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Culinary Arts

Butter-Poached Lobster With Macaroni and Cheese

Thomas Keller

Lesson time 31:41 min

One of the most famous dishes at the French Laundry is the butter-poached lobster with macaroni and cheese. Chef Keller shares his recipe and teaches his techniques. Viewer advisory: A live lobster is cooked during this lesson.

Thomas Keller
Teaches Cooking Techniques III: Seafood, Sous Vide, and Desserts
Chef Thomas Keller’s third MasterClass is devoted to preparing seafood, sous vide cooking, and making classic desserts.
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[MUSIC PLAYING] - Our sweet butter poached Maine lobster with macaroni and cheese. One of the most famous dishes at the French Laundry, which has proliferated around the world. This is lobster 2.0. It's an intense process, beginning with our live lobsters here, with some hot water that's heavily acidulated. Creamy lobster broth. We have a beautiful Parmigiano tuile. Orzo to make our macaroni and cheese. [MUSIC PLAYING] My most favorite memories of lobster were a broiled lobster with a little ramekin of drawn butter, clarified butter, with a lemon juice in it. When I was a young cook, the way we treated lobsters in our restaurants was we would cook them in a court bouillon, which was water that was acidulated with lemon. Had some herbs in it, maybe some garlic. The prerequisite for it was seven minutes per pound. And then we would take the lobsters out of the shell, chill them down, and then use them in our recipes throughout the evening. To me, they always tasted a little off. And off meaning they weren't that memory of lobster-- or, a lobster with butter that was so fond for me. So I wanted to figure out a way to remove the lobster meat when it was still raw so we could treat it like we do our fish. We don't cook our fish, or anything else before we then set it in mise en place for preparation later. We cook our fish a la menu. What came of that was our ability to kill lobsters with hot water acidulated with vinegar. Just distilled vinegar, of no consequence. The vinegar helps the albumin in the lobster contract, so pulling it away from the shell a little bit. Of course, the hot water does the same thing. And the result of this, we're able to remove all of our lobster meat while it's still raw, or 90% raw. OK. So here we go, this is the beginning of our butter poached lobster, which we're going to get to a little later, but we have a lot of work to do to get there. So quickly. [WATER SPLASHES] Now we're going to let the steep there, probably for about a minute and a half, maybe two minutes. You can see the shell is already starting to turn a little bit orange. The tail is curling under, which is normal when you cook a lobster. We're going to remove the meat from the tail, the claws, the knuckles-- which we call knuckles, which actually aren't knuckles. They are the arm that attaches to the body from the claw. I'm going to show you a neat little trick to pull the meat out of the legs here as well. So I'm working quickly. We all know that our lobsters, we have to buy our lobsters live. We don't want to ever buy our lobsters that are dead. That's just not going to be good. We're going to take our, took our arm. Break that down to remove the claw. I'm going to put the claw back in the water, along with the, what we call the knuckle. Same thing on the other side. The claw requires a little more temperature than the tail does. We can remove our, these are incidental, the meat that we're going to pull out of here. We...

Elevate your cooking

In his third MasterClass, Chef Thomas Keller focuses on preparing fresh seafood like lobster and salmon, making classic desserts such as apple pie and lemon tart, and showing how sous vide cooking can be done at home to enhance flavor and texture. Whether you’re a beginning or advanced cook, you’ll learn the techniques and principles that will give you the understanding and skills to get the most delicious results.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

The sole recipe looks interesting and I'm interested in sous vide cooking.

Wow! Thomas Keller is as good as it gets! So much incredibly interesting and insightful information. After each lesson I couldn't wait to get to the next one. Fantastic.

I love extra time and care over his dishes, I tend to cook in the same way. Excellent class!

Chef Keller, Thank you again for sharing your time teaching me techniques in the kitchen. That's so generous of you. My son and I have taken your class together but in different states, CA and TX. so much fun!!! I have gained so much knowledge and confidence to cook in the kitchen with-and for my friends and family. A check mark for the bucket list too! Charlotte


Julia G.

for those as appalled as I am by the way he's handling those live lobsters:

A fellow student

I audibly said, "Thank you, chef!" for the rolling pin trick. We have lobster every year for my parents' anniversary, and I am the one who usually makes a terrible mess trying to get at those last pieces of meat. P.S. if you don't like the idea of steaming a live lobster, you can "do a Julia" and plunge the point of your knife right between the eyes directly before steaming.

Sally T.

It's obvious why the food at The French Laundry costs what it does. Between the quality ingredients and time it takes to make the dishes, it's starting to look like a bargain. Definitely a labor of love.


That’s the fanciest macaroni and cheese I’ve ever seen. Looks decadent. Definitely want to make this dish.

A fellow student

Can anyone point me to the lesson for the parmesan tuile? He mentions that it was in our first class but I don't recall seeing it anywhere. Thanks

A fellow student

Out of curiosity, why not put the lobster in the freezer for 10-15 min prior to adding them to hot water?

Pio C.

I used Chef Keller's technique for removing the meat from the shell for New Year's Eve dinner last year with great results! I am excited to try it again in this lobster mac & cheese dish.

Daryl C.

Learned some great technique with the lobster stock for infusing flavor into Mac and Cheese. Thank you Chef Keller


OK, I cheated. I used frozen already cooked main lobster pieces from Costco, added the thawed liquid to canned seafood broth. But with a little improvising the results were exceptional.

James E.

Plenty of 'next-level' tips on getting a clean Lobster flavor; proper poaching of Lobster; very nice 'magic trick' for easily removing leg meat!