Delicious & Easy

Grilled Spiny Lobster in Wild Wood Sorrel Compound Butter with Beurre Blanc

Spiny lobster stands up to grilling and high heat better than their cousins from Maine. This recipe pairs classic French flavors to deliver lobster that hits the feel-good centers of your brain. It’s easy to prepare, the naturally acidic wood sorrel gives a light herbal quality to the meat (think almost like a bearnaise sauce), and the silky magic of beurre blanc ups the dinner game from junior to pro. This is one simple, seductive dish. 

When in season, buying directly from a fisher at Tuna Harbor Dockside Market is a great option. Read...

Buying California Spiny Lobster Fresh from the Fishing Vessel

A Note About Beurre Blanc

Beurre blanc isn’t a French mother sauce, but it should be. Essentially, it is a sauce made of butter emulsified with a reduced acid. It’s pure silk on the mouth, pairs with any seafood beautifully, and is bar none my favorite sauce for seafood. Lastly, while slightly technical, it’s ridiculously easy to make. It may seem scary to make an emulsified sauce at first but this one is nearly painless. Don’t fret, just prepare and do things methodically.

To make it even easier, skip the Beurre Blanc and just serve the lobster halves with sides of melted compound butter and wedges of lemon.

Ingredients for

Grilled Spiny Lobster in Wild Wood Sorrel Compound Butter with Beurre Blanc

Mise En Place

  • 2 Whole Spiny Lobster (about 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds each), or 4 Pre-Cut Halves 
  • 1 stick, plus 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened, and separated 
  • 10 grams wild wood sorrel leaves, finely chopped* 
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • kosher salt
  • white pepper
  • 8–10 whole wood sorrel leaves and 10–12 whole wood sorrel flowers for garnish (if available)

Cooking and Serving Utensils Ready 

  • 2 ½ quart saucepan
  • Hot grill (coal or wood fire preferred but not necessary)
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Shallow pan
  • Chopping board
  • Whisk
  • Basting brush
  • Heavy chef’s knife or cleaver
  • 4 plates and 4 ramekins to serve

*Substitute fresh tarragon, parsley, or basil if wood sorrel isn’t available. 


Instructions for

Grilled Spiny Lobster in Wild Wood Sorrel Compound Butter with Beurre Blanc

Time to prepare: 45 minutes (30 minutes prep, 15 minutes cooking time)

Preheat the grill so that it maintains a consistent and high temperature. I recommend starting just before you start making the compound butter.

Make Wood Sorel Compound Butter

Take one stick of butter, cut it into medium-sized cubes.

Trim wood sorrel leaves from stalks. You should have about 10 grams of leaves (about ¼ to ⅓ cup). Reserve 8 to 10 leaves for garnish and finely chop the remaining leaves.

Combine butter, chopped leaves, and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl.

Using a fork or soft spatula, fold the butter, leaves, and salt together until well incorporated with a uniform consistency. When finished, set aside.

Prepare Grilled Spiny Lobster

(See notes in frequently asked questions below.)

If your lobsters are live, start by putting them in the freezer for 5 minutes. (This puts them to sleep.)

Lay lobster topside up on a heavy chopping board with towels around the edges to catch any liquid. Find the space approximately one inch directly behind the lobster’s eyes in the center of its head, and place the blade of a heavy knife (preferably a cleaver) facing outward from that center through the middle of its eyes. When ready, slam down with weight and cut directly through the body in one or two motions—the quicker and more forceful the better. After cutting through the nerve cluster, continue to halve the whole lobster from head to tail as quickly as possible.

After halving the two lobsters, gently wash the yellow, red, and other organs out from their body with cold water, leaving the opaque meat. Be gentle, but clean thoroughly.

Place clean lobster halves on a cooking sheet, meat side up, and pat dry with a towel.

Spread compound butter over the opaque lobster meat as much as possible using a spatula, butter knife, or fingers. You want butter touching almost all of the white meat, especially in the carapace and tail.

After spreading each half with butter, place all the lobsters on a hot grill with the shell side down and close the lid. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. 

