Learn how to make smoked lobster tails on ANY grill or smoker!
Smoked lobster tails are a delicious and decadent entree and the smoking them correctly takes this already amazing shellfish to an entirely new level.
Let’s get started!
We are going to cover:
- What to look for when buying lobster tails to smoke
- How to prep your lobster tails for the smoker
- How to set up different grills and smokers for smoked lobster tails
- What temperature to smoke your lobster tails
- The best wood choices for smoked lobster tails
- How to know when your smoked lobster tails are done
- Our FAVORITE recipe for Smoked Lobster Tails
Wow, that’s a lot…so let’s “dive in”!
What to Look for When Buying Lobster Tails to Smoke
Types of Lobster Tails
Cold Water Lobster Tails are mostly from New England, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Warm Water Lobster Tails are generally from the Caribbean and Central America.
According to Eazy Peazy Meals, while warm water lobster tails are cheaper and easier to find, they are not known to be as high quality as cold water lobster tails.
Cold water lobster tails are known for having whiter, sweeter meat that is more appetizing and flavorful.
How to Shop for Lobster Tails
Ideally, you should look for fresh live lobsters, but if you can’t find those they should be flash frozen lobster tails that are labeled with the date they were harvested.
They should only be thawed RIGHT before you are ready to cook them.
They should smell fresh and lightly salty like the ocean, not fishy or sour.
Yes…It’s OK to ask to smell the lobster tails.
If you are in a good seafood market, they will be used to this request and should have nothing to hide.
They meat should not be gray or have any spots or discolorations to it.
They should NOT have been soaked in a preservative called sodium triphosphate prior to freezing. Check the label or ask the person working the fish counter. If they can’t tell you or find out for you, move on.
You will likely not find quality fresh lobster tails at your local chain grocery store so take some time to find a good local seafood market in your area if you want to buy the best.
Choosing What Sized Lobster Tails to Smoke
Lobster tails will come in variety of sizes everywhere from 4oz to 16oz.
We recommend aiming for somewhere in the middle around the 6-10oz range if possible.
Many lobster aficionados claim the smaller tails are sweeter and more tender than the bigger ones, but this is personal preference.
Preparing your Lobster Tails for Smoking
Thaw, Rinse, and Dry your Lobster Tails
Thaw your lobster tails only when you are ready to cook them. They should not remain in the refrigerator for more than the time it takes them to thaw overnight.
Alternatively, you can quick thaw them by submerging them in a bowl of cold water fr about 30 minutes
Wash, rinse and pat dry the tails with paper towels well as there may be dirt, sand, and bacteria in all the crevices of the shells.
Since we are serving these butterflied on the shell, you don’t want that ending up on your guests plate after coming off the smoker.
Butterfly the Lobster Tails
The video below demonstrates very well how to butterfly the lobster tails.
Take a good knife, or even better, a good pair of kitchen shears and cut down the center of the top from the exposed front end towards the rear tailfin.
Then gently pull the two sides of shell apart and gently separate the meat inside from the interior of the shell.
Remove any roe as well as any dark digestive tract that you might see running down the middle of the tail if present.
Flip the lobster tail over and gently crack the abdomen as she does in the video below.
Turn the tail back over and carefully pull the lobster meat up and out of the shell, leaving the rear part attached and then rest the meat on the top of the shell
Seasoning Lobster Tails for Smoking
Because lobster tails are so delicate you want to go VERY gentle with your seasoning.
Do not marinate them in anything acidic or they will pre-cook (this is known as ceviche and not what we are going for here.)
Coat the dried and butterflied lobster tails in a light coating of olive oil. Then, a pinch salt and fresh ground black pepper work best for simple seasoning.
If you desire you can add drawn butter and fresh squeezed lemon after they smoke.
If you want to go bigger with your seasonings, try a cajun spice rub, a sweet BBQ rub, or a seafood seasoning like this one we like from Chef Paul.
Basting with Garlic Lemon Butter
Another popular option is to baste the lobster tails with a combination of lemn, garlic and melted butter while they smoke.
This adds TONS of flavor AND keeps the lobster tails moist during the smoking process.
