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Chef Thomas Keller’s Classic Lobster Boil Recipe

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: May 8, 2020 • 3 min read

“We never make a lobster boil for 2 or 4 people—it’s always going to be for 8, 12, 16, 20, 24. The bigger the pot, the bigger the party. The bigger the party, the more fun we’re having.” - Chef Keller

One of Chef Keller’s fondest culinary memories involves being on the beach in Nantucket with his brother, Joseph, preparing festive lobster boils—a New England tradition.



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What Is a Lobster Boil?

One of the beauties of a lobster boil is that it can be almost anything you want, as long as you make it bountiful. An array of seafood. A range of root vegetables and aromatics. Andouille sausage is a traditional addition. And, of course, Old Bay seasoning, a lobster boil essential.

4 Tips for Making the Perfect Lobster Boil

The quantities will vary depending on how many people you plan to serve. Once you’ve got your ingredients and a big pot to boil them in, the key is timing, staggering the addition of each ingredient so they are ready at the same time.

  1. Always start potatoes, onions, and other root vegetables in cold water so that they cook more evenly.
  2. Be careful not to add too many ingredients at once: You want to keep the water simmering.
  3. Prior to serving, ladle cooking liquid into serving bowls for dipping, and lay the bowls out alongside ramekins of clarified butter, nutcrackers, mallets, and plenty of napkins.
  4. As you strain the ingredients, remember to be careful: You’re dealing with a big pot and lots of boiling water.

Once you’re ready, spread your feast out on butcher paper and dig in.

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Learn More About Old Bay Seasoning

Old Bay is somewhat shrouded in mystery. We know for certain it contains celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, and paprika. Other spices are also used, but they’re not specified on the ingredients list. A traditional ingredient in lobster boils, the seasoning was originally developed in the 1930s by a German immigrant in Maryland and is commonly used when cooking crab.

Chef Thomas Keller’s Lobster Boil Recipe

Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Cook Time
1 hr


For the lobster boil:

  • Small, similarly sized potatoes
  • Boiler onions, skins removed, root cleaned and trimmed
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • 4 lemons, halved, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • Bouquet garni
  • 4 heads garlic, cut in half along their equators
  • Kosher salt
  • Distilled white vinegar, 30 to 35 grams per liter of water
  • Andouille sausage, precooked, cut into 2-inch segments, scored
  • Live lobsters, 1¼ to 1½ pounds each
  • Corn on the cob, cut into halves or thirds
  • Whole, unpeeled shrimp
  • Clams
  • Clarified butter, warm
  • Lemon wedges

For the bouquet garni:

  • 3 leek leaves
  • 5 Italian parsley stems
  • 5 sprigs thyme
  • 2 fresh bay leaves


  • Large stockpot with a strainer insert
  • Paring knife
  • Wire skimmer
  • Kitchen scissors or paring knife
  • Kitchen twine
  1. Make the bouquet garni by stacking the leek leaves and enveloping them around the Italian parsley stems, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves. Cut a length of kitchen twine using kitchen scissors or a paring knife. Wrap the twine twice around one end of the leek bundle, twice around the other end, and tie a slipknot in the center.
  2. Add the potatoes and onions to a large stockpot fitted with its insert and filled with cold water. Place the stockpot on a robust burner over high heat.
  3. As the water begins to boil, add the Old Bay seasoning. Squeeze the juice of the lemons into the pot, and then add the lemons themselves. Add the bouquet garni, garlic halves, and a generous amount of salt—enough, as Chef Keller says, to make the water as salty as the sea. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil.
  4. Add the vinegar, which will help the proteins in the lobster and shrimp set and enhance the flavor of the dish. Add the Andouille sausage. Cover the pot and let the liquid simmer until the potatoes and onions are cooked through, or when the vegetables offer no resistance when pierced with a paring knife.
  5. Once the potatoes and onions are cooked, add the lobsters, using the wire skimmer to completely submerge them. Cover the pot and cook for 3 minutes before adding the corn. The lobsters should cook for a total of approximately 10 minutes.
  6. When the cooking liquid returns to a simmer, and 5 to 7 minutes after the lobster was added, add the shrimp and clams, using the wire skimmer to submerge them. Cover the pot and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, until the shrimp are opaque and firm to the touch and the clams have opened.
  7. Ladle cooking liquid into serving bowls and set them on the table with clarified butter, lemon wedges, mallets, nutcrackers, and lots of napkins.
  8. Lift the strainer from the pot, let the liquid strain out, and spread your feast out on butcher paper.

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