How To Grill Lobster Tails Over A Campfire (With Garlic Butter)

Because camp food can be decadent, too.

By: Brooke Bass

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When I was growing up, camp dinners were nothing to write home about. Grilled burgers, maybe some overcooked hot dogs, the occasional bowl of cereal. It was more of a "do what you can to keep stomach grumbling at bay" kind of approach to camp cooking under open skies than it was anything else.

But nowadays camping is more of a time for celebration. It's what we do when there are birthdays to commemorate, job advances to be celebrated, or anniversaries to be counted. On the coast or in the mountains; it's our happy place. And even though burgers and brats have their place at the camp table, of course they do, sometimes I just want a little more decadence for dinner. A beautiful bowl of fire-roasted meat and vegetables, a heaping bowl of pasta with bright summer tomato sauce, or wood-grilled lobster tails drenched in garlic butter and garnished with fresh herbs. 

Grilled Lobster Tails with Garlic Butter


  • 2 lobster tails, about 12-ounces each
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 small bunch of fresh cilantro, for garnish (optional)

Special equipment:

  • 1 small pot
  • 1 sharp knife
  • 1 small cutting board
  • 1 small tupperware container
  • 1 ziplock bag (optional)

The night before:

Pack the butter and the garlic in a small airtight container and place in camp cooler along with the lobster tails. 

Lightly wet a paper towel, ringing out the excess water so it is just damp. Wrap the cilantro in the paper towel, if using, and place in a ziplock bag in your camp cooler. Cilantro is a delicate herb, so you'll want to make sure it's resting at the top of the cooler, with heavier items at the bottom.

The day of:

Prepare the fire directly under the grill grate and let it burn long enough to establish coals (about 1 hour), making sure there is at least one side of the grill grate where the coals/heat from the fire are further from the grate, so that the heat is low.

While the fire is getting hot and building it's coals, butterfly the lobster using a sharp knife, cutting straight down the middle-belly of each tail, but not cutting through the hard shell on the bottom. The shell will serve as a vessel in which the lobster juices will cook with the lobster; but dividing the meat in half helps it to cook more evenly.

When fire is established, add the butter and garlic to a small pot and place it on the outer edges of the fire. Cook until butter is melted and garlic is fragrant, about 5-10 minutes, depending on how close to the flames the pot is. If you notice the garlic start to turn golden in color, remove from the heat immediately. 

Pour about 1/4 of the melted garlic butter over each lobster tail, reserving the remaining half for topping at the end. Cook the tails over the fire, making sure the flames don't get too high or touch the tails, until cooked through, about 8-10 minutes, depending on how close to the hot coals your lobster is. (Mine was about 3 inches from hot coals, 1 inch from flames, though flames did occasionally flare up.)

When lobster is opaque and cooked through, remove from fire and set aside on plates. Pour garlic butter over each lobster and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves if desired. This dish pairs particularly well with fire-roasted vegetables, which, incidentally, are also great tossed in a garlic butter.

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.