Simply put a couple sticks of butter, some minced garlic and lemons or lemon juice in a cast iron or aluminum pan right next to the lobster tails on the smoker and baste them a few times during the cook and once again at the end.
You can add parsley for color, Old Bay Seasoning for additional spice, and more fresh squeezed lemon juice at the end for additional acidity.
The choices are yours so make it your own and have fun!
Here’s a great video from Armadillo Pepper BBQ demonstrating how to butterfly the lobster tails and also how to smoke them on a Pit Boss pellet grill.
Check it out!
Here is the Old Bay seasoning she uses in the video if you want to recreate her garlic butter.
Best Smoking Wood Choices for Lobster Tails
Because we are smoking the lobster tails for such a relatively short period of time, you can really get away with any kind of smoking wood of your choosing.
If you want to keep it simple and straightforward, choose a lighter smoking wood like oak, apple, or peach.
Middle of the road? Try hickory or cherry.
And if you want a full in your face mesquite flavor, well, use mesquite. But prepared for it to possibly overpower a lot of the lobster flavor.
If you covering the lobster tails with a heavy sauce like a hollandaise or bearnaise, then a heavier wood choice may be the way to go to cut through those heavy competing flavors.
But if you want a more delicate flavor and to really be able to taste those delicious lobster tails, then go lighter.
Best Times and Temperatures for Smoked Lobster Tails
How Long Does it Take to Smoke Lobster Tails?
This will depend on what type of method you want to use for your smoked lobster tails.
You have 2 options before you:
- Conventional low and slow smoking and cooking indirectly.
- Adding some smoke while you cook them hot and fast with higher indirect heat.
Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each.
Low and Slow
This is going to be the more “traditional” method of smoking meat or seafood.
You will set up the smoker for indirect cooking at a low temperature and apply smoke and heat until the lobster tails are fully cooked.
The benefits of this is that lobster tails cook slowly, resulting in more tender meat, and more smokey flavor.
Cooking lobster slowly is actually a prized way of cooking them, hence the reason many fancy french restaurants will butter poach their lobster tails at a very low temperature until they are cooked.
If cooking indirectly, and looking to impose maximum smokey flavor with a longer cook time, then they will take approximately 35-60 minutes at about 220°F to reach a target internal temperature of 140° F, depending on the size of the tails.
Also, if you dont butterfly and remove the meat from the shells first, they will take longer.
Hot and Fast
Alternatively you can choose to add a little smoke flavor to your lobster tails while you cook them hot and fast.
Here is a simple demonstration of how to smoke lobster tails like this on a Traeger pellet grill at 450°F!
This can be done in any smoker, pellet grill, or grill set up for indirect cooking.
If you set up the grill to cook the lobster tails directly you are grilling them rather than smoking them
You can obviously throw some wood chips in a smoker box or a chunk on the coals as you are grilling, but don’t expect them to also absorb a lot of smokey flavor in the 15-25 minutes they take to cook!
If cooking indirectly at 450°F in a smoker or pellet grill, they will only take roughly 10-20 minutes and will absorb a little more smoke than grilling alone.
An alternative option we will discuss below is also grilling them directly on cedar planks.
Since we are focusing on smoking our lobster tails in this article, we will discuss how to set up your smoker or grill for the low and slow method from this point forward.
Watch the Internal Temperature Closely
You HAVE to use a good instant read meat thermometer to know where the internal temperature is of your lobster tails, especially because they cook relatively FAST!
There is very little room for error when smoking seafood, especially shellfish.
Especially EXPENSIVE shellfish like cold water lobster tails.
So do yourself a favor and watch the internal temperature closely so you don’t end up with a batch of rubbery lobster tails and disappointed guests.
We are particular fans of this one from ThermoPro because of its durability and affordable price.
So keep it handy and use it often.
Setting up your Smoker for Lobster Tails
Optional: Using a Pan or Cedar Plank
Before we jump into setting your smoker, let’s take a minute to discuss some equipment options you may consider when smoking your lobster tails.
The most common method is to take your lobster tails, now semi-removed from the butterflied shells and placed on top of them, directly on the grates.
There is nothing wrong with this method
Alternatively you can place them on cedar planks if grilling them directly or smoking at a higher temperature as this will also impart some smokey flavor and create a nice presentation.