(Alternatively, if you do not have a grill, place lobster in a preheated oven at 400° and bake shell side down for 10 minutes total.)

During this waiting time, start to prepare the beurre blanc by reducing ingredients (see below).

After 5 to 6 minutes, flip the lobster, putting the meat side down. The butter will flare up the flames and that is okay. This helps give a nice char to the meat. It also coats the grates so hopefully, the lobster meat won’t stick. Leave on the grill for 5 to 6 more minutes.

While waiting, finish the sauce beurre blanc by adding butter and whisking. Melt the remaining compound butter in the microwave for 25 to 30 seconds.

Once ready, gently remove the lobster from the grill. You can try to use a spatula if needed to slide under the meat. If the meat sticks, grab it and place it back in the shell where it came from.

Place each grilled lobster half meat side up on an individual plate and pair with a ramekin of beurre blanc. Use a basting brush or spoon and spread melted compound butter over lobster meat to give it a shine. Garnish each lobster half with 2 to 3 sorrel leaves and 2 to 3 flower buds and more on the plate if desired.

Serve immediately.

Prepare Beurre Blanc

Cube remaining 1 ½ sticks of butter.

Place minced shallot in a saucepan with ¼ cup dry white wine and ¼ cup vinegar. Add ¼ teaspoon salt, a few pinches of white pepper, and heat on high until you get a rolling boil. Once boiling, lower heat to medium-high, and reduce the sauce. (This should take only a few minutes and thus in this preparation it’s great to start when the lobster first goes on the grill.)

Reduce down until there is only 1 or 2 tablespoons of liquid left in the saucepan remove from direct heat, set the burner on low. (If the pan accidentally gets dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to the pan and deglaze. Just don’t burn the shallots.)

Keep the saucepan off of direct heat and add 2 cubes of butter into the sauce while whisking vigorously. This should make an emulsified base that is creamy and yellow in color. Once done, place the sauce back on direct low heat and whisk in the rest of the cubes a few at a time until all are whisked in and you have a beautiful, yellow, smooth sauce.

Then, whisk in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and taste.

Whisk in more butter or lemon juice as desired, and remove from heat.

Keep sauce off of direct heat until ready to serve. It will thicken as it cools. If you have been grilling the lobster at the time, it should be ready to transfer into ramekins ASAP.

Frequently asked

Questions About This Recipe

How do I handle a live lobster?

It’s time to get close to your food: You might need to halve and clean live lobsters. Although this may be too much for some, I highly recommend this step. Most of us are incredibly disconnected from our food system, especially as omnivores when it pertains to processing living things. This act may help you appreciate your food at a deeper level and is relatively humane. Thank the lobster for their life and the sustenance they offer, and then get down to business.

However, if you’re squeamish, you might want to have the lobster pre-halved if that's an option where you buy them. Just remember to keep the meat cold. Contrary to popular belief, if the lobster remains chilled it will not go bad for a few days, but it’s generally considered best to use live lobster. If your plans change, freeze the meat as soon as possible.

Have any advice for serving and saving beurre blanc sauce?

The key is to keep sauce off of direct heat until ready to serve. It will actually thicken as it cools. In this recipe. since you are grilling the lobster at the same time, it should be ready to transfer into ramekins to serve as soon as the lobster is done, but it’s important to note to keep it off heat once its done just in case because you do not want to break the sauce.

When and if you need to reheat a beurre blanc sauce, return saucepan back to burner on medium-low heat and whisk. This will keep the sauce from separating. If it separates, you might be able to save it by vigorously whisking in a tablespoon of heavy cream or yogurt. This can be done only once.

Where can I find wild wood sorrel?

If you know what you’re doing, forage for it. Or try finding it at Specialty Produce or through the Specialty Produce App.


Notes & Thoughts

A quick note about lobsters and pain: Lobsters have a decentralized nervous system, much like a grasshopper, and it’s still a topic of debate how much pain they actually feel or if they process it at all. After chilling, a quick and blunt cut behind their eyes will sever the biggest nerve cluster they have and is considered one of the most humane ways to process them as of yet.