The lobster is a fascinating animal, with an equally fascinating culinary history. Like most foods that have a reputation for being decadent and pricey, it’s impossible to talk about lobster without talking about class and capitalism.
Before the colonizers arrived, Native Americans not only cooked and ate lobster, they ground them up for fertiliser and used them as bait to catch more desirable fish. They were incredibly plentiful. According to Culture Trip, they would wash up in huge, toddler-sized piles after storms, which — in the eyes of white colonizers — made them less desirable. Lobsters were considered “poor people food,” and stewed and baked with little thought given to meat beyond it being a source of protein. They were also fed to prisoners, as they were one of the cheapest sources of calories available.
Railroads, canning, and marketing changed all that, and lobster is now the food of the rich. It must be cooked gently, and with care, so the sweet meat’s flavour can shine. Eating lobster — even just a tail — feels like a special occasion, but it doesn’t have to be, especially when you can get those tails for six bucks on special at most major grocery stores. (I obviously cannot speak for every grocery store chain in every region in the United States, but I routinely see lobster tails around Portland, Ore. at this price point.)
This is all to say that lobster tail is a perfectly acceptable weeknight food, especially if you have an air fryer. If I happen to find a couple of tails for sale, I’ll give ‘em a swipe of butter, then toss them in the air fryer, almost as an afterthought, mere minutes before I plan to eat supper. I view them as a supplementary protein; even at $8 per tail, I can’t afford to fill up on lobster alone, but they make a nice accessory to a plate of pasta, a rice bowl filled with tofu and veggies, or a small steak (greetings, surf & turf).
If you’re worried that the air fryer might be too “aggressive” for the precious sea bug, don’t be. People cook lobster under crazy hot broiling elements all the time, and the little convection oven cooks them so quickly, they don’t have time to dry out. In fact, the air fried lobster I had last night was downright juicy and succulent, which is pretty impressive when you consider the lobster’s incredibly low fat content.
Besides lobster tails, all you need is butter, some more butter (for dipping), and maybe a little garlic for the dipping butter. That, plus about six minutes of waiting, and you’ve got a nice little sea treat, perfect for any ol’ night of the week.
Air Fried Lobster
- Lobster tails
- 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon of butter per tail, divided
- 1/2 clove garlic per tail, minced or crushed
Heat your air fryer to 200C. Butterfly each tail by cutting through the shell at the top of the tail, stopping just before the tail fins. Wrap the tail in a kitchen towel (to keep the shell from slicing your hands), then press along the side of the lobster to “crack it,” revealing the meat.
Take about a half a teaspoon of butter, and rub it on top of the exposed meat. Toss the tails in the air fryer, and cook for 6-9 minutes, depending on the size of the tail, until the meat is opaque and white. While that’s cooking, melt the butter in a small pot on the stove, add the garlic, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, but before either the butter or garlic start to brown.
Once the tails are done and the butter is ready, remove the meat from the tail (gently pry it out with your fingers), and serve it on top of the bright red shells. Dip it in the butter. Repeat whenever you see those tails go on sale.