Lastly, you can place them in an aluminum pan filled about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch with water, beer, or wine to impart some additional moisture and aroma to the lobster tails.
Make sure the liquid only comes partially up the height of the shells and does not touch the meat itself.
If you have a water pan in your smoker then this step is not necessary and you can create your moisture with the water pan.
Vertical or Offset Charcoal Smoker
Fill your firebox or lower charcoal basin with a few handfuls of unlit charcoal and create a small hollowed out depression in the center where you can add your lit briquets.
If your smoker comes with a water pan, like the Weber Smokey Mountain, fill the water pan as well to help stabilize the temperature and add moisture to the cooking chamber.
Light a charcoal chimney about 1/4 way with charcoal and wait about 15 minutes for it to fully ignite.
You will not need too many briquets here because we are smoking relatively small pieces of meat that will only take about 40-60 minutes to cook through.
Fill your water pan first, then add the lit briquets to the center depression you created.
Keep the dampers about 1/2 way to 3/4 open until the cooking chamber temperature reaches about 180°F. Then slowly close them down until they are just barely open and you are maintaining a temperature of 200-225° F.
Place 1 chunk of your chosen smoking wood on top of your lit charcoal once the smoker is up to temperature and put your lobster tails on.
Propane or Electric Smoker
Propane and electric options are some of the easiest smokers for beginners to start with.
For Propane: Open your gas valve and light the bottom burner. Adjust it to keep the temperature constant at 220° F.
Fill the water tray if there is one.
Place your oiled, butterflied, and seasoned lobster tails on the rack and close the door.
Fill the pellet hopper with your choice of smoking wood pellets.
Run your pellet grill through the startup cycle and then turn the temperature to 220° F.
When the pellet grill has stabilized at that temperature, place your lobster tails on the grates and close the lid.
Never used a pellet grill before?
Read our Ultimate Guide to Pellet Grills to learn why they are so easy to use and how to set one up for success every time.
Gas or Charcoal Grill
Think you need a fancy smoker to smoke food at home?
Think again. Great smoked food can be made right on your current gas or charcoal grill!
If you are unfamiliar with these gas grill smoking devices mentioned above, no worries, we have you covered!
In the case of lobster tails on a gas grill, we would opt for just using a smoker box filled with wood chips since you won’t need all the burn time that comes with lighting a tube full of pellets.
On a charcoal grill just throw one chunk of smoking wood on the hot coals once the grill has come up to temperature.
Set up your gas or charcoal grill for indirect cooking with the burners or a small amount of lit briquets on one side and plan for your lobster tails to be on the other side.
Again, you won’t need too much charcoal since we will only be smoking the lobster tails for 40-60 minutes at the most.
Once the temperature of your grill is around 220°F, place your smoker box or pellet tube smoker over the coals or lit burners and once smoke begins coming out, place your lobster tails on the opposite side of the heat.
Monitor your Grill Temperature
Almost every grill and smoker will have some sort of temperature gauge on it.
Now, if you are using a pellet grill or electric smoker, you should be able to pretty accurately dial in your desired temperature of 220°F with the turn of a dial.
This is what makes them so convenient.
However, it never hurts to double check your ACTUAL cooking temperature with a high quality digital thermometer set up right next to meat.
We have found the temperature gauges on many grills and smokers can sometimes be up to 30˝F off from what the true actual temperature of your smoker at the grill grate level is where the food is.
This is unacceptable.
This is why you will always see competition cooks, and backyard chefs who know their stuff, using wireless digital probe thermometers to keep track of both their meat AND their cooking chamber.
We are big fans of the ThermoPro Wireless Digital Meat Thermometer series.
Best Ways to Serve Smoked Lobster Tails
Your lobster tails should be served immediately after removing them from the smoker.
If you didn’t baste them during the smoke, you can serve them with a side of drawn butter for you and your guests to enjoy like in our recipe below.
Try serving the smoked lobster tails with an herb salad, a fresh baguette, or even hearty vegetables like brussel sprouts or asparagus that you can smoke right along side the lobster.
They all cook at relatively the same temperature on your smoker. Just make sure to watch your times and temperatures for each one closely.
