Make your next special occasion even more memorable and put these smoked lobster tails with a decadent lemon-garlic butter on the dinner menu. You’ll love how sweet, buttery lobster gets an extra touch of flavor with the perfect kiss of smoky notes. Plus, this gourmet dinner only requires 20 minutes of hands-on preparation time — it’s elegance meets convenience.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Elevates any meal: Is there anything more elegant than a lobster dinner? Whether you’re celebrating a holiday, birthday, anniversary or any other special occasion, this smoked lobster brings fine dining right to your own home.
Relatively short smoking time: If you’ve smoked plenty of meats, such as my brisket, chicken or ribs, you know this cooking process often takes hours. But with lobster tails, we can smoke our dinner in an hour or less, and it takes just minutes to prepare the lobster and lemon-garlic butter sauce. That always bodes well for a hungry crowd.
Simple ingredients: No giant grocery shopping lists required here. With just a handful of common ingredients, we can put a five-star dinner on the table with little effort.
Lobster tail: This recipe is for lobster tails that weigh between 4-6 ounces. That said, if you come across massive lobster tails that weigh around 10 ounces or even more, you’re welcome to use those instead, but you’ll need to increase the cooking time and double the lemon-garlic butter sauce. Keep in mind, smaller lobster tails tend to taste sweeter and less fishy, so big doesn’t necessarily mean better.
Garlic: For the best flavor, skip the jarred garlic or garlic powder and mince or grate your own. We don’t want to skimp on ingredients when it comes to making a lobster dinner.
Lemon juice: Like the garlic, fresh lemon juice is best. Bottled lemon juice lacks the bright flavor of freshly squeezed juice.
Salt and pepper: For most of the meats I smoke, I like to use a BBQ dry rub, but lobster meat is so wonderful on its own that we keep the seasoning simple here. We don’t want to overwhelm that delicate flavor.
Fresh parsley: This adds a touch of fresh flavor and a pop of green for a beautiful presentation.
How to Make Lemon-Garlic Butter
Step 1: I like to start by making our lemon garlic butter sauce, so it’s ready to go. The first step is to melt butter over medium-low heat, add garlic and then stir the mixture for about 30 seconds (photo 1).
Step 2: Now we turn off the heat and stir in our freshly squeezed lemon juice for a little zip (photo 2). In two easy steps, we now have our lemon-garlic butter sauce.
How to Prepare Lobster Tails
Step 1: We start by butterflying the lobster tails. For this step, we take a pair of kitchen shears and snip down the middle of the shell to the base of the tail fin on a cutting board (photo 3). We then flip the tail over and press gently push on the belly to loosen the meat.
Now we flip the lobster again with the slit side facing up and gently pull apart the lobster shell halves and use our fingers to loosen the meat from the inside of the shell while still keeping it attached at the base. Once the meat comes loose, we set it on the back of the shell, and we have our pretty presentation (photo 4). If you’d like to see this process in action, this quick video is a great guide for butterflying lobster tails.
Of course, if you don't want to bother lifting the meat out, you can simply cut through the top of the tails and pull apart the shells, leaving the meat in tact and exposed for smoking. Butterflying is all about presentation.
Step 2: With our lobster prepared, we sprinkle it with salt and black pepper and brush the tail meat with our melted butter (photo 5).
Step 3: We now place the butterflied lobster tails directly on the grill grates with a water pan, close the lid and let the meat smoke (photo 6).
Step 4: When the lobster finishes smoking, we pull it off the grill and brush it once again with that divine remaining butter mixture and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley (photo 7).
Serve that succulent lobster with some smoked mac and cheese and mashed potatoes and enjoy one swoon-worthy meal. It's also great on a bed of pasta with this easy white wine sauce. Or make it even more special and turn it into a surf and turf dinner with this smoked leg of lamb, smoked prime rib or smoked tri tip.
Note: I tested this recipe on an electric pellet grill, but you can use any type of smoker.
How to Store Leftovers
Of course, I’m sure you will devour every delicious bite, so the thought of leftover lobster may seem silly. But let’s say you make extra for the specific purpose of enjoying leftovers — you can completely remove it from the shell and keep it in an airtight container for three to four days in the refrigerator.
Another option is to store the cooked lobster meat in a freezer-safe container for about three months. You can still safely consume the lobster after three months, but the quality eventually degrades.
