How to Make the Best Lobster Roll.
Toasted and buttered split top buns stuffed with baby crispy green leaf lettuce, warm lobster, melted butter, lemon zest and chives. These will be the best lobster rolls you’ll eat all summer.
Thanks to my friends at Little Leaf Farms for sponsoring this post and thanks to you, my readers, for supporting brands that help keep My Cape Cod Kitchen running. As always, all opinions are my own.
Every summer is best kicked off with a lobster roll. Wouldn’t you agree? But, especially this summer.
And THIS is the summer to make your own lobster roll. The BEST lobster roll. If you’re one of the many Americans using this time to gain skills in the kitchen, or, if you’re just a lobster lover that can’t let a Memorial Day Weekend pass by without indulging in a lobster roll, this is the time to practice cooking (and eating) lobsters. Sure, you could go out to the local clam shack, wait in a long line in the hot sun (with a mask) for who knows how long, then pay a lot of money to bring home luke warm and soggy lobster rolls. Now, I’m sure our family will be doing that once or twice this summer too, but I know we will be making homemade lobster rolls much more often. And guess what … they are much easier to make than you think. YOU too can make an insanely delicious lobster roll. And, it’ll be less expensive and taste far better doing it yourself than it will from take-out. (This is coming from a mom of two little ones who has been cooking and doing dishes for 3 months straight … like so many of you. I am tired of cooking and tired of cleaning, but I’d still rather make my own lobster rolls, at least until we can safely eat out again.)
Now is the time to brush up on your lobster cooking skills. The great thing about lobster and other seafood (including fresh, frozen and canned) is that there is currently no shortage and no run on seafood. Unlike pork, beef, chicken, etc. seafood is plentiful. And healthy. And delicious. And EASY to cook. Yes, lobster takes a bit more work because you have to pluck the meat, but it’s easier than you think and gosh is it worth it! Plus, the seafood industry (fishermen, processors, fish markets) needs our support.
Are you a lobster roll lover? Do you prefer yours Maine style (cold and tossed with mayo) or Connecticut style (warm and tossed with melted butter)? While I like both of these styles and their endless variations, my preference is warm tossed with melted butter.
Though I haven’t met many lobster rolls I haven’t liked, there are a few big no-no’s for me:
- Too much mayo. I don’t like mayo. But – if there’s a small amount, I am ok with that. If the lobster is drowning in mayo, why bother. It’s a lobster roll, not a mayo roll.
- The forgotten roll. Too many times I’ve had lobster salad stuffed into a hot dog bun without being toasted and buttered. If you are going to have amazingness inside the bun (lobster!), take a few extra minutes to butter and toast the bun. Otherwise, skip the roll and just give me the lobster … (and the butter)!
- Tossed in oil (ugh!). One time we went to a place on the Cape and they served lobster with a side of butter flavored oil for dipping. Just no!
- Veggies mixed in with the lobster – no celery or onion or carrot (things one might put in tuna salad) please. You all know that I am a huge fan of veggies, but this is the one time where less is more.
- Served without lemon. I always like lemon wedges with my lobster roll, regardless of whether it’s a mayo or butter tossed lobster. It adds freshness, brightness and acidity to the rich lobster/mayo/butter.
So, here’s what the BEST Lobster Roll includes/must be in my opinion:
- Big lobster chunks tossed in warm (real) butter.
- Lobster chunks sit atop VERY crisp lettuce – not too much, but not too little. Little Leaf Farms Baby Crispy Green Leaf leaves are perfect for lobster rolls. Crispy, so fresh and they hold their shape in sandwiches like this (no sogginess!!).
- Buttered and toasted split top hot dog bun (the split top buns have the sides that are buttered easily).
- Served with lemon wedges (gimme extra wedges, please).
- Served with Cape Cod Potato Chips.
- Serve alongside a bottle of rosé any dry bubbly.
- Eaten outside.
If you haven’t tried Little Leaf Farms lettuce, what are you waiting for? We started buying their lettuce about a year and a half ago and now we can’t buy anything else. It’s always crisp. It’s always fresh. And, in this case, it goes perfectly with that warm buttery lobster – it adds crunch, freshness and levity to the lobster roll. And, there is no sogginess.
We took these lobster rolls to the beach one night for a picnic and prepped them before we left home – it’s about a 10 minute walk, but we ate them maybe 30 minutes after I prepped them. While they weren’t as warm as they were at home, they were just as good and the lettuce was just as crisp.
Little Leaf Farms lettuce is greenhouse grown locally in Devens, MA, which is more important than ever, because I want to know where our food comes from. And, if it’s grown locally, safely and sustainably – that’s a game-changer for me and I’m a forever fan. Their lettuce is grown year-round, so we can eat it year-round. It’s cut one day in their automated, hands-free greenhouse, and in your grocery store the next day. I know it’s always clean and safe to eat and to feed my family.
All the Little Leaf Farms lettuce is grown hydroponically to protect topsoil and they use 100% captured rainwater to grow their lettuce – all things that make me feel even better about buying their lettuce. And, no pesticides are used on the lettuce, it’s non GMO and no chemicals are used (that means no chlorine baths). The lettuce tastes good, it does good and it’s good for you.