For drinks, a crisp white wine like chardonnay or riesling pairs nicely with the sweet smoked lobster tails.
For beer drinkers, stay away from heavy dark beers and instead go for an American pale ale or a Belgian White Beer to balance and cut through the richness of the lobster.
What Other Food Can I Smoke?
Looking for some more smoky inspiration?
So glad you asked.
Check out some of our other great recipes of smoked and grilled food to try out at your next outdoor BBQ!
- Smoked Fresh Ham with Dark Rum Citrus Glaze
- Smoked Leg of Lamb with Guinness Marinade
- Smoked Lamb Chops with a Balsamic Butter Sauce
- Smoked Rack of Lamb with Garlic and Rosemary or Smoker
- Smoked and Pulled Lamb Shoulder with a Turkish Spice Rub
- Smoked Lamb Shanks
- Smoked Oysters in a Garlic White Wine Sauce
- Smoked Scallops with Lemon Garlic Drizzle
- Smoked Bratwurst with Beer Braised Onions
- Grilled Bratwurst
- Smoked Gouda Cheese
- Perfect Grilled Hamburgers
- Smoked and Reverse Seared Ribeye Steaks
- Pellet Grilled Steak
- Pellet Grill Turkey
- Pellet Grill Turkey
- Smoked Asparagus
Trash Can Turkey – OK, technically not made on a grill but one of the most fun ways there is to cook a Turkey…at over 700 degrees in only 2 hours! You’ve got to check it out!
Smoked Lobster Tails with Garlic Lemon Butter
- Grill with Smoker Box
- Electric, Propane, or Charcoal Smoker
- Aluminum Pan or Cast Iron Skillet
- Smoking Wood Chips or Chunks
- Instant Read Thermometer
- Kitchen Shears
- 8 Frozen Lobster Tails
- 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
- Any Sweet BBQ Rub to taste
Garlic Lemon Butter
- 4 Sticks Salted Butter
- 1 Tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
- 8 Cloves Minced Garlic
- 2 Lemons halved squeezed
- 1 Tbsp Chopped Parsley
- Thaw the frozen lobster tails overnight in the refrigerator or in a bowl of cold water for 30 minutes.
- Start up your smoker or set up you grill for 2 zone indirect cooking. Start to bring temperature up to about 200°F.
Prepare the Garlic Lemon Butter
- In a cast iron skillet or aluminum pan, place the sticks of butter, minced garlic, 1 Tbsp Old Bay, parsley, and squeeze 1 and 1/2 of lemons into the pan then put the squeezed lemons in as well. Set 1/2 of one lemon aside for later.
Prepare the Lobster Tails
- Wash, rinse and dry the thawed lobster tails well.
- Cut the lobster tails down the middle of the top shell from the wide exposed end towards the tail fin with a sharp pair of kitchen shears.
- Flip the tails over and crack the abdomen to ake it easier to get the meat out.
- Turn the tails back over and run your fingers along the inside perimeter to gently separate the meat away from the inside of the shell.
- Carefully pull most of the meat out of the shell, do not detach the rear end from the shell, and then let it rest on top of the butterflied shell.
- Remove any dark looking digestive tracts running down the center of the tail and any roe you may find.
- Dry the lobster tail meat well and season with a few pinches of your favorite sweet BBQ rub seasoning on each one. Coat each tail with a thin layer of olive oil as well and rubto incorporate with the seasoning..
Smoke the Lobster Tails
- Once your grill or smoker has reached about 220°F add your wood chips to the smoker box, smoker tray, or place 1 chunk on the hot charcoals. If using a pellet grill, disregard this.
- Place your pan of butter in the smoker or on the grill away from the direct heat.
- Place your lobster tails in the smoker or on the grill away from the direct heat.
- After about 15 minutes when the butter has melted, mix to incorporate in the pan well then baste each of the lobster tails. Continue to do this about every 10 minutes while the lobster tails smoke.
- Maintain the smoker or grill at 220°F for about 40-60 minutes depending on the size of your lobster tails.
- Remove the lobster tails when they are firm and the center is no longer translucent or the internal temperature reads 135-140° F with an instant thermometer.
- Squeeze the last 1/2 lemon over the lobster tails and remove them from the smoker.
- Plate and serve immediately.