Seawater-Poached Beach Lobster with Lemon Brown Butter

The quintessential taste of Canada’s Maritimes from famed PEI chef Michael Smith.

  • Serves

    serves 6

  • Cook

    1 hour


By Michael Smith

Updated on August 31, 2021

There are many ways to enjoy lobster on Prince Edward Island—from the sea-splashed back deck of the boat that caught it to the crisp white tables of fine-dining restaurants. At the FireWorks Feast at The Inn at Bay Fortune chef Michael Smith and his cooks often poach the crustaceans restaurant-style—just enough to firm and release the near-raw meat from the shell before adding various creative flavors and flourishes to finish. It’s very labor intensive, so when Smith and his cooks take a day off from the crowds and head for the local beach, this is their favorite way to enjoy lobster: simply poached in fresh seawater, and served with lots of butter. And not just melted butter, but brown butter! They’re cooks, after all, and they know a few secrets. You will too after you share a lobster with someone you love on an uncrowded beach (easy to find on Prince Edward Island) on a cerulean-blue summer day. Just don’t forget to pack the beverages. If you happen to find yourself far from the seashore, this cooking method also works well on the stovetop.

This recipe is adapted from Farm, Fire & Feast: Recipes from the Inn at Bay Fortune by Michael Smith. Copyright © 2021 Michael Smith. Photography by Al Douglas. Published by Penguin Canada®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.


  • Fresh seawater, or substitute hot tap water plus 2 Tbsp. (1.3 oz.) fine sea salt per quart
  • 8 live 1½-lb lobsters
  • 16 tbsp. (8 oz.) unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • A splash of hot sauce


Step 1

Build a Beach Fire: Position 2–4 cinder blocks so they’ll firmly support a heavy-duty grill grate and a large pot water while also allowing for lots of room underneath for a fire. Build a campfire ring with stones, then build a large wood fire between the cinder blocks. Patiently tend burning wood into a fierce bed of glowing coals, then position the grate over the blocks. Using a shovel, bank the coals directly under the grate to increase the heat. Fill a large stockpot three-quarters or so with fresh seawater. Fill a second pot or a pail with more cold seawater. Tend the fire, adding more fuel as needed, until the water is boiling. Enjoy a beverage while you wait.

Step 2

Meanwhile, make the lemon brown butter. Position a small pot over the fire and add the butter. Swirl the pot gently as the butter melts, foams, and eventually lightly browns. Remove from the fire, stir in the lemon zest and juice and the hot sauce. Set aside.

Step 3

Boil the lobster: Pick up a lobster and grasp the claws firmly with your two hands. Cross them and with one hand hold them tightly together at the knuckles, under the claws. With your other hand, tug and slide the rubber bands off the claws. Immediately plunge the lobster into the boiling water. Repeat with the remaining lobsters. Quickly return the water to a boil and cook just until the shells are bright red and the and the antennae easily detach when pulled. 10–12 minutes for winter “hard-shell” lobsters and 8–10 minutes for summer “soft-shell” lobsters. Using tongs, remove the lobsters from the water and immediately plunge them into the cold seawater for 1 to 2 minutes to stop the cooking. Drain and transfer to a large platter; serve with the reserved lemon brown butter for dipping.

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