I love lobster but I must admit I am not very good at cooking it. I want to make this easier on my self by just adding the lobster to a flavorful broth. I've heard in the past that if you are going to boil lobster for best results you should purchase the lobster alive and keep it alive until you are ready to toss the lobster into the vessel of hot liquid.

Now the question at hand. I've been told that if you just toss the lobster into the hot liquid, the lobster suffers and tenses up making the meat chewy. Is this really true?

The two methods I've heard of prevent this.

First: Get the lobster drunk with alcohol.

Second: Throw the lobster into the freezer for 30 to 45 minutes before I throw the lobster into the hot liquid.

If these methods actually work, which one is better and why?

If the alcohol method is better, which alcohol should I use?


Oh yea, I want to keep the lobster whole and intact for presentation reasons.

  • 6
    Just plunge a knife into its tiny brain stem. It won't feel a thing. Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 18:56
  • I want to preserve the look of the lobster for presentation, I will revise my question. Thank you although, I guess this would be the easiest over all.
    – Chef_Code
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 19:02
  • 1
    Assuming that the "tensing up" part is true (I can't judge if it's a myth or not): Why do you think that the same effect won't happen when the lobster is suffering from slowly freezing to death, or being poisoned by alcohol (assuming that alcohol poisons lobsters, which is another open question)? The solutions you propose sound quite doubtful.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 10:40
  • I think the courts will have a problem with it no matter how you execute the lobster. Commented May 28, 2017 at 12:38

3 Answers 3


The way fish (shelfish included) is dispatched impacts both its flavor and texture. The Japanese have a long history of this knowledge. This type of fish killing is called ike jime.

Dave Arnold did some interesting research on this. You'll find it here: http://www.cookingissues.com/index.html%3Fp=5731.html

Bottom line: How you kill a lobster does impact its flavor.

  • 11
    It would be useful to have more than a link and a bottom line, can you expand? Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 16:16
  • @vincebowdren not sure how I might expand without reiterating the article, which I did not write...Perhaps the addition above helps.
    – moscafj
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 16:47
  • 1
    ...and from the top of the article (perhaps easily overlooked due to positioning) "The upshot? I still believe proper lobster-killing technique produces a better product, but those quality improvements are easily swamped by other variables."
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 19:39
  • 2
    The key information which someone would want if the article goes dead is the use of clove oil as an anaesthetic, the appropriate proportions, and the way to tell that the lobster is sufficiently anaesthetised. Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 20:10
  • 1
    As long as you properly attribute the information using a link and quote text, you're more than welcome to include it in your answer without worrying.
    – Catija
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 5:33

Does cooking a lobster alive alter the flavor/texture?

No, not really.

Is there any truth to the claims that lobsters don't feel pain?

Absolutely not. They feel pain just like you do.

Does killing a lobster before cooking alter the flavor/texture?


Are there other ways to kill a lobster so it doesn't suffer the horrible pain of being boiled alive?


An alternative, if you don't mind having the carapace damaged, is to bisect the head vertically just before cooking. I made this diagram to instruct my coworkers on the technique.

enter image description here


Assuming you can get fresh lobster, you definitely should keep it as fresh as possible prior to cooking. Generally, that will mean keeping the bug alive until it's cooked.

I haven't heard of this effect myself, and if it's true, I very much doubt that it's due to the lobster "suffering". If anything, it's probably just that a vigorous boil applies too much heat too quickly, overcooking the lobster (which would definitely make it chewy and less pleasant).

Freezing the lobster accomplishes two things, then. First, it raises the total amount of heat energy required to cook it, offsetting the high heat and providing a slight buffer against overcooking. Second, the chill stuns the lobster, making it easier to handle and less likely to react vigorously when handled or exposed to its imminent doom.

I've never heard of getting lobsters "drunk", and as @rumtscho points out from comments, their metabolism is so significantly different from mammals' that alcohol likely wouldn't have the same effect. (Side note: we don't actually even have a complete understanding of ethanol's effect on our own brains, much less on lobsters'.) You could submerge your lobster in a solution of ethanol, which would force it to absorb some, but that might very well poison the critter instead (alcohol is toxic even in humans in sufficient concentration, after all). I would advise you not to waste your precious booze on what is basically a giant sea bug, especially not to test such a dubious proposition.

  • Re: you can't make him drink. If you submerge a lobster in alcohol, it will have no choice but absorb some of it. But its metabolism is so far from a mammal's that I wouldn't expect it to get drunk the way a human would. So unless the OP likes pickled lobster, I agree that alcohol doesn't make much sense
    – rumtscho
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 10:38
  • 1
    @rumtscho Very true - I was thinking you'd probably wind up suffocating the bug by doing so, but even a strong spirit would be mostly water, probably enough to allow it to breathe (and of course you could dilute further). A better question is whether alcohol would have the same effect as on humans; perhaps the best question is, how do you tell a drunk lobster from a sober one?
    – logophobe
    Commented Mar 26, 2015 at 15:06
  • By the time you've drown your lobster in alcohol he will surely taste of alcohol too, right? That whole idea seems weird.
    – Preston
    Commented Mar 27, 2015 at 5:03
  • I'm pretty sure lobsters can get drunk. There's a traditional Shanghainese dish, drunk shrimp, that involves marinating live shrimps in a alcohol-based marinate so that they get drunk. I'm pretty sure lobsters, being quite closely related to shrimps, get drunk too.
    – xuq01
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 16:18
  • @xuq01 are you sure drunken shrimp actually get drunk? It could very well be just a funny name because they're submerged in alcohol. How do you know they are actually drunk?
    – Luciano
    Commented Mar 9, 2020 at 12:51

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