How to Make the Perfect Lobster Roll at Home

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We’ve been going to Maine for 20 years to drop kids off at camp, and each time we have eaten lobster rolls, which are a uniquely Maine delicacy. There seem to be two clear, constant winners of the best lobster roll contest in Maine: the Clam Shack, in Kennebunkport, and Red’s Eats, in Wiscasset. Both are amazing. And I have discovered that their secret is in the simplicity of their approach. Simple means lobster, bun, and melted butter.

Simple is not “lobster salad” with mayonnaise, chopped celery and scallions, and herbs. The best lobster rolls are not in any way gourmet, or served in any sort of fancy place—they are best eaten and served close to the water, ordered from a counter, and eaten either standing up or sitting on some plastic chairs—or a splintery wooden bench.

Of course, sometimes you need a lobster roll when you are not in Maine, and you are not near the water, and you just have to have one—that’s where this recipe comes in, honed from years of experience eating lobster rolls. This past trip to Maine, in fact, for some crazy reason I did NOT get enough lobster, so when we came home I bought frozen lobster in the supermarket and made this recipe to test it out. It worked.

The Perfect Lobster Roll


Cooked lobster meat (about 3.5 ounces per roll)


1. Start with the cooked lobster meat. In my local grocery, I can get Cozy Harbor of Maine frozen lobster meat. It comes in 7-ounce packages, which make about two lobster rolls. One of the things in Maine that makes a good lobster roll is the generous amount of meat. What’s great about frozen lobster meat is that you don’t have to do the hard work of taking the meat out of the shell. HOWEVER, if you are so inclined, I found a great website called which is kind of like a CSA for lobster fisherman, where you can subscribe to a trap and get fresh lobster sent to you on a regular basis. Making a lobster roll just from tail meat is kind of a waste; the most flavorful meat is in the claws and the tiny bits. If you use frozen meat, thaw it under running water. But temperature is important! Don’t make the meat too cold or too hot. Slightly cooler than room temperature (60 degrees) is good.

2. Sprinkle the lobster meat with salt.

3. Toast a bun on both sides. You can use a hamburger bun (like they do at the Clam Shack) or a hot dog bun (like Red’s Eats does). This is not the time or place to go too crusty, whole wheat-y, or fancy.

4. Melt butter on the stovetop and pour liberally over the lobster roll. Honestly, I’ve used as much as 3 tablespoons per bun.


It’s like going to Maine, but without the long drive.


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15 Responses to How to Make the Perfect Lobster Roll at Home

  1. Ed Bruske July 16, 2010 at 6:15 am #

    You are absolute right: no extraneous vegetables in the lobster. We vacation in South Freeport every year with a friend from D.C. who grew up there. When we make lobsters for dinner, she will save the carcasses and the next day pick them over like crazy, collecting all the uneaten meat. This she mixes as you described above for lobster rolls that we very often will pack into a picnic lunch, to be taken onto the sailboat and eaten on one of the islands in Casco Bay. But we consider the selection of bun to be essential as well. We always use a “top cut” bun, which behanve a bit like a hot dog bun but looks like it was cut from the top of a loaf of bread. It’s a New England specialty, baked in a local bakery. And of coarse it must be toasted with butter to make a proper lobster roll. I suppose a regular hot dog bun would do in a pinch.

  2. Laura B. July 16, 2010 at 7:01 am #

    No lobster for me! I found out that those poor lobsters we see in the tanks @ the supermarket are NOT FED ANYTHING from the time they are pulled from the traps. Apparently, feeding them would make them poop, & foul the tank.
    So, your basically eating a stressed-out, starved creature.-Not good food karma.
    These poor things usually end up being boiled alive, so I’m assuming the persons who partake in that particular type of lobster preparation could care less anyway.
    I think we need to cut the sea creature we eat a huge break. It will never happen, though- but imagine what a 10 year moratorium would do for the ocean! Too many people eating too much seafood!

    See some interesting links below.

  3. Donna in Delaware July 16, 2010 at 8:37 am #

    I am sooooooooooo hungry this morning, I could eat this for breakfast. Thanks Maria, I’ll have it for lunch on the deck this weekend. Some of my all-time favorite ingredients rolled into one. Yum!

    Gosh Ed, I remember buying those rolls you speak of when I lived in NY, but haven’t seen them in a long time. I forgot all about them, thanks. I’ll seach for them here and they are much better for holding things like lobster, crab and even barbecued pulled pork topped off with cole slaw. Won’t squish out the sides when you squeeze or bite down.

  4. SleepsWithCats July 16, 2010 at 10:27 am #

    I’m drooling, just reading the recipe!

    Still, I must take issue with one of your statements: the most flavorful part of the lobster is the green stuff in the shell.

  5. maria (farm country kitchen) July 16, 2010 at 10:33 pm #

    Hey “sleeps with cats” — what is that green stuff?! It scares me!

  6. SleepsWithCats July 16, 2010 at 11:04 pm #

    Maria, it’s the liver, or some such innard stuff. There are those who say you shouldn’t eat it, because it can concentrate pollutants that the lobster has ingested. Oh, well, sometimes I take risks in the name of hedonism, as when I make my own Caesar dressing with a raw egg.

  7. maria (farm country kitchen) July 17, 2010 at 8:33 am #

    I do try to avoid innards in general!

  8. SleepsWithCats July 17, 2010 at 10:13 am #

    If you’re doing a gumbo, you want to be sure to get shrimp with their heads on; the flavor from the heads is sublime.

  9. Donna in Delaware July 18, 2010 at 8:16 am #

    I think the green stuff SLEEPS WITH CATS mentioned is like the grey-green stuff in crabs that I was told one shouldn’t eat. “Dead man” I think it’s called. I believe someone told me years ago that it is the “poop” of the shellfish. So naturally, I navigate my way around that when I eat whole crabs, which I haven’t done since the 80’s.

  10. gail bass August 29, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    I live in Bucks County, PA and do not know where to get the square rolls for lobster rolls. If anyone knows please let me know. Thanks

  11. gail bass August 29, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    Please let me know

  12. gail bass August 29, 2010 at 12:08 pm #

    lobster rolls are the best

  13. maria (farm country kitchen) August 29, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    Gail, if you have a wegmans, sometimes they carry them. Also, sometimes Fresh Market does as well. It seems to be a seasonal summer item — but the truth is lots of different roles taste good too. Just make sure you don’t have too much bread to overwhelm the yummy lobster taste!

  14. Afajrouche November 4, 2010 at 4:57 pm #

    Why do u consider the tail alone in the lobster roll to be a waste. I thought the tail was the best part and should I butter the bun or pour butter on the lobster

  15. gloria July 3, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    i buy lobsters for my lobster rolls at my local shop rite. they are kept in a tank ,live, and the store will cook them for you.great convenience,and then i make them as maria does. delicious.

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