You’ll love to use apple wood or cherry wood when smoking lobster. These woods add just the right smoked flavor without overpowering the meat while both bring a fruity quality that’s perfect with lobster’s natural sweetness.
I find a low temperature of 225 degrees F is the perfect sweet spot. While some recipes call for a higher temperature and shorter cooking time, a low 225 degrees F allows us to smoke our lobster for a bit longer to infuse more smoky flavor without overcooking the delicate meat.
Expect for the lobster to take 45-60 minutes of cook time. The internal temperature should range from 130-140 degrees F for the best texture.
Be careful while cutting: While cutting to the tip of the tail, make sure you only snip the shell and not the lobster tail meat.
Rinse and devein: After butterflying the lobster, rinse off the meat and make sure you pull off the digestive track if it's present.
Do not overcook: Shellfish turns rubbery when it’s overcooked. As you get near 45 minutes of cooking time, use an instant thermometer to check when the internal temperature reaches 130-140 degrees F for best results.
Pull the meat from the refrigerator before smoking: Allow the lobster to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to cooking. This takes the chill off the meat and helps it cook more evenly.
Fully thaw the lobsters before cooking: To thaw, place frozen lobster tails in the refrigerator overnight. If you need to thaw even faster, place the lobster tails in cold water with a small stream constantly running. That should thaw the lobster in about an hour. Do not use hot water to speed up the process — that can encourage bacteria growth.
Use it for all sorts of lobster dishes: While you can certainly enjoy the whole tail, you can also smoke the meat and use it in other lobster recipes, such as my lobster BLT, lobster rolls, lobster tacos and lobster fettuccine.
You can’t go wrong with a witbier when lobster is on the menu. Every sip shows off bright citrus notes to bring out the sweet lobster flavor, and it has a delightful bubbly finish to cut through the buttery sauce. To really bring a taste of New England to the table, White from Allagash Brewing Company is especially lovely.
If you prefer wine, it doesn’t get better than an oaked chardonnay on the side. The charred oak matches those smoked notes, and chardonnay is famous for its buttery quality that’s perfect with lobster.
For a cocktail, try my French 76. Bubbly is always a welcome pairing with lobster, and this is a citrusy Champagne-based cocktail that will keep your palate refreshed.
When you need an easy yet elegant dinner, this smoked lobster tail recipe is your perfect meal. You’ll love every buttery bite with the perfect touch of smoke flavor.
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Smoked Lobster Tails With Lemon-Garlic Butter
- Kitchen shears
- Smoker any type
- Wood chips or pellets preferably apple, cherry or pecan
- Water pan
Lemon Garlic Butter
- ½ cup salted butter
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Smoked Lobster Tails
- 4 lobster tails fully thawed, about 4-6 ounces each
- Salt and pepper
- Freshly chopped parsley for garnish, optional
Lemon Garlic Butter
- In a small skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic, stirring constantly for 30 seconds.
- Turn off the heat. Stir in the lemon juice. Reserve.
Smoked Lobster Tails
- Take a pair of kitchen shears and snip down the middle of the shell to the base of the tail fin on a cutting board. Flip the tail over and press gently push on the belly to loosen the meat. Flip the lobster again with the slit side facing up and gently pull apart the lobster shell halves and use your fingers to loosen the meat from the inside of the shell while still keeping it attached at the base. Once the meat comes loose, set it on the back of the shell.
- Brush with the lemon-garlic butter sauce and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place directly on the grill grates of a 225-degree F smoker with a water pan. Close the lid and smoke until the meat's internal temperature reaches 130-140 degrees F, about 45-60 minutes.
- Remove from smoker. Brush with the lemon-garlic butter again and sprinkle with parsley if desired. Enjoy!
- Preparing the lobster tails is known as butterflying. If you don't want to bother lifting the meat out, you can simply cut through the top of the tails and pull apart the shells, leaving the meat in tact and exposed for smoking. Butterflying is all about presentation.
- While cutting to the tip of the tail, make sure you only snip the shell and not the lobster tail meat.
- After butterflying the lobster, rinse off the meat and make sure you pull off the digestive track if it's present.
- Allow the lobster to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes prior to cooking. This takes the chill off the meat and helps it cook more evenly.
- To thaw, place frozen lobster tails in the refrigerator overnight. If you need to thaw even faster, place the lobster tails in cold water with a small stream constantly running. That should thaw the lobster in about an hour. Do not use hot water to speed up the process — that can encourage bacteria growth.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.