Use their store finder to see which stores near you carry their products.Seek them out. You’ll be happy you did.
Now, onto cooking the lobster.
Should you steam or boil your lobster?
You can do either. We usually opt to steam it in a steamer basket inside a large pot, because:
- It’s a gentler cooking process than boiling it, therefore, it’s more forgiving. That means, if I let the lobsters steam for a few extra minutes because I am chasing Lucca and Lexi around the yard, then I still haven’t overcooked the lobsters.
- It makes for a less messy meat plucking process. When I’m cracking the meat and plucking it out of the shell, there is less lobster juice squirting all over the place. That equals less lobster smell in my house, which is a good thing.
- Less chance for burning yourself from scalding hot water and having the water boil over.
How do you kill the lobster humanely?
- We follow the Maine Lobster tip of putting your lobsters into the freezer (in the bag they came in) for 20 minutes prior to steaming in order to sedate them.
How long should I cook the lobsters?
- For 1 ½ lb lobsters, we steam them for 18-20 minutes (for hard shell lobsters), after the water comes back to a rolling boil (after placing the lobsters in the pot).
- We use timing guidance (for boiling and steaming) from the folks at Maine Lobster – timing information here and is based on size of the lobsters as well as cooking method and shell type.
- Hard shell lobsters (winter) will take longer to cook than new shell (when lobsters shed their old shell and grow into their new shell) lobsters. Add an additional 3 minutes to cook for hard shell lobsters.
How do you know the lobsters are done?
- An instant read thermometer in the underside of the tail closest to the body should read about 135-140 degrees F.
- The “head” will separate easily from the tail and the tail meat will be opaque and white – no longer translucent.
- The green stuff aka the tomalley (liver) will be firmish and green.
- The firm red stuff is the eggs (roe) of the female lobster. If the lobster is not cooked through the roe will be black and gelatin-like.
- The small walking legs will pull away from the body easily.
- The antennae will easily pull out.
- The lobsters will turn bright red when cooked (from a dark blue-green or greenish brown/black), but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are done.
A few PRO tips:
- Not feeling up to cooking your own lobsters? Go lazy man’s lobster style – have your fish market or supermarket steam and crack the lobster for you, if they are able to (some may or may not be able due to COVID19 or the summer holiday rush).
- If you’re not cooking the lobsters right away, refrigerate them in the bag you purchased them, until ready to cook – but they should be cooked same day.
- Lobster makes your trash VERY stinky. Not saying you need to plan your lobster rolls around trash pickup … but just be forewarned.
- Your lobsters will continue to cook once you take them out of the pot, so to stop the cooking process, place them in a bowl of ice water – if you think you’ve overcooked them.
Here’s How to Make the Best Lobster Roll:
The Best Lobster Roll
- 2 1 1/2 lb lobsters hard shell
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- 0.5 ounces chives, washed and thinly sliced reserve about 1 teaspoon for the salad dressing
- salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 4 split top hot dog buns
- 1 tablespoon salted butter softened
- 2 cups Little Leaf Farms Baby Crispy Green Leaf Lettuce
Side salad with coleslaw dressing
- 1/2 cup whole milk plain yogurt (or mayo)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- reserved chives (from lobster rolls)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
- 2 cups Baby Crispy Green Leaf lettuce
- 2 carrots shaved into ribbons
- lemon wedges
- Cape Cod Potato Chips (or your favorite potato chips)
To make lobster rolls:
- Place lobsters in the freezer (in the bag you purchased them) for 20 minutes to sedate them.
- Add a few inches of water to a large pot (pot needs to be large enough to fit the 2 lobsters comfortably, with lid fitting securely). Add ¼ cup of salt to the water and bring to a rapid boil over high heat. Alternatively, you could use sea water - if you live close to the beach. Insert steamer basket.
- Once water is boiling, remove lobsters from freezer and place one at a time into the steamer basket. (We remove the rubber bands from the claws, but you don’t need to. If you do remove them, be careful – those claws pinch!). Bring water back to a rapid boil. Steam lobsters for 18-20 minutes, or until cooked through. (1 1/2 lb new/soft shell lobsters should cook in about 15 minutes, so add 3-4 minutes for hard shell).
- Remove lobsters from steamer basket carefully with tongs or protective gloves and let rest 5 minutes. Twist off tail and claws from lobster body. Using a lobster cracker and seafood fork, remove meat from the knuckles, claws and tail (and small walking legs as well, if you’d like – I usually don’t bother, especially for lobster rolls). Remove the tamale (green stuff), red eggs and black vein from the tail portion. Rinse the tail, if needed. Chop meat roughly, into larger bite-sized pieces.
- Toss lobster with melted butter, lemon zest and chives. Season with salt and pepper.
- Spread hot dog buns with butter on both sides. Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add buns and toast on both sides until lightly browned.
- Add Little Leaf Farms Baby Crispy Green Leaf leaves to the bottom of each bun. Stuff with lobster meat.
To make the side salad:
- Whisk together yogurt, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and celery seed. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Toss lettuce and shaved carrots with dressing.
- Serve lobster rolls with side salad, lemon wedges and potato chips.