Cook California Spiny Lobster Wrapped in Bacon

I live in San Diego where local spiny lobsters can be caught during the fall and winter months.  Catching them is almost as fun as eating them.  This year I tried a new way to prepare them and as the saying goes, bacon makes it better.  Here is how I cook Bacon Wrapped Spiny Lobster.  Yes, bacon wrapped spiny lobster is very good.

Cook California Spiny Lobster: Baja style and bacon wrapped
Cook California Spiny Lobster: Baja style and bacon wrapped

There are a lot of ways to cook spiny lobster and most people think of boiling water first.  That works and I like it.  I’ve always liked spiny lobster better cooked Baja style; butterflied and grilled over mesquite.  Cooking California spiny lobster Baja style does not get old, but I jokingly mentioned bacon wrapped lobster and someone said, “yea, that sounds good.” I did one experiment and really liked it.  Then I cooked another for some friends who also really liked it, so now I feel comfortable sharing this out.  It is actually very easy to cook bacon wrapped spiny lobster.  The biggest risk of cooking lobster if overcooking it and drying it out.  I think the bacon solves that problem.

The picture above has Baja grilled spiny lobster style on top and a bacon wrapped spiny lobster tail on the bottom.

ADD Version of How To Cook California Spiny Lobster Wrapped in Bacon

  • Take your spiny lobster tail and remove the meat from the shell
  • Slide a skewer up it lengthwise
  • Wrap bacon around it using toothpick to hold it in place.
  • Place over medium heat grill until bacon starts to crisp all around.  15-20 minutes has been working for me; size pending.
  • Remove from heat, let rest a few minutes and slice across into little circles of bacon wrapped lobster.

The Longer Version

Ingredients

two tailed California spiny lobsters and one live one
two tailed California spiny lobsters and one live one

You will need:

  • California Spiny Lobster (see below)
  • Skewer – I use the wooden ones for kabobs
  • Bacon – I got thick cut from the market counter that didn’t have any extra flavor.  You can buy the maple or other flavored ones.  That would be something to try later.  I like the mesquite smoke flavor from my grill.
  • Toothpicks – to help the bacon hold while wrapping.  Wooden ones without dyes are best
  • Grill to cook – I cook in a ceramic egg over lump charcoal.  I assume other grills would work well too.  I really recommend mesquite coals.
  • Beer – I find this hard work goes well with refreshment.

Prep time: maybe 15 minutes (plus time to light grill)

Cook time: 15-20 depending on size.

Obtain a Spiny Lobster

This can be one of the fun parts (it is for me).  I hoop net from a boat and really enjoy being out on the water at night in the fall.  There are strict rules, so if you go on your own, make sure you know them and follow them.  They are for the better of the species and I’ve heard of fines over $1,000 which makes the second option more economical.

Historically for me, the bigger lobsters have been harder to cook evenly.  This bacon trick seems to be solving that problem.

Hoop Netting

Hoop net with lobsters
Hoop net with lobsters

The short story is you place a hoop net on the bottom with bait, wait for the lobsters to get interested and then pull it up.  The hoop net looks like a metal hula-hoop with a net below it.  It is not a trap.  You attache a line and a float to a baited net and put it where you hope to find lobsters.  Good spots are where I also catch fish…

The guru Jim Salazar explains it all nicely in his book.  Maybe I’ll do a post on the rig I’ve evolved to use over the years based on his method.

Buy From a Local Store

Go see Tommy at Catalina Offshore.  Great people and a great product.  You may have something closer too.

I haven’t looked this year (2015), but I’ve heard market price is close to $60/pound.  Just legal lobsters are usually about 1.25 pounds.  Even if they are closer to the $30/pound mark that I’ve seen the last few seasons it makes the pride of the catch even nicer.

Prepare the Lobster

Spiny lobster wrapped in bacon and ready for cooking
Spiny lobster wrapped in bacon and ready for cooking

Since there really aren’t many ingredients to prepare, the lobster takes the most time.

The California Spiny Lobster is very similar to 80% of the lobsters in the world; no claws.  I assume Australian or Caribbean lobsters would work too.  The meat is in the tail, and you may find them sold frozen as just tails.

I only use the tail unless I want to impress people with the rest of it on their plates (picture at bottom).  For bacon wrapped lobster, you want just the tail meat.

  1. Tail the lobster (remove tail from body)
    I made a post and video on this a few years back.  How to tail a California Spiny Lobster: http://www.sandiegosteve.info/2013/06/how-to-tail-a-california-spiny-lobster/
    If you have a frozen tail, this is done for you.  If you have a full frozen lobster, it is easier since it doesn’t move.
    Note on Frozen: frozen is fine – don’t rush the thaw.  Put it in the refrigerator the day before.  This also brings out screams from people not expecting to see a lobster in the fridge (small bonus).  Whole lobsters freeze just fine.
  2. Remove the meat from the tail.
    This isn’t an art I’ve perfected.  I find previously frozen are easier to get the meat away from the shell.  Use kitchen shears the cut down the shell enough until you can pull the meat out.
  3. Run the skewer lengthwise down the tail.  This will keep it from curing up while cooking.
  4. Wrap the bacon around the lobster. 3-5 pieces should work.
    If you get too much out, throw it on the grill as a snack.  use tooth picks to hold bacon down while wrapping.
    Toothpick Trick – stick a few out at 90-degree angles.  I like to roll the whole package on the grill while cooking and this helps it balance on its side.
  5. Place on the grill.
  6. Don’t forget your beer if you have one.

Cooking California Spiny Lobster Wrapped in Bacon

I know in the last section I add a step to put the spiny lobster on the grill.  For most, that is probably enough.  Here is some more detail on how I cook the bacon wrapped spiny lobster.

  • Preheat grill
  • Put bacon wrapped lobster on
  • Turn/flip every 5-7 minutes to get an even cooking of the bacon
  • Remove when the bacon is cooked all the way around.
  • Let it rest for a few minutes and slice up.
bacon wrapped lobster on the grill
Watch for the bacon to start cooking and rotate as needed

I like my grill to be around 350 degrees Fahrenheit.   I have a Kamodo #7 ceramic egg-shaped grill.  The coals are low, it does a lot of smoke, but the heat is still direct.  You may need to adjust for a gas grill.  So, I light the grill with mesquite lump charcoal.  Kingsford mesquite would probably work too.  Then I let it stabilize to my desired temperature.  I’m often cooking other things like veggies, meat or fish at the same time, so you need to plan out a little to get it all done about the same time.

So, the grill is ready and the spiny lobster tail is wrapped in bacon.  I place is near the middle of the grill (more direct heat for me).  After 5-7 minutes I flip it and look at the bacon.  The down side should start to look crispy.  Keep up the periodic rotation to all sides.

The bacon probably won’t ever look completely crispy, the lobster is holding the fat from the inside in.  The bacon is holding the lobster moisture in.  I’m not sure if my 6th grade science teacher would call that a symbiotic relationship, but lets say they play very well together.

Rotating the Lobster while cooking

This is another trick I learned.  Not only do the toothpicks help keep the bacon on before you start cooking, but you can use them to help the bacon wrapped lobster sit on its side to get the edges.  The toothpicks turn into little kick stands.  Else you can lean it against something else.  I usually also do another lobster in the shell that I can lean it on.

Final Product

Lobster tails and beer ready for next step
Starts with a spiny lobster tail
Cooked up and sliced to eat
Cooked up and sliced to eat
Baja Style whole lobsters
Baja Style whole spiny lobsters

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