You don’t need to travel to New England to enjoy their greatest culinary contribution: chunks of tender, sweet lobster meat stuffed in a warm, toasted bun. From Maine-style to Connecticut-style, eateries have embraced a variety of takes on this classic summer sandwich. But before you can choose your recipe, it’s important to know where you stand in the lobster roll wars.
Battle Of The Lobster Rolls
New England is made up of six different states, and although they’re tiny, they’re very opinionated when it comes to the subject of lobster rolls. In Southern New England, Connecticut residents swear by a lobster sandwich dressed only in melted butter. Up in Maine, lobster shacks specialize in the freshest possible seafood, adding only a dollop of mayo to add a little creaminess to the dish. Somewhere in the middle, you have the classic New England lobster roll: a lobster salad with fresh celery and herbs for added crunch to celebrate summer’s bounty.
Everyone has his or her own — strong! — opinion about what a lobster roll should taste like. If you’re undecided, we’ve made it easy for you to conduct your own taste test. Just follow our tutorial for cooking fresh, live lobsters to perfection; then use the meat to make each one of the lobster rolls made famous by New England cooks.
How To Cook Lobster
Before you can cook a lobster, you have to find one. Lobster is best when eaten as soon as possible, as ones kept in holding tanks tend to start burning the fat that makes them so delicious in the first place. If you live in New England, lobster is easy to find at the coast in the summer and probably makes its way to your grocery store regularly. Choose one that’s fresh off the boat — or at least still actively moving around in the holding tank. Ask for a soft-shell lobster for the sweetest possible meat.
If you don’t live near the north Atlantic, sourcing lobster can be trickier. Many Maine lobstermen box and ship their catches around the country. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it to have your lobster shipped live for the freshest flavor.
Boiling Vs. Steaming
To boil your lobster, you’ll need a pot large enough to hold three quarts of water for every two pounds of live lobster you want to make. Unless you have access to natural sea water for cooking, add 1/4 cup of salt per gallon of water and bring to a roiling boil. Add lobsters one at a time to the pot and start your timing. It’s easiest to cook lobsters that are all roughly the same size so they come out evenly, but you can also put in large ones first and add smaller ones later so they all finish at the same time. A one-pound lobster takes eight minutes to cook; for each 1/4 pound beyond that, add two minutes to your total cook time. Stir halfway through cooking and allow to rest in shells for five minutes before serving or using in recipes.
While dropping a mess of lobsters into a large pot of boiling water is traditional, you’ll get better results by steaming them. Because steaming is a gentler method of cooking, you’ll retain more flavor, and it’s harder for beginners to overcook the meat this way. Fill the large pot with two inches of salted water and add a steaming rack before covering the pot and bringing the water to a boil. Add lobsters to the steaming rack and cover, lifting the lid only to turn lobsters halfway through. Steam a one-pound lobster for 10 minutes; for each 1/4 pound beyond that, add two minutes to your total cook time. Allow to rest for five minutes before serving.
Once you’ve cooked up those gorgeous, bright red lobsters, it’s time to put the meat into a New England-style bun. Use split-top frankfurter rolls only, so you can butter and grill both sides. The first bite is heavenly!