to bring your own. Most cottages, cabins, and house rentals will have a stockpile of pots and pans from the owners and left by previous renters. Previous renters often leave a decent selection of spices as well, but you'll still need to bring some of your own or pick some up at the nearest market.
Step 1: What You'll Need
Lobster, of course. We happened to be staying in a cottage where the owners living within site of the place and the owner's brother is a lobsterman. We got our lobster cheaper than at any market or lobster pound. I don't know how you'd track one of these people down without this connection. I suppose you could go down to one of the docks and ask around. The lobstermen (and women, let's not be sexist) would probably jump at a chance to get a higher price per pound than they get from lobster pounds, markets, and restaurants . . . more for them, less for you, screw the middlemen (and women, let's not be sexist).
You'll also need spices.
Olive Oil or butter
An old bay style spice mix is cliche tradition . . . we had a generic that I like to call Faux Bay.
And a big ass pot to cook them in.
A gas stove is nice to have. Electrics take a LOOOOOONG time to bring 2 or 3 gallons to boil.
Step 2: A Flavored Boil
Fill your pot 1/3 to 1/2 the way up, more or less depending on how many bugs you're tossing in there. You'll want to salt it until it's like the ocean. Ocean water is about 3% salt. That would be about a quarter of a pound of salt per gallon. Honestly you could omit the salt and be fine so long as you served it with a sauce that gives it as much salt as you like.
Add some Faux Bay seasoning. I used about 2 gallons of water, enough the buggers would sink beneath and be covered by two inches of water, and 2 tablespoons of Faux Bay. I added the zest of one lemon and then the rest of them once I'd reserved the juice for smoothing else and about three tablespoons of olive oil.
Toss it all together and get it on the stove on high heat to bring it up to a boil.
Step 3: Prepping the Condemned
First find a midget or other little curious helper to scare the hell out of the doomed beasts of the deep. If you feel bad about dispatching these tasty beasts then you have three options.
1) Place the tip of a chef's knife between their eyes on the top of their heads (or what you imagine to be a lobster's head), then in a quick motion stab down and slice the thing's head in two.
I never do this. It would just let too much water in and rob you of flavor.
2) Do nothing special. Just toss them in head down. I've never had them flip flop around.
3) Give them a ten minute spa job in Chez Freezer. They'll sleep like the dead through any and all unpleasantness.
Step 4: Delicious Murder
A moment of silence. Or more like 15 minutes of it if you're dealing with 1.25 to 1.5 pound lobsters.
Step 5: Service, Sauce, Debate
Find some kitschy lobster platters and bring out your dead.
What to serve with your lobster? Melted butter? Perhaps. Why not a quick and rough, beurre blanc instead?
Is boiling lobster the best way to prepare it? I doubt it. I think steaming it is better. You end up with less water all over yourself and your plate and maybe you get a touch more flavor, more sweetness from it.